Scarbrough Victorious at East Carolina Motor Speedway
Robersonville, NC – For the second time in 2014 the high banks of East Carolina Motor Speedway was the play ground for the open wheel modifieds. 75 laps were on the card for this division as they were the second to last division to highlight the Ronnie Barnett Memorial 200. Teams were able to get to the track earlier than normal this time and spend a good portion of the day testing and figuring out the line. A few teams struggled early trying to find a good set up and a good line on a track that many drivers have told me is tricky, aggravating but insanely fun all at the same time.
Previous race winner, and seven-time Langley Speedway champion, was one of the cars in attendance after working weeks on end to get the motor back in his machine. Balluzzo was looking to be the man to beat all day in practice, then he pilots his machine to a time of 15.76 seconds in qualifying to capture the pole. Alan Marshall, Mike Rudy, Robbie Babb and Joe Scarbrough would fill out the rest of the starting five positions.
When the green flag flew over the field it did not take Balluzzo long to show why he has won so many championships in that modified. Five laps in, the 48 machine had built himself a very comfortable lead over the #8 of Mike Rudy – who would eventually run into trouble and tangle with a few cars, and would not finish the race. Robbie Babb was also a really big mover, 10 laps into the 75 lap feature, just the wrong way. Something must have broken on the 44 machine because Babb was falling and falling in a hurry.
Things didn’t start getting… lets just say interesting till about lap number thirty when Balluzzo, sporting about a half straightaway lead over Rudy caught Babb and was working to put him a lap down. Three laps Babb stayed on the inside and raced the leader instead of moving over like the blue flag told him to do so. With Babb on the inside and Balluzzo on the outside we saw the nights first caution for contact between the 48 and the 44. The contact had Balluzzo stopped, side ways, out of turn two. At first the team thought they had cut a tire down, a few pace laps later determined the tire was okay just had some cosmetic damage. That right there folks earns The Weekly Racer ‘D-oh Moment of the Race Award.’
“Your fine, it’s all good. Hit ya right in the quarter panel.” – Team Communications
I’m sorry and not sorry at the same time awarding that to Babb. I am not a race car driver, and have not been one since my teen years, and trust me I get the competitive drive I really do. Battling the leader side by side for three laps? I am not saying the contact in turn two was intentional or anything but, it certainly would not have been made if the 44 followed the instruction from the flag man.
On the ensuing restart Balluzzo was able to get a good jump, clearing the field off of turn two. What happened in turns three and four was just shy of a phenomenon. As the leaders crossed the stripe multiple cars went slipping and sliding, what was crazy? No big contact with the wall or hard collisions with each other. Scotty Lawrence in the #83 machine would end up slowing in turn two which forced the nights second caution to wave. He would also have to bring the car down to the attention of his crew for a little bit of work.
The old saying “cautions breed cautions” were true for this race as not but a few minutes after the restart Mike Rudy goes for a spin along with a few others in turn two. There was a car hauler in the way so I was not able to see everyone that was involved. That moment was essentially the beginning of the end for Mike Rudy’s night.
When the field took the green on lap 48 if you asked me looked like Scarbrough may have punched the gas a tad to early in the restart box, but both machines were even at the line so it turned into a left drag race after that. As the field raced off four Scarbrough supporting just a slight advantage and would lead lap 49 and eventually push Balluzzo back to the second spot where we would eventually finish the night.
That was all it took for Scarbrough who was cited in the post race interview saying he was saving his tires because he really kicked it up into high gear and started to check out on the rest of the field. Balluzzo, who’s car was not right after the collision with Babb, radioed to his crew he felt something may have broken and the car just wasn’t right. Meanwhile as laps ticked down Wayne Hartley – who if I may stop for a second and create a brand new award for most distance traveled to attend a race, Hartley Motorsports based out of Maryland – started to work his way through the field slicing and dicing through cars. Even avoiding a potentially horrible situation avoiding the spinning David Winslow out of turn number three.
Something Scarbrough did not want to see, Balluzzo lining back up to his outside. It did not matter for the 93 as he got a great jump on the restart leaving Balluzzo to deal with the likes of Marshal, who gave Balluzzo just enough bump out of two to upset the car. Marshall also backed off the throttle and allowed Balluzzo to collect the machine and both went on about their business. That move right there was enough for Scarbrough to secure his first victory at East Carolina Motor Speedway in quite some time.
I do want to take a moment to give kind of a “Hard Charger” shout out to the #95 of Danny Harrell who stated in the driver introductions the track was certainly tricky. Most drivers we talk to point out turn two as the problem area, for Harrell is was turn number four. Not as tight as the exit of two as it leads into the dog leg on the front stretch but the outside guard rail sneaks up on you fast. Harrell rolled of the grid ninth out of an eleven car field and fought his way to a fourth place finish. For that sir, you win the “Hard Charger Award!”
We caught up with the winner in victory lane after a hand shake from Balluzzo and a kiss from his spotter… slash wife, and here is what he had to say.
“[We] just kind rode, saved tires, and just really patient there,” Scarbrough spoke about his race strategy in victory lane. I guess [the track] was sealed or something since the last time I have been here, it was really slick so you had to be really sensitive on the throttle.”
Scarbrough, a past track champion at Langley Speedway (2008) picked up his first win since July of this year at the Moonshine Modified Series event at Ace Speedway. Joe very thankful for all of his crew that helped him through out the day.
“Charlie did a really good job and gave me a really good car. He made some really good calls earlier because we were bad in practice. We were about to put it back in the trailer. I thought it was broke it ran so bad. My wife Isella did a great job spotting, everyone ran clean, it was a great race.”
“It’s great to be back here,” Scarbrough stated towards the end of his celebration. “I might have to make this my home track.” A home track he may have found as East Carolina is looking forward to an exciting 2015 season and bringing the fans THE best short track racing in North Carolina.
1. #93 Joe Scarbrough; 75
2. #48 Shawn Balluzzo; 75
3. #17 Allen Marshall; 75
4. #95 Danny Harrell; 75
5. #83 Scotty Lawrence; 75
6. #38 Michael Johnson; 75
7. #37 Wayne Hartley; 75
8. #12 Robert Connor; 75
9. #44 Robbie Babb; 75
10. #10 David Winslow; 75
11. #8 Mike Rudy; 63