Andy Loden Makes it Two in a Row at Hickory Motor Speedway
By Adrian Sanders ASandersRYRE@carolina.rr.com
Andy Loden, driver of the #29 Monroe Roadways Chevrolet had yet another impressive run Saturday night. He started third and just past the mid-point of the race was leading and looking for his third win of the 2006 season in the Bojangles Late Model Division.
#10 Andy Mercer led the field to the green flag with #44 Chris Chapman on the outside pole. Mercer jumped ahead to keep the early lead as Chapman fell in line. The battle was on for third with #59 Coleman Pressley hanging strong on the outside of Andy Loden but by lap 2 Loden cleared Pressley for the spot. Keith Bumgarner began to come on strong in his #95 Country Chair Ford as he passed #02 Travis Sharpe and #59 Coleman Pressley to move into 4 th place on lap 3. Kevin Leicht also moves into the top 5 as he gets underneath Sharpe to take the 5 th position.
On lap 6, Andy Loden looks to the outside of #44 Chris Chapman and they run side by side for a lap before Loden clears him for the spot. Bumgarner catches Chapman by lap 12 and wants his spot as well. He dives to the inside in turn 4, but Chapman isn't ready to give up as he battles back on the outside. The two run side by side for 3 laps until Bumgarner finally prevails on lap 15 and takes over 3 rd place. Andy Mercer had pulled out to about a 5 car length lead, but by lap 17 this began to fade as Loden is looking to grab the top spot.
By lap 21 he is there and begins to look for an outside pass off turn 2, but it doesn't happen yet. He tried again on lap 23 but gets way loose almost putting it in the wall. Loden will have to settle in 2 nd place for now as caution comes out for the first time of the night on lap 26 for the stopped car of #21 Brian Connor who apparently lost power to his machine.
Andy Mercer brings the field around for the restart. #32 Kevin Leicht gets a good jump to the inside of Chris Chapman but it unable to make the pass. Leicht's car, apparently very loose off the turns gets into the backstretch wall coming off turn 2 on lap 30. This slows his momentum and sends him back to 6 th place allowing Travis Sharpe to move back into the 5 th position.
Andy Loden is ready to make his move on Mercer again by lap 32. He looks to the outside in turn 2 again. This time it sticks and he clears Mercer coming off turn 4 to take the top spot. Things remain relatively calm for a few laps until lap 46. #58 Carl Cormier appears to get loose coming off turn 4.
This causes #54 Brandon Dean to check up and then get into #32 Kevin Leicht. Leicht went hard into the outside wall coming off turn 4 ending his night. Dean also hit the wall but was able to limp back to the pits. It didn't look good for Kevin Leicht's car as his crew worked feverishly after the race to cut pieces off the rear of the car just to get it loaded into the trailer.Andy Loden brings the field back around for the restart with Andy Mercer in tow. The battle heats up for 4 th position on lap 46 as #02 Travis Sharpe looks to the inside of #44 Chris Chapman. The two are side by side on the backstretch as #59 Coleman Pressley thinks about making it 3 wide. Luckily he thought better and backed off to follow. On lap 48, Chapman and Sharpe make contact and get very loose off turn 2 sending them both back and out of the top 5. Something may have went amiss with Sharpe's car as he comes around and parks it in the pits for the night.
Pressley is able to miss the melee and move into the 4 th spot he was battling for. Meanwhile upfront, nobody has anything for Andy Loden as he cruises to the checkered flag for the 3 rd time this season. Loden was followed by #10 Andy Mercer, #95 Keith Bumgarner, #59 Coleman Pressley and #35 Chris Lewis.
Andy Loden had this to say in Victory Lane:
“This car ran so good, I can't even believe it. I got a little too high on one lap there and scrubbed the wall, but luckily it didn't tear anything up. I guess we'll knock the dust off of it and bring it back in 2 weeks and see what we can do. I want to thank my sponsors Monroe Roadways, Culp Petroleum, RE Suspension and all the guys that help me out on this car….I appreciate it.”
Double duty driver, Andy Mercer started on the pole of the Limited Late Model division as well. Mercer led flag to flag to pick up another win. Brandon Cox had another great week as he finished in the 2 nd spot followed by #92 Marc Davis, #43 Jesse LeFevers and #44 Matt DiBendedetto.
The Pro-4 division saw one of the best battles of the evening between #00 Ricky Crooks Jr. and #86 Wayne Brown. It was the battle of the bumpers between the two all race long, but late in the race, Crooks got into Brown a little too hard sending Brown spinning in turn 3. Ricky Crooks Jr. went on to win followed by #4 Adam Beaver, #86 Wayne Brown who worked his way back towards the front, #55 Walter Hoke and #1 Jacob Lehn.
The Advanced Auto Parts Super Trucks were back in action this week with a familiar face visiting victory lane. #69 Trevor Hignutt took home the win followed by #97 Kevin Bumgarner, #24 Ben Stancill, #44 Ben Ebeling and #08 Scott Whitaker.
NASCAR Dodge Weekly Racing Action will take a week off next week as Hickory Motor Speedway hosts the Hickory 100 for the ASA Late Model Division. Weekly action returns on May 27 th with door to door action in the Bojangle's Late Models 100 lapper, Limited Late Model, Pro-4, Advance Auto Parts Super Trucks and Hobby Stock. See you there!