PHOTO: Alex Bell celebrates his first win of the 2012 season at Devil’s Bowl Speedway. Bell charged through the field and then held off defending champion Ron Proctor en route to victory. (T.J. Ingerson/VMM photo)

–by T.J. Ingerson

WEST HAVEN — Alex Bell knew he could be a top contender in the NASCAR Bond Auto Modified division at Devil’s Bowl Speedway. He just needed his opportunity to show it.

He did just that Friday night.

Bell started the 35-lap “I Am Vermont Strong” Benefit from the eighth position and wasted no time charging to the front, jumping into the second position before the end of lap five. Bell shadowed then leader Joey Roberts over the next 15 laps before a caution on lap 20 put Bell on the outside of Roberts.

Bell used that restart to his advantage, taking the lead on lap 21 and never surrendered it.

“[This] is huge,” Bell said. “We have a lot of guys helping us. We’ve struggled the first few weeks. I have to put out a special thanks to Hunter Bates. Him and his father called us up and I have to give this one to them. They really helped us out big time this week.”

Bell was followed by defending champion Ron Proctor after the lap 20 restart, and Proctor began applying pressure to the youngster Bell.

“On the last caution, I looked up to my dad and tried to get a hand signal to see if anyone was catching me,” Bell explained. “He told me they were coming. I guess it came down to the first couple laps — I really wanted it. I was going to go for it.”

It was Bell’s third career win at the asphalt half-mile.

Proctor, of Charlton, N.Y., was the runner-up and extended his point lead.

Jessey Mueller and Roberts tangled out of turn four as the field got the white flag, sending Mueller into the wall and Roberts around. The race was called official as Bell had taken the white flag. Hunter Bates, of Middlebury, was the beneficiary of that caution and moved into the third position.

Brandon’s Vince Quenneville, Jr., and Chazy, N.Y.’s Leon Gonyo completed the unofficial top five.

Cody Sargen and rookie Jeff Haskins were sixth and seventh. Jason Bruno rebounded from a spin on lap 22 to finish eighth. Mike Bush and Jamie Proctor were ninth and tenth, unofficially.

Bill Duprey took the lead from the outside pole in the 15-lap Renegade feature and won wire-to-wire. The Hydeville racer, however, was shadowed all race by polesitter Jeremy Jones. Jones, of Leicester, was second and Ryan Keith, of Pittsford, was third.

Not even going backwards on the track could stop Bristol’s Josh Masterson from scoring his fifth Bomber win of the season.

Devil’s Bowl officials ran the 20-lap Bomber feature clockwise around the half-mile, instead of the traditional counter-clockwise. Masterson worked through the field and took the lead in the closing stages from Garrett Given. Given, of Cornwall, held on for second while Bobby LaVair, of Gabriels, N.Y., finished third.

Devil’s Bowl Speedway returns to its normal 7:30 start time next Friday night for Hometown Heroes Night presented by Whelen Engineering. All Fire, Police, and EMT workers are admitted free with valid identification.

UNOFFICIAL RESULTS — “I Am Vermont Strong” Benefit
NASCAR Whelen All-American Series — Devil’s Bowl Speedway, West Haven
Friday, June 15, 2012

(# – denotes rookie)

NASCAR Bond Auto Modifieds (35 laps)
1. Alex Bell, Cambridge, N.Y.
2. Ron Proctor, Charlton, N.Y.
3. Hunter Bates, Middlebury
4. Vince Quenneville, Jr., Brandon
5. Leon Gonyo, Chazy, N.Y.
6. Cody Sargen, Greenfield Center, N.Y.
7. Jeff Haskins, Wells
8. Jason Bruno, Plattsburgh, N.Y.
9. Mike Bush, Hudson Falls, N.Y.
10. Jamie Proctor, Schuylerville, N.Y.

Renegades (15 laps)
1. Bill Duprey, Hydeville
2. Jeremy Jones, Leicester
3. Ryan Keith, Pittsford
4. Robert Gordon, Milton
5. Frank Monroe, Granville, N.Y.

Bombers (20 laps)
1. Josh Masterson, Bristol
2. Garrett Given, Cornwall
3. Bobby LaVair, Gabriels, N.Y.