WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. – Jonathan Brown waited 658 days for racing to return to Bowman Gray Stadium and once it did, he made the most of it.
In front of packed grandstands Saturday night at the quarter-mile oval, Brown earned his first victory in the Hayes Jewelers 200 featuring the headlining modified division.
“This is the biggest race of the year, so it’s always great to win it. I’ve finished second five or six times, but to win it is freaking awesome,” Brown said.
Unlike most of his competitors, Brown opted to skip practice and the first round of qualifying for modified competitors on Friday afternoon, which set the top-10 starters for Saturday’s 200-lap main event.
“The thing with practice is everybody was on a green race track,” he explained. “Nobody knew what the cars were going to do. I knew after a few laps things would shake themselves out.”
Brown arrived at the track Saturday and qualified his No. 22 in the 14th position during the second round of qualifying. Bowman Gray Stadium legends Burt Myers and Tim Brown qualified on the front row.
Myers would dominate the first half of the race before making his pit stop during a caution period just shy of the lap 100 mark. That handed the lead to John Holleman IV, who would lead until a caution period on lap 132 when he decided to make a pit stop.
Tim Brown inherited the race lead after Holleman pitted, with Jonathan Brown cycling into second for the restart. When the race resumed Jonathan Brown drove around Tim Brown to take the lead for the first time.
Multiple restarts would follow, with Jonathan Brown first fending off multiple challenges from Brandon Ward. During a restart on lap 186 Danny Bohn was able to get by Ward for second, setting up a new challenger for Jonathan Brown in the final stages of the race.
Despite a valiant effort from Bohn, Jonathan Brown held serve to earn the biggest victory of his Bowman Gray Stadium racing career.
“I knew that 04 (Ward) was good, I knew Danny (Bohn) in the 65 was going to be really good. I knew everybody was on pretty similar tires, so I knew I was really going to have to run those last few restarts,” Jonathan Brown said. “I just kind of rode there half throttle a lot of the time, but when it was time to go I had plenty to go with.”
Other winners on the opening night of action at Bowman Gray Stadium included Tommy Neal in the sportsman class and Billy Gregg in the street stocks. Chuck Wall and Robert Strmiska split a pair of 15-lap stadium stock features.