Jonathan Brown had such a phenomenal season last year in the Modified Division at Bowman Gray that nobody thought he would have a drought this season.
But after winning five races last year — including the season finale — he held off James Civali and Burt Myers on Saturday night in the 100-lap race for his first win of the season.
“I tell you man, last year it felt like we just kept winning races and it was it easy to do. This year, it’s been a struggle,” Brown said. “It took us over halfway through the season to get our first win, but it hasn’t been because we haven’t been fast. We just had different things come up where we didn’t win.”
Brown started fourth, took first place on lap 42 after he, Jason Myers, Tim Brown and Danny Bohn bumped coming around turn 4.
“I felt like I got a good run and give Jason plenty of room,” Jonathan Brown said. “I don’t know if he washed up into me or what, but I think he hit my right in the left-rear nerf bar and just kind of turned me around.”
Jonathan Brown got through unscathed and took first place. There was another caution on lap 59 and Burt Myers moved to second ahead of Civali. Civali slipped past him coming around turn 1 on the restart.
After another caution on lap 81, Jonathan Brown led and bolted past Burt Myers and Civali.
“I just tried to bide my time there,” Burt Myers said. “I thought the 79 (Civali) might do something with the 22 (Jonathan Brown), so I thought I’d lay back a little bit and see what was going to happen. And then the 79 I guess used his stuff up trying to do something with the 22.”
Civali saw that Jonathan Brown was so far ahead with less than 20 laps remaining that changed his strategy.
“I just didn’t want the top on that restart only because the track was so dirty,” Civali said. “I’m like, ‘I’d rather try stay on the bottom here and try and hold second.”
Civali said the difference was Jonathan Brown’s car and blocked Burt Myers on the inside to keep Myers from moving to second.
“Jon was fast,” said Civali. “When I got behind him and saw how fast he was, I’m like, ‘I’m not going to beat on this restart.I’d rather try take what I can get.’”
Even though Brown was way ahead of any of the contenders he had no idea how far was ahead.
“I’ll be honest with you, I don’t even look at mirrors,” Jonathan Brown said. “Tony White, my spotter, he’s the best in the business. Whatever he tells me, if he tells me he’s on your bumper, you’re going to get a shot here, that’s what I listen to.”
Despite not winning, Burt Myers still found a positive spin.
“Everybody was digging so hard,” he said. “Everybody was laying on everybody, but everybody raced each other with respect. If you didn’t enjoy that race you didn’t need to be here.”
Saturday’s race was one of the Fans’ Challenge races in which the top four qualifiers in the Modified Division have the option to go to the back of the field to try to finish in the top four to collect all or a portion of the $3,000 Challenge. Brown elected to do it in the last Challenge in June, but after qualifying second on Saturday, he chose not to do the Fans’ Challenge.
In 100-lap Modified races there’s a full-field redraw anyway, and with double points in all divisions Saturday night, he wanted to take the chance at a straight redraw.
“The Fans’ Challenge, I mean the money would be great,” Jonathan Brown Brown said. “We need all the money we can get, but tonight more than anything we needed to win the race. We come over here to plan to sit on the pole, hopefully draw up front enough to where we had a shot at winning the race, get max points, and walk away here gaining a couple spots in the points.”
Tim Brown was the points leader by 10 points over Myers, but Myers, the nine-time and three-time defending champion, finished runner-up and Tim Brown finished eighth to allow Myers to overtake Tim Brown and lead the points by 10. Jonathan Brown went from fourth place to second and trails Myers by four points.
“All in all, not a bad night for us,” Burt Myers said. “I think we came out pretty decent in points. I know it all got tightened up. I know we’re going to keep digging until the end of the year.”
Other winners on Saturday were Corey Rose in the time-shortened 19-lap Street Stock race, Dylan Ward in the first 20-lap Sportsman race, Ross Dalton in the second 20-lap Sportsman race, Joel Stewart won the 15-lap Stadium Stock “B” race and Brandon Brendle won the second 15-lap Stadium Stock “A” race.