It Was Fireworks Both On and Off the Track as Hickory Motor Speedway Celebrated 56 Years
By Adrian Sanders ASandersRYRE@carolina.rr.com
Hickory Motor Speedway race fans were treated to a spectacular fireworks show to celebrate 56 years of action packed racing at “Americas Most Famous Short Track”. But according to some drivers in the Bojangle's Late Model Division, the fireworks got started early. A late race battle for 2 nd place left some drivers in the hot seat, but Kevin Leicht enjoyed what he saw in his mirror as he lead flag to flag and picked up his second win of the season in a car that was almost totaled just 2 races ago.
#32 Kevin Leicht brought the field to the green flag in his Yarborough Racing Machine with #14 Randy Burnett on the outside. At the drop of the flag, #59 Coleman Pressley, who started 4 th immediately tries to bring in the high groove as he works on Brandon Dean for 3 rd .
After a lap of side by side racing, Dean is able to hang on to the spot. Andy Loden moves his #29 Monroe Roadways car into the top 5 as he goes around the outside of #7 Ashley Huffman for 5 th . But Huffman isn't ready to give up that spot just yet as he looks back to the inside of Loden on lap 7. The two battle side by side for 3 laps with Loden hanging on to the spot. #54 Brandon Dean looks to move forward on lap 11 as he peeks to the inside of #14 Randy Burnett coming off turn 2 and is able to complete the pass in turn 3 to take over 2 nd place. The first caution of the night comes out on lap 16 as #01 Pete Silva taps the bumper of #64 Nick Locito sending him spinning out of turn 2. Locito comes to rest but #41 Jesus Hernandez is unable to avoid his spun car and is collected into the incident. NASCAR Dodge Weekly Racing Series officials decided to send Pete Silva to the rear of the field for the restart for aggressive driving.
Kevin Leicht continues to lead and brings the field around for the restart. Andy Loden immediately tries a run on Coleman Pressley by looking to his inside. Loden clears him one lap later to take the 4 th position. #95 Keith Bumgarner takes advantage of Pressley being out of the groove and looks to the inside to take over the 5 th spot. Loden continues his battle to move towards the front on lap 20 as he takes a look to the inside of Randy Burnett and takes over 3 rd place. On lap 21, Bumgarner sets his sights on Burnett as well and gets under him to take 4 th . #74 James Hansen begins what is his best run of the 2006 season by moving into the top 5 on lap 27 after getting around Randy Burnett. Caution comes out again on lap 33 as #72 Jason Cochran spins just after being put a lap down.
Leicht leads the field around for the restart with Brandon Dean in tow. Andy Loden gets a run on Brandon Dean for 2 nd after the restart but Dean pinches Loden down in turn 1 forcing him to back off. So now Loden tries to move to the high side to make the pass, but he is still unable to make it work to complete the pass. The yellow flag comes out again on lap 37 as #7 Charlie Barham spins down the backstretch. The field goes green for only 3 laps before another caution comes out for #72 Jason Cochran who is stopped against the outside wall in turn 3.
Now the battle really begins to heat up as Leicht brings the field around for the restart. Brandon Dean tries to take a look on Leicht for the lead making contact coming off turn causing both cars to get sideways. This allows Andy Loden to take a look on the outside of Dean for 2 nd but the yellow flag is displayed again before the pass is complete. It appeared that with all the shuffling up front the field got the “accordion” and Randy Burnett was a casualty as he went spinning on the backstretch.
Leicht continues to lead for the restart and this time the battle is on. Loden looks high on Dean but it doesn't work, then he looks low and Dean is there again for the block. On lap 43, Loden gets a run to the inside of Dean going into turn 1, but Dean doesn't give up his line. Loden doesn't back down this time as both cars make contact and Dean spins in turn 2. Loden doesn't spin, but he loses several positions trying to get out of the melee. Brandon Dean, upset with the #29 of Loden comes back around the track and deliberately spins Loden under caution tearing up sheet metal on both cars. Track officials immediately parked the #54 of Dean as they do not tolerate anybody compromising safety by doing such actions under caution. Keith Bumgarner made contact with the wall trying to avoid the wreck and was forced to pit giving up his top 5 run.
Kevin Leicht now knows that 2 of his fiercest competitors are off his bumper. On the restart, #7 Ashley Huffman takes a look to the inside of #74 James Hansen and takes over 2 nd place. Coleman Pressley is able to follow and take over 3 rd place, but Hansen gets a run back on Pressley coming to the white flag. Kevin Leicht takes it home to the checkered flag for his 2 nd win of the season followed by #7 Ashley Huffman, #74 James Hansen, #59 Coleman Pressley and #10 Andy Mercer.
Kevin Leicht had this to say in Victory Lane:
“If it weren't for Brandon and Andy battling there I don't know if we could have hung on to it or not. I know it was going to be tough. We were having some kind of problem because the motor was loading up. I was having to keep it revved up on the caution laps so it was killing me. We have been great all day. This is the same car we about destroyed the other week by backing it in the wall. This whole team has come together and worked so hard and got it back together. We worked on it until 1 o'clock last night to get it on the truck and come out here to win.”
In the Limited Late Model Division, Andy Mercer was able to hold off the late race charges of Matt DiBenedetto to pick up yet another win for his team. The two were followed by #92 Marc Davis, #43 Jesse LeFevers and #7 Paul Adams.
Walter Hoke picked up his first career Pro-4 Division win at Hickory Motor Speedway after taking the early lead from #99 Matt Elledge. Hoke was followed by #09 Randy Canipe, #86 Wayne Brown, #16 Randy Freeze and #57 Grant Wimbish.
Kevin Eby led flag to flag to pick up another win in the J&J Roofing and Sandblasting Street Stock Division. Eby was followed by #54 Waylon Flynn, #32 Gary Ledbetter, #64 Marshall Sutton and #42 Terrance Tucker.
The Carolina Vintage Racers paid a fitting visit to the famed short track on the 56 th Birthday. #27 Jim Burrell took over the lead about half way through the race and led to the checkered flag to pick up the win. Burrell was followed by #71 Kenneth Deese, 81 Howard Scruggs, #3 Wayne Hearne and #550 Joe Evans.
Also for a blast from the past were the Legendary Flat Head Fords Division. #12 Johnny Gregory took home the win followed by #2 Bill Blair, #0 Johnny Handy, #33 Jerry King and #28 Steve Gourley.
Join us next week at Hickory Motor Speedway for door to door racing action in the Bojangle's Late Model Division, J&J Roofing and Sandblasting Street Stocks, Advanced Auto Parts Super Trucks Pro-4, Hobby Stocks and the USAC Ford Focus Midgets. See you there!