Chris Dodson took an idea from conception to victory lane in 3½ weeks, winning the 100-lap Late Model Sportsman race in front of an opening night crowd of 3,000 at Southside Speedway on Friday.
The veteran driver was quick to give praise to his crew and the co-owner and co-builder of his newly minted, reddish-orange Late Model Dodge, Bobby Creech of Creech Motorsports Fabrication.
"We started building this car less than a month ago," said Dodson, who earned his 35th win at the Midlothian track. "Bobby and I have probably built 400 race cars over the years, but this one is special. They said a Dodge couldn't win at Southside, but we proved them wrong.
"I had a whole lot of race car tonight," Dodson said, also thanking Evernham Motorsports for its contribution in helping build his new ride.
Dodson ran a smart race, starting fourth and moving to third on Lap 3 behind leaders George Pillsbury and Rob Jenkins. He carefully paced his Dodge in third as almost half of the 23-car field wound up in the pits after a total of nine cautions through 77 laps.
Still in third place, Dodson finally took the lead on Lap 88, and he and Mike Greathouse pulled away from the field on the final 10 laps.
Greathouse drove a solid race after being sent to the rear following a frontstretch spinout on Lap 17. He made his way back through the pack and got on Dodson's tail as the eventual winner took the lead.
"When they told me on the radio that Michael was bearing down on me, I knew it was time to pull out all the power," Dodson said.
"I had some good luck tonight," Greathouse said, acknowledging Dodson's dominance. "He had an awesome car. I got a little loose towards the end with some shock problems, but we'll get that fixed."
A number of drivers said they felt the unusually high number of cautions in the feature event were the cause of opening night "jitters."
"Some people were having trouble getting settled in since it was the first race of the season," Greathouse said.
Winds recorded at 60 mph caused some technical problems, blowing down power lines that connected track lights, darkening part of the backstretch and Turn 3 until a technician could be summoned to make repairs.
Richard Skeens pulled out a victory in the 30-lap Grand Stock race. Running fourth on Lap 15, a car dumped some liquid in Turn 3 that wound up collecting five cars - including the top three - and Skeens made his way around them and held on for the checkered flag.
In the other two races, Carl Byrd won the 50-lap Street Stock (formerly Enduros) event, and Josh Tapscott won wire to wire in the 20-lap MACKA race.
Late Model Sportsman (100 laps): 1. Chris Dodson; 2. Mike Greathouse; 3. George Pillsbury; 4. Phil Ledwon; 5. Rob Jenkins; 6. Chris Hoyleman; 7. Danny Clatterbuck; 8. Russ Ellis; 9. Rusty Ward; 10. Jason Pittman; 11. Mike Hayes; 12. Ray Ashworth; 13. Chris Hopkins; 14. Sonny Allen; 15. Chris Mueller; 16. Wayne McGee; 17. Greg Fernandez; 18. Joey Bryant; 19. Greg Holt; 20. Johnny Drudge; 21. Lin O'Neill; 22. Steve Zuskin; 23. Bubba Hubbard.
Grand Stock (30 laps): 1. Richard Skeens; 2. Jason Beck; 3. Fred Key; 4. Brandon Vaught; 5. Bradley Vaught; 6. Mike Ganoe; 7. Donnie Jimerson; 8. Todd Ruggles; 9. John Mosby; 10. Ron Hester; 11. Keith Mackta; 12. Daniel Shelton; 13. Chris Holt; 14. Tabitha Lipford; 15. Chris Willoughby; 16. Tony Ingram II; 17. Troy Carter; 18. John Wilson; 19. Jamie Neely; 20. Donnie Newman; 21. Ryan Boggs; 22. Brian Myslivy; 23. Tony Ingram Sr.; 24. Mark Jenkins.
Street Stock (50 laps): 1. Carl Byrd; 2. Dale Gravitt; 3. Dean Leslie; 4. Henry Holick IV; 5. Melvin Brown; 6. Larry Lamb; 7. Davie Miles; 8. Danny Ayers; 9. Joe Henderson; 10. Alex Ayers; 11. Kyle Chirrum; 12. Nicholas Hemesath; 13. Chris Bryant; 14. O.K. Wilson; 15. Josh Roberts; 16. Eric Sawyer; 17. Luke Danison; 18. Ted Newton; 19. Patrick Scheneuk; 20. Timothy Tiblis; 21. Robert Corbitt; 22. James Freeman; 23. James Groome; 24. Michael Sutphin; 25. John Kantzler; 26. Chris Wilson; 27. Brad Diggs; 28. James Loving; 29. Joshua Ayers; 30. Kevin Brown; 31. Dan Crate.
MACKA (20 laps): 1. Josh Tapscott; 2. Pete Fones; 3. Stanley Holmes; 4. Stan Holmes; 5. Jimmy Grady; 6. Warren Smigo; 7. Matt Ashworth; 8. Jimmy Green; 9. Marcus Holmes; 10. Ryland Craze; 11. Allen Purser; 12. Robert Peach; 13. Lee Roy Devore; 14. Chad Johnson; 15. Gabe Sailsbury.