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.
(Photo: Charles Alexander/King Charles Photography)
The second installment of the East Coast Synthetics Slick Move of the Race made its appearance at East Carolina Motor Speedway this past weekend. Awarding one driver who’s moves on or off the track had a positive impact on his or her finishing position. A partnership created between East Coast Synthetics and The Weekly Racer to bring to the forefront a driver affiliation program with AMSOIL as well as recognizing one single driver for their bold move on the track.
This go around it just wasn’t one move it was a collaboration of moves given the circumstances this driver had to face. Twice Gdovic had to work his way deep out of the field after a spin in turns three and four early sent him to the rear. You think, “Okay we got that out of the way early, lets charge back up front where we belong.” Only to have a tire go down, forcing you to pit road, and to the attention of your crew. Lucky for Gdovic this weekends Ronnie Barnette Memorial 200 was 200 laps of green flag racing. This means caution laps did not count! Gave teams a little more time to assess and make repairs to the car without losing a lap to the leaders.
Robersonville, NC – No stranger to victory lane here at the tricky 3/8th mile D-shape oval. McCaskill took the lead from Justin Johnson on lap 172 with a pretty slick cross over move out of turn four that was actually set up as the field came out of turn four on the restart. From that point on it was the veteran in control. McCaskill, in the two short years the track has been under the NASCAR banner has racked up just about a dozen wins around this place. Wrapping up the 2015 season and $6,000 richer sure did make things just a bit better for him and his crew.
“Feels great man. I was a little worried there because we were just a little off in practice,” McCaskill said from victory lane. “Qualified fifth and the car just drove really good. In that first half Justin and the eighty-three car [Bowling] were really strong, they were just beating me with drive off.“ Like any veteran driver McCaskill knew he had plenty of time to make moves and even a break in the racing to make adjustments to the car as needed. With the race starting in daylight but finishing under the lights you knew there were going to be adjustments.
“We made some great calls at the break, I cant think the guys enough,” McCaskill proclaimed. “We really took a gamble and it worked. Which usually doesn’t happen with me, we usually make the wrong call like we did last week at Kenly. This really worked though and allowed us to get off four much better and get up with Justin and then really stretch the lead out.” Stretch the lead out they did. In just under eight laps McCaskill had built himself a pretty comfortable ten-car lead over the new second place machine of Matt Bowling. Then what no leader wants to see late in the race, multiple late race cautions; even worse a Green–White–Checkered finish. “Those last couple of cautions kind of had me worried there,” said McCaskill about the end of the race. “It was really fun there and a good way to end the year.”
Robersonville, NC – East Carolina Motor Speedway officials held out for as long as possible but the rain did eventually reach the 3/8 mile track. All divisions were able to get through their practices before the day was called off and they did get the timing issue fixed that was a problem the day before. The 2015 Late Model runner-up was able to post the fastest time in their session. The race will be held on December 5th after being voted on earlier in the day by the drivers and will be a one day event. This puts it after two other trophy races later in the month, The Battle at the Beach in Myrtle Beach, SC and the Thanksgiving All-Star Classic in Kenly, NC. The divisions racing will stay the same with the Late Models under the NASCAR LMSC rules, UCAR, and the INEX Bandoleros participating.
All eyes within the Late Model Stock Car community should be focused in on just one track right now. That track is the high banked, D-shape oval known as East Carolina Motor Speedway located in Robersonville, North Carolina. For the second year in a row the speedway will host the Ronnie Barnette Memorial. Last year headlined by the IMCA style open wheeled modified’s. This year the race will be headlined by a $6,000 to win LMSC race!
Working strictly out of the NWAAS rulebook, this race will be a true “Late Model Stock” event. Not the hybrid rules (a mix of late model and limited late model) the speedway adopted this past year to try and attract a larger field of cars. This race will with out a doubt be the largest event the track has seen in its 25-year history. In addition to the Late Model’s, a 15-lap Bandolero race and a 50-lap, $500 to win UCAR race is also on the schedule.
With East Carolina Motor Speedway being our home away from home, The Weekly Racer will have updates from the Friday afternoon practice session as well as LIVE lap-by-lap coverage of the racing action the following day. If you haven’t already, I would suggest you hop on Twitter, search @theweeklyracer, and give us a follow so you don’t miss a thing! Coverage Friday, November 6th will run from 12 PM – 5 PM. Saturday’s coverage will begin at 2:30 PM picking up with LMSC qualifying where we will have both timed laps for you guys.
For more information and/or to register your car for next weekends race please visit the link provided –> 2nd Annual Ronnie Barnette Memorial 200 Registration. To keep up today with all things East Carolina visit them on the web at ecspeedway.com or on Twitter – @ecspeedway