Ronnie Barnette Memorial 200 – ECMS
Robersonville, NC – Another weekend has come and gone, cars damaged, and winners crowned. This past weekend we were back at the amazing East Carolina Motor Speedway for SATURDAY night racing. Yes that’s right, for the first time this season ECMS held an event on Saturday. The Ronnie Barnette Memorial race in honor of long time tech guy and engine builder at the speedway brought a lot of emotions out of a lot of different people. Track owner Wayne Perry having nothing but incredible words to say and giving a little clue on maybe making this a yearly event. Due to our involvement down there this season, as well as the importance this race was to plenty of officials and drivers we are going to split the recaps up. Hopefully this will make it easier for you to read and give credit to all the drivers who made the trip.
A total of four divisions ran this past weekend on the high banks of East Carolina (UCAR, Street Stocks, Modifieds, Limited Late Models), on the first Saturday event of the year. With the “regular” short track season completed East Carolina wanted to put on a year-end event in honor of Ronnie Barnette, and that they did. Gates opened Saturday early which allowed teams to get to the track, get set up, and have plenty of time to practice and learn the fast line around the speedway. Also allowed other teams that have never been to the speedway to travel for the race.
The “Opening Act” so to speak – with no offense to these drivers as they have provided some of the best racing I have seen all season – were the UCAR and Street stock division, twenty and thirty laps respectively for them.
Tyler Horne was fast all day long in practice and it showed during qualifying. The track had some technical difficulties during time trials and had to revert back to manual scoring where Horne topped the speed chart with a time of 17.64. A full tenth of a second behind him was Travis Miller clocking a time of 17.78 seconds. James Stroud, David Wiggins, Joseph Pittman made up the rest of the starting five.
Once the green flag was out, the it didn’t take long for the front two to check out. I thought we were going to have a caution pretty early with track champion David Wiggins pancaking the wall coming off of turn two. He was able to keep things under him and avoid collecting anyone else, the field remained under green which was good news for the leaders. By lap five Horne and Miller had a half straightaway lead over the field, by lap seven Travis Miller had worked his way around Horne for the lead.
Minus a pretty wild moment of three wide racing and working around lap traffic, Travis Miller was able to hold off a heavy assault from Horne to take home the hardware. Tyler Horne, James Stroud, Joseph Pittman and Eddie Wall rounded out your top five. Have to give a shout out to the Langley Speedway UCAR’s for making the trip out and having a blast. Langley runs domestic cars, single overhead cam and mostly steel bodies so they were at a slight disadvantage. Either way Eric Schaffer, Time Wilson, and Jesse Jones (finished in that order) told me they certainly had a good time.
I must say I was a little disappointed in the turn out of these cars because the pure entertainment value they bring to the track. It’s the down home, back roads, engine roaring racing you like to see. Six cars took the track earlier in the day for practice, the #82 of Mike Ganoe loaded up and headed out before qualifying. Was not able to catch up with the team to figure out why as they snuck out pretty quickly. This left five cars to hit the track for time trials where 2014 track champion Jesse Council, supporting a familiar black #00 car, grabbed the pole position with a time of 16.97 seconds. To his outside was a familiar driver in a “new car,” Kevin Benton – usually driving the #902 car, and at one point only two points out of the lead – clocked in a time just three tenths of a second slower to earn the second spot. Chris Connor, Paul Williamson, and Tommy Pike made up the rest of the field.
When the green flag waved Council jumped on the gas hard looking to take care of business. Clearing the field off turn two Council was a man on a mission leaving everyone else behind him. It didn’t take long to find the yellow flag when Chris Connor & Paul Williamson got tangled up and went for a spin in turn four, both cars were able to roll away with no big damage. As the field went back green Council took off again securing the top spot all to himself.
The yellow flag waved again with twelve laps to go for debris, I am thinking it had something to do with the cherry red brake rotors. I am talking it looked like we had traveled to Bristol or something these things were glowing so bright. Once the field got back under green flag condition the final laps were run free and easy for the 00 of Council who again took home the hardware and a pretty good payout if I may add.
For the second time in 2014 the high banks of East Carolina Motor Speedway was the play ground for the open wheel modifieds. 75 laps were on the card for this division as they were the second to last division to highlight the Ronnie Barnett Memorial 200. Teams were able to get to the track earlier than normal this time and spend a good portion of the day testing and figuring out the line. A few teams struggled early trying to find a good set up and a good line on a track that many drivers have told me is tricky, aggravating but insanely fun all at the same time.
Previous race winner, and seven-time Langley Speedway champion, was one of the cars in attendance after working weeks on end to get the motor back in his machine. Balluzzo was looking to be the man to beat all day in practice, then he pilots his machine to a time of 15.76 seconds in qualifying to capture the pole. Alan Marshall, Mike Rudy, Robbie Babb and Joe Scarbrough would fill out the rest of the starting five positions.
When the green flag flew over the field it did not take Balluzzo long to show why he has won so many championships in that modified. Five laps in, the 48 machine had built himself a very comfortable lead over the #8 of Mike Rudy – who would eventually run into trouble and tangle with a few cars, and would not finish the race. Robbie Babb was also a really big mover, 10 laps into the 75 lap feature, just the wrong way. Something must have broken on the 44 machine because Babb was falling and falling in a hurry.
Things didn’t start getting… lets just say interesting till about lap number thirty when Balluzzo, sporting about a half straightaway lead over Rudy caught Babb and was working to put him a lap down. Three laps Babb stayed on the inside and raced the leader instead of moving over like the blue flag told him to do so. With Babb on the inside and Balluzzo on the outside we saw the nights first caution for contact between the 48 and the 44. The contact had Balluzzo stopped, side ways, out of turn two. At first the team thought they had cut a tire down, a few pace laps later determined the tire was okay just had some cosmetic damage. That right there folks earns The Weekly Racer ‘D-oh Moment of the Race Award.’
“Your fine, it’s all good. Hit ya right in the quarter panel.” – Team Communications
I’m sorry and not sorry at the same time awarding that to Babb. I am not a race car driver, and have not been one since my teen years, and trust me I get the competitive drive I really do. Battling the leader side by side for three laps? I am not saying the contact in turn two was intentional or anything but, it certainly would not have been made if the 44 followed the instruction from the flag man.
On the ensuing restart Balluzzo was able to get a good jump, clearing the field off of turn two. What happened in turns three and four was just shy of a phenomenon. As the leaders crossed the stripe multiple cars went slipping and sliding, what was crazy? No big contact with the wall or hard collisions with each other. Scotty Lawrence in the #83 machine would end up slowing in turn two which forced the nights second caution to wave. He would also have to bring the car down to the attention of his crew for a little bit of work.
The old saying “cautions breed cautions” were true for this race as not but a few minutes after the restart Mike Rudy goes for a spin along with a few others in turn two. There was a car hauler in the way so I was not able to see everyone that was involved. That moment was essentially the beginning of the end for Mike Rudy’s night.
When the field took the green on lap 48 if you asked me looked like Scarbrough may have punched the gas a tad to early in the restart box, but both machines were even at the line so it turned into a left drag race after that. As the field raced off four Scarbrough supporting just a slight advantage and would lead lap 49 and eventually push Balluzzo back to the second spot where we would eventually finish the night.
That was all it took for Scarbrough who was cited in the post race interview saying he was saving his tires because he really kicked it up into high gear and started to check out on the rest of the field. Balluzzo, who’s car was not right after the collision with Babb, radioed to his crew he felt something may have broken and the car just wasn’t right. Meanwhile as laps ticked down Wayne Hartley – who if I may stop for a second and create a brand new award for most distance traveled to attend a race, Hartley Motorsports based out of Maryland – started to work his way through the field slicing and dicing through cars. Even avoiding a potentially horrible situation avoiding the spinning David Winslow out of turn number three.
Something Scarbrough did not want to see, Balluzzo lining back up to his outside. It did not matter for the 93 as he got a great jump on the restart leaving Balluzzo to deal with the likes of Marshal, who gave Balluzzo just enough bump out of two to upset the car. Marshall also backed off the throttle and allowed Balluzzo to collect the machine and both went on about their business. That move right there was enough for Scarbrough to secure his first victory at East Carolina Motor Speedway in quite some time.
I do want to take a moment to give kind of a “Hard Charger” shout out to the #95 of Danny Harrell who stated in the driver introductions the track was certainly tricky. Most drivers we talk to point out turn two as the problem area, for Harrell is was turn number four. Not as tight as the exit of two as it leads into the dog leg on the front stretch but the outside guard rail sneaks up on you fast. Harrell rolled of the grid ninth out of an eleven car field and fought his way to a fourth place finish. For that sir, you win the “Hard Charger Award!”
We caught up with the winner in victory lane after a hand shake from Balluzzo and a kiss from his spotter… slash wife, and here is what he had to say.
“[We] just kind rode, saved tires, and just really patient there,” Scarbrough spoke about his race strategy in victory lane. I guess [the track] was sealed or something since the last time I have been here, it was really slick so you had to be really sensitive on the throttle.”
Scarbrough, a past track champion at Langley Speedway (2008) picked up his first win since July of this year at the Moonshine Modified Series event at Ace Speedway. Joe very thankful for all of his crew that helped him through out the day.
“Charlie did a really good job and gave me a really good car. He made some really good calls earlier because we were bad in practice. We were about to put it back in the trailer. I thought it was broke it ran so bad. My wife Isella did a great job spotting, everyone ran clean, it was a great race.”
“It’s great to be back here,” Scarbrough stated towards the end of his celebration. “I might have to make this my home track.” A home track he may have found as East Carolina is looking forward to an exciting 2015 season and bringing the fans THE best short track racing in North Carolina.
1. #93 Joe Scarbrough; 75
2. #48 Shawn Balluzzo; 75
3. #17 Allen Marshall; 75
4. #95 Danny Harrell; 75
5. #83 Scotty Lawrence; 75
6. #38 Michael Johnson; 75
7. #37 Wayne Hartley; 75
8. #12 Robert Connor; 75
9. #44 Robbie Babb; 75
10. #10 David Winslow; 75
11. #8 Mike Rudy; 63
Limited Late Models
“Winning takes talent, to repeat takes character.” Louis White showed plenty of both this year at East Carolina winning a very impressive twelve times. This past Saturday marked the final event on the 2014 calendar and Louis White had all intentions on going out with a bang. White proved his dominance once again at ECMS by picking up his 12th win and doing so by leading every lap.
Now a lot of people think when they read stuff like wire to wire, dominated the field, flag to flag, that it was super easy for the driver. White wouldn’t call this weekend super easy by a long shot because the team broke a transmission in a Friday evening test session. The crew had to pull the transmission out of White’s dedicated Late Model and head right back to the track Saturday. I would say the car and driver missed a beat because when it came time to qualify we saw Louis White on the top of the speed charts yet again with a 15.49 (87.153 mph) second lap time.
Limited Late Model Starting Five;
1. #7 Louis White 15.49
2. #3 Shelton McNair 15.64
3. #21 Tim Allensworth 15.79
4. #55 Gerald Benton 15.81
5. #12 Wesley Johnson 15.84
When the green flag dropped White tried to get all he could out of the go fast pedal but she didn’t work as good as she had in the past. Five laps were in the books before the field ran into trouble down in three and four, and all five laps Allensworth and McNair were just about nose to tail with your leader. Something the orange and black car of Louis White has not seen much of this year, and that is the nose of another car in his rear view mirror.
When the field went back to green flag racing Tim Allensworth had a hell of a restart and was all over the bumper of White battling for the top spot. Shelton McNair, and now Taylor Howard – mind you Howard has been amazing all year at the races I have been to but has some kind of failure or the car drops way off – running in the fourth spot chasing after the lead. Action picked up in this twenty or so lap segment with McNair knocking on the Allensworth’s door, Wesley Johnson fighting for the fifth place with Shiflett and Doug Liberman.
The field saw the yellow flag for the second time of the evening for the spin of the #56 machine, Doug Liberman. Making that last segment the longest green flag run of the night so far! We saw a couple of cars make strong runs then almost immediately fall off the pace. Shiflett & Howard being prime examples. As the field took the green flag with lap 43 on the board McNair, who grabbed the lead from Allensworth in the middle of that last green flag run, did not let White get away and would go to work side-by-side diving into turn one. You would have to credit White with lap 44 has he nudge out McNair all the while Allensworth pulls his machine to the driver door of McNair making a case as to why he should be running second, behind them Brian Whitehurst and Taylor Howard mix things up just a bit.
Not sure when I was looking away these cars (Whitehurst & Howard) touched at all and maybe knocked the toe out of Howard’s car but, he was stranded to the high side, slightly off the pace, and quickly moving to the rear of the field. Either way this was not going to stall the efforts of Whitehurst who immediately went to work on the inside of Allensworth who would eventually surrender the position scoring Brian Whitehurst inside the top five with twenty laps to go.
We saw our third caution for the spinning car of Gerald Benton who almost collected the machine of Ryan Haddock. From what I gathered not a whole lot of damage if any the machine, however, clean up did spend a few laps working stay dry down on the track to make sure the racing groove was safe.
On the ensuing restart both White and McNair got insane jumps and left the field to deal with themselves. Oh boy did it get a little crazy! It was like driving 70 mph on the interstate and everyone slams on their breaks to let someone over from the entry ramp. Luckily everyone was able to get slowed down, might of had some contact but nothing really huge to cause any wrecks so we stayed green flag racing. With over sixty laps on the tires not to many people had anything left to muster up and cars started to get strung out which made it a pretty easy final laps for Louis White. McNair, Whitehurst, Johnson, and Shiflett are how they crossed the line to round out the top five for the final event of the Ronnie Barnette Memorial 200.
We caught up with White during post race celebrations to hear what he had to say about the race;
“Yea even if I didn’t win tonight we had a great season. I tell ya what it was tough every time I looked in the mirror I could see that blue car behind me. Shelton is a good racer. We have raced for years and years and he run me real hard on that last restart, we were just lucky we could hold off.”
Louis White wrapped up a dominating 2014 season at East Carolina Motor Speedway not only winning the track championship but also taking home the hardware in the tracks first of what seems like to be many memorial races. We asked Louis due to his success this year will he return next year, I think if you know anything about a race car driver you should know the answer to this one.
“Oh yea we will be back next year!”
Louis White will pack things up and head to Caraway Speedway in just a few short weeks along with the likes of Bradley McCaskill to compete in the Southeastern Limited Late Model series race being held there November 1st.
|2||3M||SHELTON MCNAIR, JR.||75||00:01.345|
|9||06||NICK JOHNSON||72||3 Laps|
|10||21||TIM ALLENWOOD||63||12 Laps|
|11||99||TAYLOR HOWARD||58||17 Laps|
|12||33||RYAN HADDOCK||55||20 Laps|
|13||3||TRAVIS ROBERSON||46||29 Laps|