Chris Denny (2) holds off Carson Kvapil (35) at the finish of the season opener at Orange County Speedway on April 14, 2018. Shane Green Photo

Chris Denny dominated the day at Orange County Speedway in the 75-lap Late Model Stock Car season opener on Saturday night.

Denny was tops in qualifying and led every lap in the race en route to the victory. That might make it sound like he didn’t have much competition but that couldn’t be further from the truth as several drivers challenged him during the 75-lap affair.

Denny would take the lead right from the drop of the green flag but a quick caution would erase his lead fast. Camden Gullie, son of former Late Model Stock Car competitor Jason Gullie would spin off the front bumper of Daniel Moss after moss clipped the apron. They would reset the field and Denny would once again take off from outside pole winner Austin Thaxton.

Denny would gap Thaxton by five car lengths pretty quickly but Thaxton was trying to stay with him but the outside line was so much stronger. By lap five Denny had gapped Thaxton by six car lengths. Meanwhile, Thaxton was under pressure from Carson Kvapil but just as quickly Kvapil slips back to fifth with Gullie and Chuck Lawson, who started shotgun on the seven-car field, getting by him.

Jason Barnes, who struggled in qualifying was now in sixth ahead of Moss who went to the rear for the start after the first lap skirmish with Gullie. Barnes and Moss appeared now to be riding as the leaders were racing hard. From this point on Kvapil was beginning to put on a show and it was just a sign of things to come as he was the races biggest mover.

Kvapil was working the inside of the track in turns three and four and was the only car really trying to make it work. He worked Lawson for many laps but wasn’t able to get by him. Just before lap 25 he made the push to get by Lawson again and does moving him up to fourth. He then set his sights on Gullie who by this time had tracked down Thaxton who’s car looked to be tightening up.

By lap 30 Gullie had moved by Thaxton and took second with Kvapil going with him. Kvapil now stalking Gullie for second. The two young guns are running down Denny and keeping the race interesting as Kvapil gives chase to Gullie. At the halfway point of the race, Denny still led but Gullie and Kvapil were putting on a show as Kvapil looked for anyway by him but couldn’t make it work despite getting side by side with him a couple of times.

A competition caution waved just after lap 50 as the field was single file from first to last. The only change for position before this was Lawson moving by Thaxton for fourth. On the restart, Denny took the top spot again but brought along Lawson with him as he moved to second on the topside of the track. Gullie and Lawson slipped back a little on the restart.

By this time Kvapil had lost several chunks of lead (which we’ll cover later in this article) and it had gone up under Barnes car and he had come to the attention of his crew. Barnes would return but hitting the lead had ruined his night as he was riding and saving tires at the back of the field. On the ensuing restart Lawson would hang tight with Denny better than anyone had on the inside line but as Kvapil dove even lower and made it three wide it allowed Denny to get away a little bit.

Now Lawson was having to fend off Kvapil as the two hang tight behind Denny. As the two raced side by side for several laps, they made contact as Kvapil ran Lawson up the track and Kvapil takes the spot from Lawson but Gullie slips by them both. Lawson was clearly upset with Kvapil’s contact and tried desperately to dive bomb Kvapil in turns three and four but couldn’t make it to his bumper.

Kvapil in the meantime had his sights set on Gullie and with 11 laps to go he got back to second and had switched his focus to running down Denny. Kvapil, as he had done all night, put on a show as he gave chase to Denny, hanging his car out sideways in every turn but made up a lot of ground and with two to go had got to Denny. Kvapil dove to the inside and got alongside Denny through turns three and four and drag raced him down the front stretch to the line with Denny taking it by a little more than a half of a car length.

Denny had won the race but Kvapil had won the crowd over with his heroic run to the front. However, in post-race technical inspection, Kvapil was found to be light after over 100 pounds of lead had fallen out late in the race. It would negate his second-place finish giving that position to Gullie. Lawson would move up to third, Moss fourth and Thaxton fifth.

1) Chris Denny (Pole)
2) Camden Gullie
3) Chuck Lawson
4) Daniel Moss
5) Austin Thaxton
6) Jason Barnes
7) Carson Kvapil (DQ)