“Back-To-School Night” at East Carolina Motor Speedway
Robersonville, NC – For what seems to be like the 100th weekend in a row this summer Mother Nature decided she wanted to play her little games again and threaten us race fans with another chance of a weekend wash out. So much of a threat actually one track who will remain nameless in this report… decided to run their program on Friday to have a ran date the following day, but that’s a whole other story for another post. After monitoring local and national radars all morning The Weekly Racer decided to pack their bags and head south and visit John Vick and our friends at East Carolina Motor Speedway for some high-octane Friday night racing!
As we rapidly approach the end of the racing season tracks and local sponsors have started to make things a little bit more interesting so to speak. Two separate cash bounties were on the line in two separate divisions Friday night. The rules were simple, become a first time winner in either the UCAR division or the Limited Late Model division and you had an extra lump of cash heading your way! Actually, with the UCAR division two drivers had the chance to win no less than $250 each on the account we had twin twenty lap features.
Limited Late Models
With out a doubt the largest field for East Carolina Motor Speedway in their Rookie season under the NASCAR banner is arguably the best division currently running at the speedway, with the Street Stock class trying to steal the thunder each week. The car count was just a little off this weekend as football season is starting back up as well as the Watermelon Festival was in town, however 10 LLM took to the track for their 50 lap feature where eight drivers had the chance to take home an extra $500 in cold hard cash. Louis White & Rusty Daniels the only two drivers in the field not eligible for the bounty opened the door slam open for some tough competition.
Taylor Howard of Kinston, North Carolina who also runs at Southern National was quick all afternoon in both practice sessions along with points leader Louis White. When it came time to qualify no car ran faster than Howard’s, awarding him the pole position on the evening with a blistering time of 15.643 (86.301 MPH). Louis White clocked in just a tenth of a second slower with a time of 15.788 (85.508 MPH) to set the front row for the evenings night-cap. Rusty Daniels (15.810), Ryan Haddock (16.009), and Wesley Johnson (16.067) were the remaining cars to set the starting five.
When the green flag dropped White moved past Howard on the outside and would be credited to leading lap number one. Howard not letting White get to comfortable just yet would battle back to lead lap two. As the field drove out of turn two the #33 machine of Ryan Haddock spun, slid all the way down the speedway and collided with the inside retaining wall. Resulting in some pretty heavy damage to the nose, the hood, and even bent the front clip just a bit.
As the field got back to green flag conditions Taylor Howard and Louis White spent a good lap door to do racing for the lead, Howard would prevail however and leave White to deal with Rusty Daniels. The field only got three green flag laps before our second caution of the evening caused again by Ryan Haddock. If this wasn’t the last race of the evening it would have been the fasted “D’oh Moment of The Race” award given to any driver this season. Haddock pulled down and stopped on the racing surface, still under power, waited for the yellow and then brought his ride down pit road. I seriously don’t think there has been anything more annoying this season than damaged cars baiting the caution.
Howard had the restart of his life clearing White into one, and started to immediately pull away from the field down the backstretch. Garrett Marchant on the other hand did not get the start he needed and fell back to the eighth spot, opening the door for Zach Henshaw to grab the fifth spot. The top three were just starting to get some laps in and spread apart when the #76 machine of Garrett Smithley went up in flames through turns three and four. The driver did a great job of pulling his machine down into the grass quickly so safety crews could get to him and extinguish the fire. Smithley was able to exit the car and reported no problems, other than the fact his motor just blew sky-high.
As clean up got under way on the racing surface Garrett Marchant brought his car down pit road to the attention of his crew. Not a whole lot of hustle down in the pits proved to be no immediate issue, but crew members did attend to the right front looking as if they made some adjustments to the car. He would rejoin the rear of the field just in time to get the one to go signal from race control. On the next lap all but two cars got up to speed, and that was the machine of Louis White who fell back as far as eighth, as well as Wesley Johnson who came to a halt in turn one. Johnson would need the help of the wreckers to get his machine down pit road. Johnson reported on his Facebook it was a broken left front tie rod that took him out of the running.
The green flag waved over the field for the final time and Rusty Daniels was able to power around Howard and would be credited with lap 16, White had already moved back up to the third spot by the time lap 16 was on the board. Taylor Howard turned up the wick a little bit on Daniels and regained the lead on lap 22. By the time the halfway sticks were in the air, White had moved his #7 H&L Logging machine into second place just four cars behind Howard and digging!
Louis White was able to take over the lead just before lap 30 went up in lights, and left Howard to deal with the likes of Daniels. The two spent the rest of the race battling for that second spot while Louis White just drove away. With less than 10 laps to go and Daniels working his bumper Howard pushed up the track and opened the inside line for Daniels, he waisted no time and took the second spot away. Once Howard collected his car he shot right back to the inside of Daniels. With the help of lap traffic Howard was able to secure the second spot and put a little bit of distance before the checkered flag waved for Louis White! Garrett Marchant crossed the line scored fourth and Ryan Haddock would somehow round out your top five for the evening.
1. #7 Louis White; 50
2. #99 Taylor Howard; 50
3. #16 Rusty Daniels; 50
4. #77 Garrett Marchant; 50
5. #33 Ryan Haddock
6. #99a Zach Henshaw; 49
7. #81 David Warren; 49
8. #06 Alton Coombs; 48
9. #12 Wesley Johnson; 15
10. #76 Garrett Smithley; 14
Pole: Howard – 15.634
The Ultimate Body Shop put another $500 bounty for a new winner in the UCAR division. Nine drivers were registered for the twin twenty lap features. The way the bounty would work is each new winner would actually have a chance to grab $250 each. Mickey Connor, who has won in the past, qualified his car on the pole in the euro style format but was not able to hold that spot for long. When the green flag was dropped Lee Horner jumped out to an early lead and he must have had some moon boots on because he was gone. Horner would lead flag to flag in a surprising caution free opening feature on the night.
Race two, a completely different atmosphere as the field saw an invert and had one last chance to earn some extra cash. We saw the first caution of the race caused by our race one winner Lee Horner. Horner spun coming out of two and tagged the inside wall. There is nothing more true in racing than the saying cautions breed cautions, we found that out in the second race as lap five saw another yellow for a dead Kenneth Mercer in turn three. When the field went back to green flag conditions Greg Crumpler had issues on the start and allowed Duane Walker to get a huge jump-start on the field. We would remain under green and Walker would build himself a huge lead and eventually take the win as well as the extra $250.
Jesse Council was able to grab another win in the Street Stock division which should have catapulted himself into the points lead. Council, Benton and Travis Roberson, who was actually driving Frank Reigels number ten were all within a car length of each other. Current point leader Kevin Benton had motor issues that took him out of the evenings race, what made things really interesting is at the same time Roberson ran into mechanical issues that would take him out of the competition. The Mini Stock division was on the score card as well, only took about three times before the field got a clean start from flagman Terry Bullock. Michael Roose, Jr was able to take home the victory after an interesting finish and a little bit of confusion when it came to the flags. The 64 went around in turn four on the white flag lap as the field dove into three. The yellow lights came on, which means the field is frozen, well Kyle Barnes wanted to race back to the line. I was told that was how things were done last year but as a NASCAR track things are a bit different.
Only four Late Model Stock Cars were in attendance for their 50 lap feature. Burbage jumped out to an early lead as he was the pole sitter with a time of 15.432. Holding the lead for just about 10 laps, Burbage sounded like he got a bit loose out of the corner allowing VanWinkle and Shiflett to make the pass. By lap twelve Shiflett had earned his spot at the point and started to leave the field. The nights only caution came from a solo spin from VanWinkle out of four. As the field bunched up for the restart leader Jeff Shiflett did not get back up to speed like Burbage did and Shiflett was forced to surrendered the lead and eventually the win over to the nine car.