East Carolina – Championship Night
Robersonville, NC – (6/19/14) For once this season Mother Nature seemed like she was going to play nice for the Robersonville area and provided a 0% chance of any weather issues as the speedway entered its first championship weekend under the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series banner. Five divisions were on the card for Friday nights fight under the lights where for the first time drivers were crowned NASCAR champions. Most of the divisions points battles were all but decided even before the green flag waved over each race, all but the always exciting UCAR division.
David Wiggins entered the evening just two point’s (506) behind points leader Duane Walker (508). Due to the tracks points system Wiggins only needed to finish one spot ahead of Walker to take the championship home with him. 25 laps around the high banks of East Carolina Motor Speedway separated one of these two to the honor of a NASCAR champion. What made things just that much better was during their European style qualifying Wiggins set the fastest time earning the pole position with Walker lining up to his outside. When the green flag finally waved over the field, Wiggins must have turned the turbo on and opened the nitrous bottles because he opened a good eight-car lead over Walker.
A scary moment in turn four for Mickey Connor with less than five laps to go, his machine went for a bit of a ruble dry cycle down into the infield. Have to give credit to the tracks officials and safety crews; both arrived on scene just moment after the car landed on all fours. Connor was able to exit the car under his own power, and no injuries were reported. Once clean up was complete and the field returned to green flag condition newcomer, well newcomer to me David Wall, got an incredible restart and took his machine to the front. The hard charging Wall was not able to mount a large enough charge for the lead but was able to take second place. With the dominant win from Wiggins and a third place finish from Walker, David Wiggins brought home the championship with a two-point switch.
Kyle Barnes, Mini Stock point’s leader, had just a 20-lap feature standing between him and his track championship. With a 22-point lead and each position on the track being two points each, Barnes did not even have to start the race to earn the title. Just as any racer would, Barnes took the green flag along with the rest of the field and twenty laps later found himself the Mini Stock track champion. Andy Ipock, who had been so strong early and faded during the hot summer months of the season finally found his way back to victory lane. Ipock lead the field wire to wire handling two restarts perfectly.
Jesse Council, who has had a dominant car all season, entered the weekend with a huge 52 point lead over second place Kevin Benton who did not show up this weekend. Council earned the top spot on the grid for posting the fast time in their one lap time trial and actually jumped out to a comfortable lead over Travis Roberson who was driving the black and pink machine owned by Frank Reigel. Frank, the racer he is, did not miss the opportunity to double dip last weekend as he threw a windshield and some asphalt tires, bolted them into his dirt car and brought her out for some fun. As the race went almost caution free Council looked to dominant to another victory and a track championship but a flat tire had other plans for him and would eventually hand the race win over to Bill Price. We caught up with the newly crowned champion after the race.
“Yea if it wasn’t for bad luck we probably wouldn’t have any,” Council said in the post race interview. “I would like to thank the Lord for keeping all of us safe this year and giving us the ability to come out here and put a show on for the fans. I was only supposed to run one race at the beginning of the year and to win my first points championship ever, it means so much to me and to have the support crew like we have with Joey, Larry Members Masonry, First Choice Insurance Partners, my friends family and all the fans.”
Limited Late Models
Louis White put on another clinic in the limited late-model division last Friday night at East Carolina bringing home yet another win and winning the title by the largest margin, 98 points over Rusty Daniels. Though the race for the points was all but over the race for that final win was just getting started. Doug Warren, a driver I have not seen behind the wheel of a car since the old Limited days of Langley Speedway put his machine at the top of the board for their 50-lap feature. In addition, 2014 Southern National Motorsports Par LLM track champion Haley Moody made her debut at East Carolina qualifying her machine in the fourth position.
Once the field got the green from flagman Terry Bullock White took off like a bat out of hell, he would clear the field through one and two and get credit for leading lap one. Doug Warren was left to fend off the likes of Bradley McCaskill while Moody got shuffled all the way back to the eighth position. The nights first caution came early in the race, brought of by a halting Travis Roberson going into turn one. As he passed us in the booth we heard a rather large pop and that was when the car lost power.
With the green flag out once again Louis White clears the field going into one and again leaving Warren to deal with the likes of McCaskill. The field would eventually spread out and get single file with Haley Moody slowly picking her way back up through the field with the help of broken cars and cross over moves exiting the corners. The race saw its second caution of the evening when Taylor Howard went for a spin while Moody was all over his bumper. I saw no contact between the two and neither did the race director; Moody would take over the fifth spot but not without getting a visit from a not so happy Howard.
Back under green flag conditions White again clears the field into one leaving Warren to worry about Daniels and McCaskill. His worries for one however did not last long as Bradley’s car came across the stripe the next lap and sounded like a grenade went off under the hood. Off the pace and down low McCaskill tried babying his machine back to pit road when he had to stop it on the backstretch in fear of a fire under the hood. We found out after the race the alternator bracket had broken and was mangled in the engine bay shorting out a few wires and creating a tiny scare.
The green flag would find its way back over the field and just as the field was coming to ten to go Warren made a great move up top while Rusty Daniels tried his luck creating a three wide situation with White in the middle. Warren would pancake the wall pretty solid and have a hell of a save only falling back to the third spot. White would fall back to the second position but only for a brief moment. Rallying back with six laps to go Louis White would hold on to grab another victory this season as well as the track championship.
“I won the championship at this track in 1990 the first year it was open and now here we 2014,” White said. “Lot more hair grayer than then what I had then. I would like to think Mr. Perry and all of them for opening the track again.”
Late Model Stock
In a ‘car count plagued’ season dominated early by Late Model standout Deac McCaskill, who if you remembered won the very first Late Model race back in April returned again this past weekend to actually help out with his younger cousin Bradley’s Limited Late and was thrown last-minute into Louis White’s Late Model to grab himself the final race of the season. Though the win was Deac’s fifth or six win it was not enough however to make up any ground on Jeff Shiflett who would win his first track championship in eight years of racing.
McCaskill was your fastest car early in the day and would set on the pole for the final 75-lap race of the night and of the regular season. It was as if Deac had never missed a lap and dominated the field leading almost all of the 75 laps and bringing home the hardware to the H&L Logging stables yet again. Thomas Burbage, who seems to always have an incredibly strong car at the start of the race took the lead from McCaskill on lap two and was able to hold that lead until lap 11 when McCaskill would take the point back over bringing Jeff Shiflett along with him. A new driver to me this season in the #38 was driver Ricky Jones who was just about the only car in the field that was able to battle his way to the front of the pack.
A scary moment about one-third of the way through the race, Melvin Langley hits hard in the outside retaining wall just past the guardrail. I am talking this hit was so hard we felt it from the media booth on the other side of the track. Safety crews arrived on scene and we were told Langley was okay but took the ride back to the infield in the back of the ambulance just to get checked out. Once we got back to racing McCaskill again cruised away from the pack like he usually does. The down time must have allowed for Burbage to cool down his tires and brakes because he was pretty quick for a few laps after that restart.
The field would be placed under caution one more time right after Shiflett had moved past Burbage and Jones past McNair for a spinning J.T. Jackson. Did not look like Jackson hit anything, which means a short caution period then back to the racing action.
Both McCaskill and Shiflett clear the field pretty quickly and leave the rest to battle for position. Ricky Jones, a driver who impressed the hell out of me Friday night made an incredible move going into one, is able to make the car stick and comes out of turn two to capture the third place spot where he would eventually finish.
At the end of the night McCaskill would be crowned your winner, Shiflett would cross the line second, Jones third, Burbabge able to bring home a fourth place run and Brian Whitehurst rounding out your top five.
“This was a last-minute deal,” McCaskill told the fans in a post race interview. “He called up Louis and said why don’t you put Deac in your Late Model. So we put it together there at the end, today was the first time I drove it, thanks to Jeremy and all the guys on the crew. This is a fast car man; I almost like it better than my 08 car. I appreciate everyone’s help, Louis White, H&L Logging, East Carolina Motor Speedway. We have had some great success here this year just didn’t get the car count we were expecting. Your not gonna see the last of us, and I am sure they will have bigger and better things next year.”
We caught up with Jeff Shiflett during the post race interview and here is what he had to say about his season, and finally putting the check mark next to Track Championship on his bucket list.
“It would of been nice to get the win tonight,” said Shiflett. “I don’t know what it is, when Deac is here I can’t beat him but I can beat the nine [Thomas Burbage], and when Deac ain’t here I can’t beat the nine. We got the big pictured and won this championship; I couldn’t of done it without my crew. I have to think Mr. Perry, and Chris Perry and everybody at this race track they have done a fine job. I have to think the fans, and I want them next year to bring more people, tell your family your friends and have them tell their friends and let’s get this place full.”