Hickory Motor Speedway Sets the Stage for Another Great Season of Racing Action

By Adrian Sanders

ASandersRYRE@carolina.rr.com

Blow off the dust, uncover the cars and fire those engines because another great season of NASCAR Dodge Weekly Racing Series action is set to get underway at Hickory Motor Speedway in less than two weeks. If you think Hickory hosted some great racing action in 2005, then hang on to your hats because 2006 is shaping up to be a record breaking year with higher car counts, larger crowds and awesome wheel to wheel action.

Sherry Clifton is entering her 5 th year as the Hickory Motor Speedway Track Promoter and she is very excited about whats in store for 2006. “The fans can expect a great show in 2006”, says Clifton. “We have improved some of our facilities, there will definitely be better racing and on top of that, we will be hosting four fireworks shows in 2006”. And its not only the fans that will see improvements, the drivers will notice some changes as well. In 2005, late model drivers were only allowed to buy two tires a week for a regular 50 lap event and four tires for 100 lap events. That tire rule is still in effect, but this season drivers will be allowed to purchase four new tires again after the 100 lap events. Clifton feels this will help them get a fresh start and get back on a good tire schedule for the regular 50 lap shows. “We are trying to make some cost cutting efforts for the teams by still having the 2 tire rule”, says Clifton. “We have also made some slight engine adjustments in the rules to allow more cars to come out and compete”. By making such changes, more cars from surrounding tracks will be able to come to Hickory and race without having to make major changes to their engine package.

One thing Clifton is sure of, this year she is expecting one of the highest car counts that Hickory has seen in many years. “We have a stellar line up going into the 2006 season”, says Clifton. “We have the highest car counts in every division that we have had the whole 5 years I've been here”. The higher car counts mean a lot to the fans, but to the drivers it means more national points. The NASCAR Dodge Weekly Racing Series point schedule is based partly on how many cars are in the starting field. And from the looks of it, Clifton is expecting one of the highest car counts in the nation. This can mean a lot for drivers such as last year's Late Model Series Champion Keith Bumgarner, who not only took the track title, but also finished 4 th in NASCAR Dodge Weekly Racing Series Division III standings.

Among all the familiar faces, Hickory Motor Speedway will also play host to some new drivers in 2006. One of those is Chris Lewis, driver of the #35 Image First Design Late Model. Lewis is not necessarily a new face at Hickory Motor Speedway because he has competed in some truck races in seasons past. However, in 2005 due to the lack of finances, he was forced to stay parked for the full season. Things have finally came together for Lewis and his team as they plan to run a full season of Late Model racing in 2006. “We plan to come out here and do our best to win some races”, said Lewis as he prepared his car for pre-season practice. “I feel we have a shot at the Late Model Championship, but I also know that if we go out and win races, the points will take care of themselves”. Lewis knows that he is up against some of the best drivers in the business and that's partly why he decided to race at Hickory. “The competition is going to be a lot stiffer than it was last year”, said Lewis. “It will probably be the most competitive field in the NASCAR Dodge Weekly Racing Series”.

So as the clock ticks down towards the season opening race on March 25 th a lot of excitement feels the air around “The World's Most Famous Short Track”. Clifton is making final preparations to ensure the success that the track management has planned for in 2006. She has even came up with a new motto, “Pursue Excellence, Achieve Success”. If you want to see the definition of excellence and success at a local short track, come on out to Hickory Motor Speedway in 2006. You won't be disappointed…..except when the races are over for the night. But hey, there's always next week!