Racing returned to America’s Most Famous Short Track on Saturday night as the Catawba Valley heard the NASCAR Whelen All-American weekly racing series roar back to life at Hickory Motor Speedway.
Leading off the night’s racing action was the NASCAR Whelen All American Series Late Models in the first of two 40 lap features for the premiere division. Gage Painter in the No. 12 set a fast time in qualifying and started from the pole position with Pat Rachels in the No. 34 to his outside. The No. 28 of Chris Hudspeth and the No. 14 of Vince Midas made up the second row for the green flag.
Painter took the early lead as Rachels struggled on the start. The action began early as Charlie Watson in the No. 9 moved past Nolan Pope in the No. 1 and Hickory Motor Speedway points leader Thomas Beane in the No. 31 was three wide on lap two. Beane spun, avoiding damage, but brought out the caution. The restart saw Painter get a great restart and move back to the top spot. Battles raged throughout the field as Watson charged toward the front while Beane methodically attempted to pick his way back through the field. Hudspeth reeled in Painter and set up a thrilling 10-lap shootout for the win. Painter and Hudspeth were side by side for several laps dueling for the win, while allowing Travis Swaim in the No. 21 to make it a three-way battle for the win. The final corner of the last lap saw Hudspeth looking under Painter and Swaim looking under Hudspeth.
Painter hung on for the win. Hudspeth took second with Swaim finishing third. Kevin Leicht in the No. 25 finished fourth and Rachels hung on for fifth.
The Carolina Custom Super Trucks rolled off next for their 35-lap slugfest. Charlie Neill in the No. 26 took top spot in qualifying with Joey Shuryan in the No. 30 to his outside. Travis Baity in the No. 70 and Dennis Trivette in the No. 28 made up row two.
Before the green flag fell Neill pulled in the pits with mechanical issues. Neill rejoined the field to take the green flag from the rear. The reshuffled lineup saw Baity starting first and Shuryan to his outside of row one. The No. 97 of Zach Hale started third and Trivette started fourth.
The field made one lap before contact sent Hale spinning and bring out the caution. Neill headed back to the pits and restarted from the rear. Baity and Shuryan led the field to the green flag. Shuryan took the early lead. Huffman worked his way up to second behind the leader. Lap five saw Huffman make his move around Shuryan down the backstretch. Neill worked his way to Shuryan, but make contact on the next lap sending Shuryan spinning. Shuryan had to restart from the rear after spinning but so did Neill as a result of his role in the incident. The restart saw Huffman move back to the point as Neill and Shuryan worked their way back to the front. Shuryan made contact with Hale on lap 13 bringing out the caution and Hale spun again. Hale worked his way from the back as did Shuryan as he came to pit road to make repairs.
The restart saw Huffman and Neill side by side. Huffman got the better restart and moved back to the top spot. Lap 17 saw Baity spin after contact with Trivette bringing out the caution once more. Huffman and Neill brought the field to the green for the restart. Neill gave chase to the leader as Shuryan gave chase to Neill. The No. 86 of Joe Simpson spun on lap 26 bringing out the caution once again.
The restart saw Huffman and Neill at the front. Huffman moved to the front while Shuryan looked under Neill for second. The caution flew on lap 32 as Hale spun while trying to make pass for fourth under Baity. Huffman moved back to the front on the restart and cooler heads prevailed the rest of the race.
The 2018 Hickory Motor Speedway Carolina Custom Super Trucks Champion, Huffman drove on to the win. Neill grabbed second while Shuryan took third. Baity finished fourth and Trivette rounded out the top five with fifth.
The Paramount Auto Group Limited Late Models pounded the pavement next for their 35-lap feature. The No. 18 of Cody DeMarmels set fast lap in time trials and started from the point with the No. 44 of Josh Kossek to his outside. Todd Midas in the No. 50 and Akinori Ogata in the No. 14 made up the second row.
Kossek took the early lead with DeMarmels giving close chase. The No. 32 of Josh Stark moved under the No. 33 of Kosma Guznyakov when contact sent them spinning. Both cars were able to continue with minimal damage. Kossek and DeMarmels battled it out for the top spot on the restart. DeMarmels nosed ahead but the front duo swapped the position every turn or two for the next seven laps. The caution flew on lap 10 when the No. 53 of Austin Chalman had a major mechanical problem leaving a trail of debris that necessitated a red flag to allow for track cleanup. Kossek and DeMarmels continued the battle for the lead until lap 16 when the No. 71 of Nathan Lineback spun bringing out the caution. DeMarmels and Kossek went back to their thrilling battle once again until the caution flew for debris on lap 22. Kossek moved to the lead on the restart with DeMarmels facing a challenge from Midas. The battle for second was the race to watch as Midas and DeMarmels slugged it out while Starks and Ogata battled for fourth. Lap 28 saw Starks and Ogata make contact and spin, bringing out the caution. Kossek and DeMarmels battled it out for the win as the green flag flew on the restart.
Kossek proved to be a little better on this night and drove on to the win. DeMarmels finished second with Todd Midas finishing third. Starks and Ogata battled back from their spin to finish fourth and fifth respectively.
The Street Stocks rose to life next for another exciting 30-lap installment that has seen some great racing this year. Fast qualifier was Drew Cox in the No. 21 and Jesse Clark in the No. 5 started to his outside. Jonathon Smith in the No. 16 and Mark Whitten in the No. 77 would make up row two.
Cox and Clark battled side by side until Cox finally nosed slightly ahead. Smith worked his way into the mix and move around for second on lap 5. Smith gave chase to the leader Cox in his bid to head to the top spot. Smith pulled to Cox’s bumper and look to outside several times over the last fifteen laps.
Cox proved too strong and drove on to the win. Smith finished second and Clark took third. The battle for fourth was exciting with Kevin Eby in the No. 03 taking fourth and Derek Fowler in the No. 31 finishing fifth.
Hitting the track next was the Renegades for their 20 lap feature. Justin Austin in the No. 1 started from the top spot with Robbie Hollifield in the No. 51 to his outside.
Austin and Hollifield dueled side-by-side until Austin pulled ahead for the lead. Spencer Dickinson in the No. 6 moved around Hollifield to give chase to the top spot. Lap 8 saw Hollifield and Dickinson side by side on Austin’s bumper. As the trio battled through turn four they encountered lap traffic and Dickinson spun, collecting the No. 81 of Matthew Chambers. Neither car was able to continue as the green flag flew on the restart. Austin and Hollifield went right back to where they left off battling for the lead. Brian Larkin in the No. 7 got into the fray on lap 17 passing Hollifield for second.
Larkin spent the remaining laps giving his all to make the pass for the win but came up just a couple feet short with Austin taking the win. Larkin finished second and Hollifield finished third. Rodney Elkins in the No. 95 finished fourth and Zachary Mullins in the No.72 finished 5th.
Closing out the night’s action was race two of the doubleheader for the NASCAR Whelen All American Series Late Models. After the invert from the race one finishing order Nolan Pope in the No. 1 and Thomas Beane in the No. 31 made up the front row. Row two saw Charlie Watson in the No. 9 and Connor Mosack in the No. 18.
Beane got a good start and the lead coming off of turn two. Pope moved up the track at the end of the backstretch on his entry to turn three, Pope and Mosack made contact, sending them both into the outside wall. Travis Swaim in the No. 21 and Pat Rachels in the No. 34 also sustained damage in the accident. Pope’s car was the only one to be eliminated as a result of the damage.
The restart saw Watson and Beane sharing row one while Vince Midas in the No. 14 and Swaim shared row two. Beane once again mastered the restart and pull to the lead by the time he got to the backstretch. Midas worked his way to second on lap 7 and looked for the lead. Lap 10 saw Gage Painter in the No. 12 move into fourth after starting tenth. Midas pulled up to Beane’s bumper on lap 15 and gave him constant pressure for several laps. Midas made the pass for the lead on lap 24 but Beane took the lead back with a perfectly executed crossover. Lap 26 saw the caution fly as contact sent Beane and Midas spinning. Both cars were able to continue, but had to restart from the rear.
Kevin Leicht in the No. 25 and Gage Painter in the No. 12 made up the front row for the restart. Leicht moved to the front but pressure from Painter came quickly. Painter got around for the top spot; however Leicht jumped back under him to fight for the lead. Contact between the lead duo on lap 28 sent the entire field into an incident on the back stretch with most of the field sustaining some type of damage. With steam pouring out, Midas appeared to have a damaged radiator and have to park for the remainder of the event. Swaim was forced to the pits by track officials to do service on his damaged racer. Swaim parked and did not return to action.
Watson and the No. 25 of Ryan Vargas made up the front row for the restart. Vargas got the better of Watson on the green flag and pulled to the lead. Watson’s car started trailing huge amounts of smoke prompting a black flag. The caution flew as Watson slowed to come to the pits on lap 31 with drivers complaining of oil on the track. After a short red flag for track cleanup Vargas and Matt Leicht in the No. 2 made up the front row for the restart.
Vargas moved to the front but soon saw Painter make a three-wide pass to take the lead. Leicht pressured Painter over the closing laps. Coming off turn four on the final lap, Leicht made contact with Painter, as Painter spun just feet from the checkered flag. Leicht drove thru the smoke and appeared to take the checkered flag and the win. However, track officials took a moment to look at a replay of the incident and Leicht was penalized to the last car on the lead lap.
Beane ended up taking the win after an earlier spin earlier in the race. Chris Hudspeth in the No. 28 finished second after starting ninth. The No. 34 of Pat Rachels finished third after receiving damage in an earlier altercation. Painter got the fourth position and Vargas rounded out the top five in fifth.
The NASCAR Whelen All-American Series returns to action next week with a full slate of action at the Birthplace of the NASCAR Stars.
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