Ledbetter Wins Thanksgiving All-Star Classic Street Stock Feature
Lucama, NC – A cold night to say the least down in North Carolina to kick off the annual Thanksgiving All-Star Classic at Southern National Motorsports Park. While some were up bright and early to stand in line and fight for their right to buy the $300 TV, others were packing up race car trailers and heading to North Carolina for some racing.
The ever popular Street Stock division was the highlight of the evening running a 50 lap feature. Jeff Melton set the fast time in qualifying with a time of 16.605 (86.721mph) only to be waisted 500 feet past the stripe. As the field took the green flag outside pole sitter Mike Keith must have spun the tires and immediately hooked left. Melton & Keith had a crash course with the inside retaining wall that took both cars out of contention. Mike Keith would attempt to return to the speedway but the damage was too much for the car. This would allow Ledbetter and Barnett to move up to the front row.
As the green flag was displayed to the field Gary Ledbetter nailed the gas – as most race car drivers do at that time of the evening – and took off into turns one and two with Greg Barnett on his flank. These two would build a pretty large over Ganoe and Council, who spent a good amount of laps nose to tail working on each other before Council finally got around him for third spot.
Things were pretty smooth sailing for the first half of the race as I would imagine some drivers were trying to save tires. Remember this was a little bit longer of a race than what some of these guys are used to. Greg Barnett was finally able to make the pass for the lead on lap 27 after hanging on to the rear bumper of Ledbetter. Just four laps later we got the nights first caution as the #10c of Chris Conner went for a solo spin in turn two.
What happened next was completely unexpected, Gary Ledbetter had to pull his machine down to the attention of his crew, we learned later in victory lane that he had a right rear tire going down. This allowed Jesse Council to take over second position on the restart. Out came the cone – which if you are not familiar officials place a cone in the middle of the speedway allowing drivers to choice the low or high side on the restart – and Council saw his shot at the lead. As the green flag was displayed Council got an incredible jump and the lead was his out of turn two.
Council was not able to keep the car on the bottom and washed up to the top side where he was freight trained back to the fourth spot. “Once these tires go through a heat cycle man the car just wants to push like a bulldozer,” Council said during post race tech. The restart had also helped Ledbetter catch back up to everyone and start making his moves back to the front of the field. In fact Ledbetter had passed Ganoe, and moved by Barnett to regain the lead with just ten laps to go.
It looked like it was going to be smooth sailing for Ledbetter in this one until we meet the infamous debris caution. Clean up crews attended to turn two for whatever reason, bunching the field back up for a three lap shoot out. Oh but wait, whats one of the famous sayings in racing… cautions breed cautions, and so it did. On the ensuing restart, while the field dove into three Mike Ganoe had something expire and a HUGE plume of smoke came bellowing out from under that car sending him spinning into the outside wall ending his night.
Barnett had a much better go this time around and was able to stay to Ledbetter’s door till the exit of turn two. It was like the 32 machine hit the nitrous button driving off two and he was gone. The battle was then on for the third spot between Council and Maready for the final two laps. The only battle on the track as the race came to an end saw an almost photo finish with Maready edging Council for third by just a bumper. cover.
“We had a right rear tire going down,” Ledbetter said in victory lane. “We came in and changed it and it made all the difference in the world.” He went on to think his crew and all the fans who came out to sit in the cold to watch the race. Racing continues later this evening with Limited Late Model & IMCA style modified qualifying at 1:45 pm, with heat races and a 50 lap feature starting around 5pm.
Street Stock Top 5:
1. #32 Gary Ledbetter
2. #8 Greg Barnett
3. #8b Brandon Maready
4. #00 Jesse Council
5. #10 Chris Conner