5.2: Rumble in Robersonville
Robersonville, NC – The Rumble in Robersonvile, Opening Night: Round 2, Saturday Night Short Track Racing, which ever name you pick, it sure was good to be back at the track with no rain in sight! Two weeks ago Mother Nature had to stick her ugly nose into the mix and cancel opening night, but maybe it was a sign, a way for more drivers to prepare their cars for battle. This time around however, only a 5% chance rain in the forecast all day, we were going racing!
The tale of the tape – figure that was fitting with the historic fight taking place as well – 14 (15 LMSC registered, one had to back out after practice due to medical reasons) would suit up and get into the high-banked ring that is known as East Carolina Motor Speedway! With $2,000 on the line for the winner it was pretty clear pretty early that we were going to have one hell of a race on our hands.
Two practice sessions were given to each division throughout the afternoon and finding his way to the top of that leader both times was the driver of the #7 H&L Logging machine, Louis White. However he did have some company, making just her second start at ECMS, 2014 Southern National LLM Champ Haley Moody was a able to wheel her machine to second, both times!
Those speeds seemed to transfer over to qualifying for the young lady as she held the pole position for some time. She was only “bested” by one other driver and that was ECMS veteran Thomas Burbage. Clicking off a time of 15.321 or 88.114 MPH, Burbage earned the right to call himself the pole sitter for the 100-lap feature later that evening. Things almost went south quickly, when crewmembers were jacking the car up after qualifying they noticed a decent size gash in the right rear tire. They flagged down an official who eventually gave them permission to make a tire change and still be able to keep is pole position.
King Charles Photography Starting Five: P1 #9 Thomas Burbabge, P2 #50 Haley Moody, P3 #7 Louis White, P4 #18 Bradley McCaskill, P5 #24 Kenneth Mercer
Once it was time to drop the green flag, Burbage off to a great start with the entire field falling in behind him. Certainly did not take long for the field to get single file, the top six tucked into a nice Single, Straight… not so Silent line! To be expected honestly with 100 laps on tap for the night, no since in burning your stuff up so early in the race. Only real issue we had early was a very, and I mean very loose Haley Moody off of turn four! She would get shuffled back to about the eighth or ninth spot. She would eventually end up making three pit stops for the team to work on the car. We were able to catch up with Haley after the race – “Tires just didn’t measure up right,” said a bummed out Haley Moody. Lucky for her caution laps did not count tonight so she was able to come down pit road multiple times to make adjustments. She would eventually battle her way back to a sixth place finish.
Taking a look back at the conga line of racecars it was very surprising but awesome to see the top five stay grouped up as long as they did. Drivers sizing each other, taking peaks down low and even putting a little bumper to each other. All in all just some great, homegrown, short track racing! Wasn’t till lap 35 that we saw the first of three cautions on the evening. Gary Young, Jr was the tracks first victim, didn’t quite see what happened to cause it, but when we turned our heads to four he was resting against the outside retaining wall. We would only have two other cautions through out the night for the spinning #08 of Joe Shannon, did a great job of keeping the car down and not hitting anything.
On the restart McCaskill was able to get an incredible jump and muscle his way around the #7 of White to hold onto the second spot for a while. We would eventually be placed on our second caution, bunching the field up, allowing any driver a crack at the lead. On the ensuing restart Bradley got a great jump, matter of fact he was door to door with Burbage for a about a lap and a half before he washed way up the track. Speaking with him after the race he thinks there was a mechanical issue. “I think that’s when we started having some break issues to be honest,” McCaskill told The Weekly Racer post race. “My spotter was telling me the rotors were getting really red and the car was just having trouble rotating from then on.”
McCaskill would inevitably fall back as far as tenth in the field. With the help of a never give up attitude, some hard driving and a semi late race caution McCaskill was able to rally back to a second place finish on the evening.
Louis would eventually take the lead over from Thomas Burbage on lap 56 and left the door wide open for 2014 LMSC champ Jeff Shiflett to sneak on by as well. We had our moments up front where it looked like we might have a battle for the lead but from about lap sixty-five on, no one had anything to bring to the table for White. Looking back a little deeper in the field you had McCaskill working his way back up to what would be a second place finish.
The best battle on the track there towards the end was for the fifth spot. Daniels, Mercer, McNair and at one point even Moody was back in the game trying to claw her way back into the top five where she started. Mercer was able to work his #24 around the machine of Daniels to grab the fifth spot on lap 87. Daniels would put the bumper to him the next lap but it was enough to move him, Mercer would finish the race right where he started – P5.
After the race we caught up with Louis in victory lane to talk about his run. White told us that he was a little concerned at the start of the race on how low his crew set the tire pressures but he trusted them they knew what was best. We asked Louis now with the first race and first win under his belt what could we see of the #7 in the future, he told us they would just take the races as they come. “We are going to come out here as much as we can,” said White. “My daughter is suppose to be having her baby here in the next few weeks so we are going to be there for that and see where it goes from there.”
East Carolina Motor Speedway – Rumble in Robersonville – Late Models 100 Laps
- #7 Louis White; 100
- #18 Bradley McCaskill; 100
- #9 Thomas Burbage; 100
- #01 Jeff Shiflett; 100
- #24 Kenneth Mercer; 100
- #50 Haley Moody; 100
- #16 Rusty Daniels; 100
- #3 Shelton McNair; 100
- #12 Wesley Johnson; 100
- #08 Joe Shannon, 98
- #99 Zach Henshaw; 82
- #8 Brian Whitehurst; 70
- #45 Gary Young, Jr: 35
- #6 Tommy Cherry; DNS
Record Setting Crowd on Hand for Opening Night: Round 2 in Robersonville
A record setting number of fans piled into the wooden bleachers this past weekend down in Robersonville, North Carolina to watch a second attempt at an Opening Night. The fans were not the only ones trying to cram their way into the high banked 3/8-mile D-shape oval, haulers were lined up from the sign in window down to the highway. Finding a spot to park your rig and unload the car at one point was turning into a team effort. Wondering where your going to park the next racecar… a problem no track wouldn’t mind having.
Late Models were not the only divisions to get things “popping” in Robersonville USA – Street Stocks, Mini Stocks, UCAR, Bando’s, and the very elegant Southern Ground Pounders (SGP) were all chomping at the bit to get things kicked off for the 2015 season – SGP are a separate racing club governed by their own rules and schedule.
Southern Ground Pounders
Speaking of the SGP guys, if you are a old school, vintage car nut, then you need to track these guys down and visit one of their races! They had everything from a primer color Chevrolet Bel Air down to a Ford Pinto racing. No not some old car taken off the street, these are big engine, purpose built racecars! Ten cars were able to make the green flag, though not all ten were there at the end.
Pole sitter Rodney Dye not able to make it two laps before his motor expired and sending him into the inside retraining wall. Beat the car up pretty bad but driver was able to walk away with no issues. Once the field was allowed to go back to green flag racing is was all the Jimmy Rice show – with the exception of almost going three wide in turn two & a car with no practice almost running the leader down – Rice would go on to take the victory.
Just about twenty UCARs were on hand for their two 20-lap features and these boys never seem to disappoint. I would like to point out on thing, and I know different tracks have different rules on what type of car is allowed, but this is the first time I had ever seen a Civic Si turned into a UCAR. Now after seeing it, and what “it” and a driver can do with “it,” I have a strange feeling more and more people will be building one of these bad boys. Tyler Horne and his Toyota Celica – who has already said he is going to try and run for a championship this year at both SNMP & ECMS – was about the only car who had anything to show for Lynn Waller, driver of that #5 Civic Si.
Waller grabbed the pole earlier in the afternoon during group qualifying but lost the lead early to Horne – I am going to attribute that to lake of track time. Horne was able to hold the top spot for nine solid laps before the power of that K20 motor really started to kick. Once Waller got around the 28 it was all she wrote for race number one. Waller would power through to victory lane picking up his first trophy. Horne, Pitman, Jones, Horner would round out your top five in race one.
A five-car invert put ended up putting Lee Horner on the pole for the start of the second race. When the green flag was displayed not sure if it was a bad start or just a tad bit lack of power but Horner would surrender the lead pretty quickly to the #4 of “Buckshot” Jones, who would clear the field by a car and a half out of two. It only took Tyler Horne five laps to move up through the field and take the top spot while the #5 of Waller was a little slower through the field.
Things were looking just peachy keen for the 28 car as lap traffic helped him put some distance on the 5, however, all of those hopes and dreams came crashing down… no literally, on lap 13 when two cars got together and went around bringing out the nights only caution.
On the restart, because East Carolina has not adapted the cone rule just yet, Horne and Waller would start heads up for a seven-lap dash to the finish! Horne able to keep Waller at bay through one and two as they clear the field but an excellent cross over executed in turn four let Waller take the lead and he never looked back, except for in victory lane thank Tyler Horne for a fun and clean race.
Travis Roberson back in 2015 with what looked to be a new car, well at least a new paint job, to grab the pole for the evening. Looked like he was out to grab more than just the pole – he was out for blood! When the green flag dropped so did his right foot, it did not take him long to distance his #3 machine from the rest of the field.
We were only faced with one caution during the thirty lap feature, that was for the #18 of Benny Oakley who looked to have broken something in the right front because he sat in turn three up against the guard rail dead in the water. A quick and easy clean up though allowed for racing to continue and Roberson to go head and build another big lead. Best battle, or move, or progression on the track was from the #38 of Chris Connor who charged through the field grabbing a top five before everything was said and done. Benton, Council, Christman, would also make up your top five finishers.
Blaise Brinkley would go on and grab the victory in the Bando division after some pretty interesting racing. Andy Ipock would go on to put a hurting on the field in the Mini Stock division to grab the first victory of the season, putting his name at the top of the championship standings. East Carolina Motor Speedway will be back in action Saturday May 16th Late Models on tap for a 75-lap feature along with the Modifieds for their 20-lap twin bill. Street Stocks, Mini Stocks and UCARS are all set to hit the track for more Saturday night racing action!