HMS Leicht 4-27-19

Kevin Leicht (25) beats Mike Swaim (21) to the line to win a Whelen All-American Series Late Model race at Hickory Motor Speedway on Saturday. Photo courtesy of Hickory Motor Speedway

Beautiful weather returned to the Catawba Valley on Saturday to welcome back the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series to America’s Most Famous Short Track for the running of The Law Offices of Lyndon R. Helton, PLLC Night at the Races.

Leading off the night’s festivities were the exciting Hickory Vintage Series for 25 laps of nostalgic action. First race winner Tim Gilbert in the No. 95 grabbed the pole position in qualifying with the elder statesman of the series, 83-year-old Bill Webb in the No. 16, starting to his outside. Gilbert and Webb entered the first turn side by side but Gilbert nosed ahead down the backstretch.

Eddie Gilbert in the No. 00 started shotgun on the field but worked his way up to the top three by lap 10. The front three set a torrid pace as they counted down the laps. Tim Gilbert crossed the finish line first and took home the win. Webb finished second and Eddie Gilbert finished third.

The Carolina Custom Golf Cart Super Trucks hit the track next for 35 laps of door-to-door racing excitement. 2018 Hickory Motor Speedway Super Truck champion Allen Huffman in the No. 51 grabbed the pole position with Joey Shuryan in the No. 30 taking the green flag to his outside. Points leader Charlie Neill in the No. 26 rolled off third with former Hickory Motor Speedway Super Truck champion Clint Fields in the No. 16 to his outside starting fourth.

Huffman and Shuryan battled side by side on the first lap with Neill pressuring the pair from the rear. Contact sent Shuryan spinning and restarted the race. Huffman and Neill made up the front row for the restart and had a furious side-by-side battle for the first five laps or so. Huffman nosed ahead with Neill all over his bumper pressuring for the lead. Lap 18 saw Neill’s engine let go and the No. 70 of Travis Baitty spun as a result. The restart had Huffman and Fields making up the front row.

The front pair battled side by side until Huffman spun in turn 4, bringing out the caution once again on lap 19. Fields moved to the point with Shuryan on the front row for the restart. Fields nosed ahead with Shuryan close behind. Huffman moved around Shuryan for second and gave chase for the lead. Debris on the track brought out the caution on lap 29.

Fields and Huffman made up the front row for the final restart. Fields nosed ahead with Huffman tucking in close behind. Fields held on for the final six laps and brought home the win. Huffman finished second and Shuryan bounced back to come home third.

Next up were the Paramount Auto Group Limited Late Models for 50 laps in round three of the Paramount Kia ‘Big 10’ Racing Challenge. Gage Painter in the No. 12 paced qualifying and took the top starting spot with Mitch  Walker in the No. 43 on the outside of row one. Josh Kossek in the No. 44 and Cody DeMarmels in the No. 18 made up row two. Painter jumped out to the early lead while the battle for second was a furious three-car affair with Walker, Kossek and DeMarmels. Walker finally won that battle and nosed ahead of the battle for third with Kossek and DeMarmels side by side.

DeMarmels squeaked by and settled into Walker’s tire tracks as they both gave chase to the leader. Painter set a furious pace out front, however, and hung on for another Hickory Motor Speedway win. Walker finished second and DeMarmels finished third.

Twenty laps were in store for the Renegades as they hit the track next. Rookie competitor Spencer Dickinson in the No. 6 grabbed the top spot in qualifying and started from the pole position with the No. 7 of Brian Larkin starting to his outside. Dickinson battled Larkin side by side through turns one and two until Dickinson nosed ahead going into turn three. As Dickinson stretched the lead, the battle raged behind him.

The No. 40 of Justin Austin started from the rear but made his way to second around the midpoint of the race. Dickinson’s lead proved insurmountable as he took the checkered flag and visited victory lane for the first time in his rookie season. Austin had to settle for second with the No. 97 of Danny Crump Jr. finishing third.

The NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Late Models thundered to life next for their 80-lap slugfest. Mike Darne in the No. 6 dipped into the 14-second range during qualifying to grab the top spot, as did the No. 21 of Mike Swaim, who started on the outside of row one. Brody Pope in the No. 1 and Kevin Leicht in the No. 25 made up row two for the initial start. The green flag saw Darne and Swaim battle door to door for the first several laps until Swaim pushed the high groove just enough and nosed into the lead.

Lap 9 saw Darne move back around Swaim to retake the top spot. Charlie Watson in the No. 9 moved from his eighth starting position all the way to third by lap 20. Leicht moved up to second and gave Darne a handful as he looked to challenge for the lead.

Lap 41 saw Leicht make the pass and move around Darne for the lead. The lead duo battled furiously and once again swapped the lead on lap 53 with Darne nosing back ahead. As the front pair battled, Swaim quietly moved back onto their bumpers, making it a three-car battle for the win. Lap 68 saw Leicht move under Darne for the lead and Swaim following to take second. Leicht, Swaim, and Darne spent the final five laps sideways off every corner trying to find grip, but there was never contact.

Coming off turn four on the final lap, a sideways Swaim moved under the leader, but was a few feet short of making the pass as Leicht took the checkered flag for the win. Swaim finished second and Darne took third.

Closing out the evening of racing were the Street Stocks and their 30-lap feature. Mark Whitten in the No. 77 took the pole position in qualifying with Jonathon Smith in the No. 16 starting to his outside. Whitten took the early lead. Smith came roaring back to take the lead away from Whitten on lap two. Drew Cox in the No. 21 started sixth, but moved to second on lap seven and started working his way toward the leader.

Whitten, Kevin Eby in the No. 03 and Jesse Clark in the No. 5 had a spirited battle for third. Eby took the spot with Whitten moving to fourth. Cox moved to within a couple of car lengths with three laps to go when Smith suddenly slowed with mechanical problems and pulled to the pits. Cox drove on to the win. Eby finished second and Whitten took third.

Next week will see the return of the Southeast Super Trucks Series as they make another visit to the famed .375-mile oval. The NASCAR Whelen All-American Series returns to action in two weeks with the running of the 321 Lawnmower Night at the Races.

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