With a heat wave raging off and on the track, Hickory Motor Speedway was the place to be on Saturday for 321 Lawnmower Sales and Service Night at the Races.
Leading off the evening’s action were 40 laps in race one of a scheduled doubleheader for the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Late Models. Travis Swaim in the No. 21 grabbed the top spot in qualifying with Gage Painter in the No. 12 moving to the Late Model division and starting to his outside with the second-fastest qualifying speed. Row two was made up of Landon Huffman in the No. 2 and Taylor Gray in the No. 17.
The green flag saw the front row duo drag race down the front stretch and dive into turn one side by side. Painter used the high line to his advantage and finally nosed ahead at the end of lap one. Swaim kept continual pressure on the leader until lap 18, when Huffman started pressuring him for the second spot. Lap 22 saw Huffman complete the pass and set his sights on the leader.
Battles raged throughout the field with positions swapped every lap. Huffman narrowed the gap but Painter sealed the deal and grabbed his first ever Late Model Victory. Huffman finished second and points leader Thomas Beane in the No. 31 worked his way up for another third-place finish.
The always-popular Hickory Vintage Racers rolled off next for 25 laps of racing action and strolling down memory lane with the cars of yesteryear. Bob Hapeman in the No. 8 started from the top spot with Eddie Gilbert in the No. 00 to his outside. Hapeman pulled to the lead after a side-by-side battle with Gilbert at the start of the race.
Attrition set in early as several cars were sidelined, but that didn’t stop the hard-charging Hapeman and Gilbert as they clicked off blistering fast laps. Hapeman held on for the win with Gilbert finishing second. Bill Webb in the No. 16 finished third.
Hitting the track next were the Street Stocks for 30 laps of door-to-door racing. The top spot in qualifying was taken by Drew Cox in the No. 21 as he started from the point with Ethan Johnson in the No. 2 to his outside. Lap 20 saw Johnson move around for the lead as Cox got sideways coming off turn four. The caution flew on lap 25 for contact between Kevin Eby in the No. 03 and Mark Whitten in the No. 77. The incident also collected Marshall Sutton in the No. 64.
The restart saw mechanical problems for Johnson as he slowed when the green flag flew. Johnson parked, with mechanical problems ending his evening on the trailer. This racked the field for another restart with Cox at the point and the No. 361 of Cliff Gaumond to his outside. The front pair had a furious battle over the last five laps with Cox making one last move on the final lap coming off of turn four, but came up short as he spun while the checkered flag flew a scant 100 yards away. Gaumond drove on to the win in his first Hickory Motor Speedway visit. Whitten and Eby bounced back from the lap 25 spin to finish second and third, respectively.
The Paramount Auto Group Limited Late Models rolled off next for 50 laps in Round 5 of the Paramount Kia ‘Big 10’ Racing Challenge. Cody DeMarmels in the No. 18 set the fast time in qualifying and started from the point with Mitch Walker in the No. 2 to his outside. The No. 99 of Kyle Mansch and last week’s winner, Josh Kossek in the No. 44, made up row two. The start saw DeMarmels and Kossek battle side by side through turn one, but DeMarmels’ car turned sideways coming off turn two. DeMarmels made the save but the caution flew as rain had begun to fall on the backstretch, causing slick conditions.
The cars were parked on pit road for a lengthy red flag while the rain moved through. Racing resumed with a complete restart. The front row battled side by side at the drop of the green flag but Kossek used the high line to take the early lead. Lap 11 saw Mansch get around Kossek for the top spot. Kossek moved under Mansch to attempt to retake the lead on lap 12, but contact sent Mansch spinning and both drivers to the rear of the field.
DeMarmels and Stevie Johns in the No. 91 made up the front row on the restart and put on an exciting door-to-door battle until the caution flew again on lap 16 for a fender laying on the track. DeMarmels and Johns battled on the restart once again. Contact between the No. 32 of Josh Stark and the No. 6 of Clark Houston brought out the caution once more before another lap could be completed.
The restart saw DeMarmels and Johns duel for the lead until DeMarmels finally nosed ahead. The midpoint of the race saw Walker work his way into second place, getting around Johns. DeMarmels and Walker put on a great race for 10 laps running side by side and door to door. Lap 48 saw the two make the least bit of contact but being on the ragged edge, they both spun in unison coming off of turn four.
The next restart saw Johns and Mansch up front. Johns moved to the lead and Mansch lost spots on the high side. Contact between Mansch and Todd Midas in the No. 50 caused a pileup, leaving Houston’s car resting atop Mansch’s car. Under the caution, Mansch exited his car and discussed the incident as Johns’ car slowly drove by.
Johns and Kossek restarted on the front row. Johns moved to the lead and drove on to the win, holding off a hard-charging Kossek, who finished second. A furious battle for the third position was fought between the No. 14 of Solchiro Yoshiba and DeMarmels. Yoshiba made the most out of his Hickory Motor Speedway debut, taking third.
Next up saw the always-exciting Carolina Custom Golf Cart Super Trucks pound the pavement for their 35-lap slugfest. 2018 division champion Allen Huffman in the No. 51 started from the pole position with Charlie Neill in the No. 26 to his outside. Jody Measamer in the No. 98 and Joey Shuryan in the No. 30 made up row two. Neill got the jump on the start and took the early lead with Huffman close behind.
Measamer’s truck had mechanical issues and came to a stop on the track, bringing out the caution on lap 2. Measamer was unable to continue and parked his truck for the night. The restart saw Neill once again get the lead with Huffman hot on his heels. Robert Tyler in the No. 88 worked his way up into the top three at lap 15.
Neill set a torrid pace but Huffman gave close chase the entire run. Travis Baity in the No. 70 made his move under Tyler for third on lap 30 and they duked it out until Baity finally nosed ahead on the white flag lap. Neill drove on to another 2019 win. Huffman held on for second and Baity took third.
Closing out the night with a bang was the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Late Models in the second race of their doubleheader. Following the 10-car invert from race one, Jacob Heafner in the No. 95 started from the top spot with Chris Hudspeth in the No. 28 to his outside. The No. 25 of Kevin Leicht and Taylor Gray in the No. 17 made up row two for the green flag.
Heafner got the jump on the start and moved to the lead. Leicht made his move to get under Heafner in turn three, but at the same time, Gray and Hudspeth made contact to bring out the first caution. Hudspeth came to a stop in turns three and four while Gray continued and made contact with the No. 11 of Dillon Houser going into turn one. Multiple cars were in and out of pit road for repairs during the caution period, with Gray’s being the only car unable to continue.
With no official laps on the board, a complete restart was in store. Heafner and Travis Swaim in the No. 21 started on the front row with Leicht and Thomas Beane in the No. 31 comprising row two. Heafner and Swaim dueled it out for the top spot but Swaim nosed ahead. Leicht quickly looked under Heafner as well, taking the second running spot. Beane worked his way into the top three a few laps later.
Lap 25 saw Beane look under Leicht for position and take second place on the track. Beane methodically tracked down Swaim and made one look to the inside as the checkers flew, but fell one spot short as Swaim made the trip to victory lane. Beane finished a charging second and Leicht finished third.
Next week will see the ever-popular Knights of Destruction rolling into America’s Most Famous Short Track for a fun-filled night of automotive carnage.
The NASCAR Whelen All-American Series returns to action June 8 with the running of the 84 Lumber Night at the Races.
For more information check us out at www.hickorymotorspeedway.com, as well as on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. You can also give us a call at 828-464-3655.