Defending champ Myers still rolling, wins pole at Bowman Gray

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FILE PHOTO: Burt Myers wins the pole with a qualifying time of 13.125 seconds during qualifying Friday, April 25, 2014, for the season-opening Hayes 200 Modified series race at Bowman Gray Stadium. (Bruce Chapman/Journal)

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — Burt Myers says he is always eager when another year of stock-car racing at Bowman Gray Stadium rolls around. And coming off a season in which he won his sixth championship just reinforces the feeling.

“Everybody is excited this time of year,” said Myers, who got an added boost of enthusiasm Friday when he won the pole for tonight’s season-opening Hayes Jewelers 200.

“This is where we grew up, it’s our home track, and this is where we’ve spent our summers for our whole lives, basically. You see people here you’ve known your whole life. It’s always nice to get another season started.”

And, not that he needs it, but nine-time champion Tim Brown has an added incentive as a new season cranks up.

Brown won last year’s opener, and finale, and needs just one more victory to match Junior Miller’s all-time record of 71 feature-race wins.

“I’d love for it to happen in the next two weeks, but there are some good drivers here,” Brown said.

One of them is Miller, an eight-time winner of the season opener who would love to expand his career total.

Myers was the fastest qualifier Friday with a lap of 13.125 seconds (68.6 mph) on the quarter-mile track. Brown, who had a time of 13.145, will start from the outside pole.

Others locking up top-10 starting spots for tonight’s 200-lap race were Jason Myers, Lee Jeffreys, Chris Fleming, Danny Bohn, John Smith, Randy Butner, Michael Clifton and Frank Fleming.

Brown and Burt Myers have combined to win the last seven Bowman Gray championships, awarded to the leader in the standings at the end of the season in August in the featured Modified Division. More impressively, the two have won 15 of the last 18 titles. Miller has the other three in that span.

“We’ve been here a long time, and a majority of it probably has to do with our work ethic,” Myers said. “We put everything we’ve got into these cars. These cars and what we do comes before just about everything else in our lives.”

Jason Myers, the younger brother of Burt, is seeking his first title. He finished second in the season standings for the second straight time last year.

“You never know over here,” Jason Myers said. “You’ve got to be fast, you’ve got to have a good racecar, but you’ve got to have luck, too.”

Jason Myers said that it’s nice early in the season not to be thinking about points. The big prize for now is the opening 200-lapper.

“If you could win one race all year over here, it would be this one,” he said.

Three drivers — Michael Bohn, David Calabrese and Cale Gale — plan to make their debut in Bowman Gray’s Modified Division tonight.

Bohn, the older brother of Modified driver Danny Bohn, will drive for veteran car owner Bob Nelson. Calabrese, a New Jersey native as is Bohn, now lives in Mooresville and hopes to run weekly. He competed in last year’s Whelen Southern Modified Tour race at Bowman Gray.

Gale is a former NASCAR Trucks Series winner who raced in Bowman Gray’s Sportsman Division last season.

Luke Fleming will drive for Danny Propst, who broke a hand in a bump-up in practice on April 17.

Southern tour competitor Joe Ryan Osborne, a Pennsylvania native now living in Kannapolis, ran four races at Bowman Gray last season and will pilot a car owned by Grady Jeffreys.

Brandon Ward, a Late Model and Modified tour driver who raced twice at Bowman Gray in 2012, plans to drive at least two races for Kevin Powell this season.