Looking Back: 2015 Ronnie Barnette Memorial 200 A Success
How does one actually measure success in the business of short track racing? Is it the amount of cars that pull into the pits? Is it the amount of fans in the stands? What about the quality of racing? For me East Carolina Motor Speedway meet all of these so-called requirements for the 2nd Annual Ronnie Barnette Memorial 200. Headlined by the true NWAAS Late Model Stock cars running 200 laps battling for a $6,000 payday heading into the off-season and the Christmas season. Let me personally say, it was a great Christmas present for us to be racing in December!
After getting rained out a month ago, eighteen Late Model Stock Car teams converged on Robersonville, North Carolina. A field stacked with talent from top to bottom; Previous Late Model champions from across Virginia and the Carolinas (Jeff Shiflettm Deac McCaskill, Matt Bowling, Louis White) – 2015 Lamborghini Blancpain Super Trofeo Series Gallardo World Champion and North American AM Champion & NASCAR Xfinity driver Brandon Gdovic – along with young, up and coming drivers like Brenden Queen and Connor Hall.
Jeff Oakley & Justin Johnson earned the right to sit on the front row for the 200-lap feature. The two looked like they were the class of the field early. Jumping in front of the field early on the initial start and continuing to set a fast pace after the initial restart. Oakley led from the drop of the green flag to – what a pretty good coincidence – lap 44 when Johnson was able to mount a run turn four to take the lead. Johnson, fending off multiple cautions, a red flag period, and the lap 125 break, was able to hold off the field till lap 172 when Deac McCaskill took the lead. McCaskill surviving restarts and a GWC restart with a very hard charging Brandon Gdovic. At the end of the day a few cars rolled in the trailer beaten and battered, others happy to finish the race, and one driver $6,000 richer.
Street Stocks were also on the docket for a 30-lap feature. Nine cars took the green flag earlier in the afternoon after the grid was set during practice. Each drivers fastest time was taken earlier in the afternoon during their ten minute open practice session – some tracks have adopted the term “Practicfying.” Kevin Benton laid down the fastest lap with a 16.177, guaranteeing his P1 starting position. 2015 ECMS Street Stock track champ Travis Roberson would start to his outside.
Didn’t take long for things to get a little bit crazy, which might be just one reason I love this division so much – not to mention some of the bad ass looking old school Camaro bodies that run in the divison. Travis Roberson and Bill price made some contact in turns three and four. Price ends up going around but keeping it off the wall to rejoin the field. While “voicing” his displeasure with the recently crowned track champ he might have forgotten he was not eligible to take the cone but went to the high side anyway forcing an extended yellow. An issue if I can say, bothered the street stock division more than it should have.
Some great battles for position in the middle of the pack from Glass, Manning, and even Chris Connor before his machine had issues and being forced down pit road by race control. It was neither here nor there for Benton however has he could set the cruise control if he had it on the car. He would go on to win the race and lead every lap.
It was all but a single car show, to say the least, for the UCAR division. Sporting a seven car starting grid – mind you a ton of these machines were torn up pretty bad just a week ago at Southern National. Ronnie “Buckshot” Jones in probably one of the best-looking UCARS in the field had the fastest time during his ten-minute practice session as well. I will apologize now I was down stairs getting some information and photos.
Just as we mentioned in our story on Brenden Queen about momentum (Brenden Queen With Momentum Going into East Carolina On The Hunt For First Win), Jones had the same thing in his corner as well. Coming off of an impressive run in the UCAR race at The Classic where he or Tyler Horne could have won that had that not tangled a tad bit to soon. Also after taking that same car and finishing third in the Mini Stock Mayhem race just goes to show this driver’s determination to get into victory lane.
The race was only slowed two times from the spinning machine of Keith Wheeler, who by the way was making his East Carolina debut as well. 30 laps the distance for this one and it was the story of the top two walking away and Crumpler & Walston doing everything they could to wreck each other! I wont deny that it was pretty hard and fun racing. Either way, no one within a 25-mile radius had anything for Jones and the #4 car. “A win for us is always good,” Jones said in victory lane. “This class is all about having fun. If I would of finished second or third here I would have had just as much fun. This is the most fun racing I have ever had.”
It wasn’t wire to wire like the two divisions after his but, Blaise Brinkley took control of the lead on lap two and never really looked back. The race was slowed just once due to the caution flag right has Brinkley had almost a half track lead over second place. The caution was for the #18 machine of Gurganus looping it off turn two. Restarts were no issue for Brinkley and his #24 ride, took not time at all to get back up to speed and cruise to victory yet again in 2015 at East Carolina Motor Speedway.
All in all you really couldn’t ask for a better weekend. The sun was out; the temperature was great during the day. Got a little chilly as the sun went down but for a evening race in the first weekend of December, I think we lucked out. It was great to see all the fans come out and support this local short track that is constantly making strides up the ladder to offer bigger and better races. It was great to see the Barnette family at the track enjoying themselves during a race put on in their families honor. Certainly looking forward to not only next years addition but what 2016 has in store for this little track in Robersonville.
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Street Stock Results
P1. #1 Kevin Benton
P2. #3 Travis Roberson
P3. #44 Rodney Glass
P4. #48 Brandon Manning
P5. #32 Jody Jones
P6. #44 Drew Starling
P7. #9 Bill Price
P8. #38 Chris Connor
P9. #10 Frank Riegal
P1. #4 Ronnie Jones
P2. #48 Duane Walker
P3. #1 Greg Walston
P4. #00 Aaron Crumpler
P5. #77 Jamie Tucker
P6. #88 Daniel Bentley
P7. #27 Keith Wheeler
INEX Bando Results
P1. #24 Blaise Brinkley
P2. #25 Dustin Yeoman
P3. #51 Ethan Johnson
P4. #12 Savannah Beasley
P5. #18 Matthew Gurganus
P6. #3 Tyler Roberson