“I came here to tell you the truth, the good, the bad, and the ugly.”
Sometimes you have to take the good with the bad. At least that’s what they tell you. But it only works truly when there’s movement on improving the bad. If not, then the good that you take is slowly eroded to the point to where it’s not worth it. Fortunately, when it comes to Hickory Motor Speedway, the good runs so deep that they have plenty of room left to deal with the bad. The bad? Well, let’s not candy coat it. The track is in serious need of facility improvement and that’s an undeniable fact. Good news is, there are plans being made to address it. But if you know anything about us, you know we look to the core of a place. And the core of Hickory Motor Speedway is the track itself. We’d need another post altogether to explain to someone that doesn’t know the history of this storied track to explain it all. But if you’re not a history buff, let’s just say that the track itself has retained it’s luster. Sure, it looks old and worn to the casual observer, but it’s the ONE thing that we here at Short Track Report hope they don’t change. The old girl still to this day provides for some of the most exciting racing in the region. And it still draws the best competitors from around the nation. In that way, it’s still one of the most known ‘showplace’ tracks in the country. And when we say showcase, we mean that every driver knows that if you want to be seen and known as one of the best drivers, you come to Hickory to prove your point. It’s been that way for years and the tradition continues.
So with that comes the glaring fact that anything can happen here and often does. Hickory is a place where they let the drivers handle things on the track amongst themselves, and hard racing is just what happens there. There’s little to no room for error, especially when you talk about the kind of talent that runs there. But the track itself can be just as challenging. It’s a tight 3/8ths of a mile track with a unique configuration that allows drivers to ‘get at’ each other while at the same time having to keep up with the track itself. That fact in itself makes the speedway a terrific choice for filling dates on the Carolina Pro Late Model and Carolina Crate schedule as it’s hard pressed to think of a better place to develop young Late Model talent, and who doesn’t want to see more Modified action at Hickory Motor Speedway? Add the core local divisions to the show and you have an action packed event that brought us to the “Birthplace Of The NASCAR Stars” this weekend, knowing we were in for some great short track racing. So without further ado, let’s get to the action that went down this Saturday night. The invocation has been spoken, and the National Anthem sung, so, Let’s Go Racin’!
HERITAGE FINANCE STREET STOCK FEATURE
Veteran Street Stock racer Cody DeMarmels in the # 12 starts on the pole, with Jonathan Fleming in the # 6 starting second followed by Jacob Hayes in the # 49. The Hickory Motor Speedway flagman looks over the beautiful field, likes what he sees, and we’re green in the Street Stocks! DeMarmels immediately gets the jump as Fleming and Hayes battle hard for second. The two stay side by side for lap after lap in a fantastic battle, with Hayes finally getting the advantage. Now Dustin Little Jr in the # 11 machine is all over Fleming, giving him a little nudge here and there. And now Hayes is in trouble! Hayes slows and takes his machine down pit road as now Fleming and Little Jr make more contact down the frontstretch, as Little Jr breaks into second. The caution flies now as debris from Fleming’s machine has found it’s way on the track. Fleming comes down pit road to assess the damage, as DeMarmels will line up first followed by Little Jr and the # 48 of Trey Buff. DeMarmels retains the top spot as Marshall Sutton in the # 64 makes his way by Buff. Sutton has great forward momentum as he now passes Little Jr for the second position. And now there’s major trouble as DeMarmels has wrecked in turn three! An absolute heartbreak for the # 12 machine as the track crew goes to work. After all is cleaned up, your top three will now be Sutton, Little Jr, and Buff. Sutton gets a perfect start but Little Jr hangs tough on the outside. Little Jr now starts to fall to the wayside as Buff gets by. Now a reemerging Fleming looks low and goes into turn one head on, sending Little Jr into the wall at full speed in possibly one of the dirtiest moves we’ve seen. The race goes under the red flag as Little Jr is shaken up with a severely sprained knee.
After cleanup has concluded, Sutton lines up first with Buff in second and Fleming in third. Sutton gets a perfect restart but here comes Buff as he looks on the high side. It’s just not enough though as fan favorite Sutton comes home the victor followed by Buff and Fleming.
PARAMOUNT AUTO GROUP LIMITED LATE MODEL BIG 10 FEATURE
Showtime Bryson Ruff in the # 24 rolls off on the pole as Chase Janes in the # 47 starts second, # 75 Landon Huffman third, # 7 Kevin Dill fourth, and the # 66 of Zack Wells rounds out the top five. The flagman looks over the highly competitive field, approves the formation, and we’re off and running! Ruff gets a phenomenal start as Huffman immediately gets by Janes for second. Wells slides around Dill for fourth as now Mark Johnson in the # 13 breaks into the top five as Dill continues to drop back. Caution is out though as the # 94 of Jeffery Wood has spun in between turns three and four. It’s a quickie yellow though as Ruff remains in first followed by Huffman, Janes, Wells, and Johnson. Huffman gives Ruff a run for his money this time around but Ruff ultimately clears. Now Dill is all over Johnson as he reemerges back into the top five. Wells’ car now starts to come to life as he muscles past Janes. There’s trouble once more though as Chase Thaxton in the # 22 spins out of turn four. He gets it back going as Ruff once again heads up the field with Huffman second, Janes third, Wells fourth, and Dill fifth. Ruff gets the better of Huffman once again on the restart as Johnson now leapfrogs Dill for fifth. But Dill fights right back as Christopher Martin Jr in the # 12 stops in turn four, bringing out another caution. He fires back up as it’s the same song, different verse in the front of the field with Ruff, Huffman, Wells, Janes, and Dill. There’s a bit of a stackup on the restart, causing NASCAR to call it back. It’s clean the second time around with Ruff clearing. Janes gets back by Wells as Johnson files into fifth. Dill once again fires back though, taking fifth with Wells now in third by Janes. For the first time all night, Graham Hollar in the # 25 makes his presence known as he races his way by Dill. But none of that matters to Bryson Ruff as takes the checkered flag. Huffman comes home second followed by Wells, Janes, and Hollar.
LATE MODEL STOCK FEATURE
Fresh off of a phenomenal effort in the CARS Tour Throwback race, Kade Brown in the # 44 captures the pole for tonight’s Late Model Stock feature. Starting second will be Landon Huffman in the # 75, Tyler Matthews in the # 15 starts third, # 45 Bryce Applegate starts fourth, and # 28 Landon S Huffman rounds out the top five. The flagman enjoys his view and we’re green! Brown and Landon Huffman battle side by side briefly, but Brown ultimately clears. Landon S Huffman gets by Applegate and brings the # 97 of Michael Bumgarner with him. Now Bumgarner makes his move on Landon S Huffman, moving into fourth as Brown looks to walk away in the lead. Now Matthews begins to breathe down Landon Huffman’s neck for the silver position. Matthews looks inside and is successful in the pass. Now Akinori Ogata in the # 14 slides to the inside of Landon S Huffman, but the # 28 retains up high as they continue to battle. Back up front, Matthews has started to gain slowly but surely on Brown, matching his lap times every time he crosses the stripe. Now Matthews is there and he makes contact with Brown! Matthews clears but Brown crosses over! Matthews goes back into turn one hard but the lap car of Applegate is there and the two make contact! Matthews spins into the outside wall hard, causing the caution to be thrown! After a lengthy cleanup, Brown remains out front followed by Landon Huffman, Bumgarner, Landon S Huffman, and Ogata. Brown gets a good start but Huffman gets the run of a lifetime on the outside and grabs the lead! He starts to walk away as Ogata finally finds his way by Landon S Huffman. But up front, Landon Huffman grabs the huge victory ahead of Brown, Bumgarner, Ogata, and Landon S Huffman.
CAROLINA CRATE MODIFIED SERIES FEATURE
The # 1 of Dale Ogburn lays down a pole lap of 15.326 seconds, but as a result of the six car invert, Brian Weber in the # 01 will roll off as the first starter. Starting second will be the # 12 of Cody Norman, third will be the # 00 of Kevin Orlando, Jody Utt in the # 19 will be fourth, and rounding out the top five will be the # 47 of Jaxson Casper. The flagman gazes over the field, gives the thumbs up, and we’re green in the Carolina Crate Modifieds! Norman grabs the lead from Weber off the bat as Weber and Orlando make slight contact behind. And now there’s more contact as Weber goes around off of four! The caution flies, but luckily it’s a quick one as Norman remains your leader followed by Orlando, Casper, the # 13 of Eric Zeh, and Utt. Norman clears as Casper finds his way around Orlando. Orlando fights his way by Casper, now setting his sights on points leader Norman. The caution flies though as Utt has went up in smoke. Surprisingly it’s a quick yellow though as Norman remains your leader followed by Orlando, Casper, Ogburn, and an emerging B.J. Moose in the # 42 as Zeh comes down pit road for a quick inspection. Orlando fires off like a rocket, and now Ogburn is there, moving Norman to third followed by Casper. But now Casper is in trouble! Casper spins on the frontstretch and Zeh has nowhere to go, colliding with Casper. Both cars are surprisingly fine as now Orlando lines up first with Ogburn, Norman, Moose, and Weber all following. Orlando clears once more as Zeh has already moved back up into fifth.
Ogburn now is all over Orlando as the fans begin to stand on their feet. Orlando starts to open the gap a bit, but Ogburn makes it right back up time and time again. And now Ogburn is underneath! The two make wheel to wheel contact as Ogburn barely gets by after an amazing battle! Orlando tries to make it back up, but his car has gone away as Ogburn takes the win at Hickory! Orlando comes home second followed by Norman, Casper who moved his way back up, and Zeh with a great first start.
CAROLINA PRO LATE MODEL SERIES FEATURE
2023 Summer Shootout Semi-Pro Legend champion George Phillips starts the night off right with a 14.853 second lap to grab the pole. The invert is four though, putting E33 Motorsports driver Max Price up front followed by Holly Clark in the Travis Kvapil Racing # 35. Starting third will be Beckham Malone in the # 23, Phillips starts fourth, and rounding out the top five will be Jonny Kay in the # 74. The flagman looks the field over, approves the lineup, and we’re green in the Carolina Pros! Price and Clark duel hard for the lead, with Clark emerging up front. Phillips now begins his charge as he speeds by Malone and now Price, setting his sights on Clark. Phillips now dives underneath Clark, as Clark tries to hold her ground up high. But it’s not enough as the points leader takes it. And now Clark, pushing her machine to the limit, spins off of turn four, bringing the caution out. She gets it back going as out front, Phillips remains your leader followed by Price, Malone, Kay, and the # 94 of Holden Allen. Phillips gets a picture perfect restart as Malone fumbles a bit, stacking the field up behind. That allows Kay to take third while E.J. Tamayo in the # 10 moves up to fourth. But now Allen makes contact with Tamayo, moving Allen into fourth and bringing defending champion # 63 Josh Lowder along with him. Behind them, the # 33 of Craftsman Truck Series mainstay Josh Reaume spins and impacts the turn three outside wall. He’s unfortunately done for the night as Phillips remains first followed by Price, Kay, Allen, and Lowder. Phillips once again executes perfectly on the restart and remains in clean air as Tamayo now moves back into the top five. But that doesn’t last long as Malone takes fifth away.
Now Malone is under fire though as Lowder’s long run speed begins to show, grabbing fifth. Now Lowder starts to peek underneath Allen, and makes it work as he slots into fourth. Now Kay falls victim to Lowder, but laps are ticking away for the # 63 as Phillips continues to walk away. Behind them, Malone continues his up and down day as he gets by Allen’s hot rod. But up front, no one has anything for Phillips as he takes his fourth win of the year. Price gets an amazing second, Lowder earns third in a great run, Kay grabs fourth, and Malone gets a great top five.
In a way, we love racing so much that our coverage almost looks like race promotion. To some extent, that’s true. But the real truth is that we let the sport speak for itself. And there is a lot to love about short track racing. It’s as simple as that. That being said however, nothing is completely perfect. As I stated in the beginning of this article, they say you have to take the good with the bad. That’s easy when it comes to stock car racing as for the most part, there’s a lot to love. But when things happen that show a darker side of the sport, as race journalists, we’ve said from the beginning, we won’t shy away from it. And this event at Hickory had every side of the spectrum.
THE GOOD – Hickory provides for some great racing, and Saturday night was no different. Bryson Ruff in the Limited Late Models and George Phillips in the Carolina Pro Late Models proved that when they are on their game they are the absolute class of the field. Both dominated their races and good doesn’t even quite cover it. Landon Huffman proved once again that if he stays above the fray at Hickory Motor Speedway in the Late Model Stock division, he can and will capitalize on his savvy and can be one of the best high speed chess players in the game. And when chaos ensued, he wasn’t just in the right place at the right time, he was ready to pounce at any chance given. And he came away unscathed in another big win in the division. And in the Carolina Crate Modifieds, we got to see something we thought we may never see on that tour, and that was a driver chipping away at Orlando until he found an opening and took the late stage win over a driver that at times has seemed to be unbeatable. True, Orlando’s car started to go away but it was in great part due to the pressure put on by one Dale Ogburn who ran one of the best races in the series we’ve seen by him to date in a great duel by the two that saw Ogburn take the exciting win. Top all that off with a win in the Street Stocks by seasoned veteran Marshall Sutton and you had a near perfect night of racing at one of the most historic tracks in the country.
THE BAD – Well, I did say near perfect. Not good was Cody DeMarmels taking a huge Street Stock lead only to have serious issues that led to him crashing out and with heavy damage on his machine after looking to have the easy win. Also not good was an unfortunate set of events that led to Tyler Matthews crashing out going for the lead in the Late Model Stock feature, also sustaining heavy damage to his machine that left him contemplating all that transpired sitting beside the mangled Late Model Stock while his team worked away just trying to get the car in good enough shape to get it back into the hauler. Not good also was Holly Clark and Brian Weber as they had high hopes starting in the front of their fields respectively, but having to salvage what they could when it all went awry, able to look forward to better days. And finally not good was seeing Jody Utt go up in smoke as his engine expired, ending his day in a costly manner. All of this however is how racing can go sometimes for competitors. It’s all just a part of racing. Sometimes you win some and sometimes you lose. But then again, sometimes you lose more than you were bargaining for. Again though, that’s just a part of racing.
THE UGLY – And then there are things that you just have to shake your head at. A military man named Oliver North once said when confronted with questions on some of the things he was ordered to do that would not shed a good light on some of his military activities that, and I quote, “I am here to tell the truth, the good, the bad, and the ugly.” And as a short track racing coverage journalist, that is what I am here to do today. I’ve told you the good, the bad, and now we’ll take a look at the ugly. And the sad truth is that what I saw Jonathan Fleming do in the Street Stock race was just that, UGLY. In fact, it was one of, if not the dirtiest thing I’ve seen on any track. Now remember, I grew up watching racing at Bowman Gray Stadium. One could even use the term, “We know a thing or two because we’ve seen a thing or two”, as I’ve seen some questionable judgement used by some drivers on track. But in my personal opinion this is the dirtiest move I’ve ever seen, leading to injury, and in light of that, as the crowd booed as loud as a crowd of that size can boo, he asked sarcastically, “What did I do?”, and then laughed about it. Now, we can’t judge the man as a person as honestly, we don’t know him well enough to do that. But we do know he’s a veteran driver and a winning driver at that, and knew perfectly well what he did, and that he injured someone doing it.
And all because he got moved for position. Note that I said he got moved, not wrecked. And for that, he took a swipe at a competitor that was a hard enough hit that it took the front nose off of his car, but when that didn’t work, he intentionally sent his competitor into the wall as hard as he knew how to. I urge everyone that can to look at the replay footage from that race. It was an act that has no place in this sport, and I say that as a firm believer that drivers have to handle their business with each other on the track, but that being said, there are limits to everything and on this day, Jonathan Fleming crossed the line. With that out of the way, we would like to wish Dustin Little Jr a speedy recovery as our thoughts are with him, his family, and his team.
Now with that having been said, we will end with the great. This week’s Short Track Report Blue Collar Racer Of The Week choice was indeed one of the hardest decisions we’ve ever had to make. It was another choice made after a serious and intense debate, and it took an almost heated back and forth to finally determine it. It was a debate on two drivers, both we feel earned the nod this week, but there can be only one. Dale Ogburn driving the # 1 Crate Modified had what we feel was the best performance we’d seen him achieve on the Carolina Crate Modified Series. He stalked Kevin Orlando for a number of laps, inching in on him for the last half of the race and waited for his moment. And when the time was right, he made the move of the race and took the exciting win. And if you know anything about Kevin Orlando’s performance on the series thus far, you’ll know that it wasn’t an easy task as he’ll definitely make you work for it. But in the end, we couldn’t deny Landon Huffman who was almost perfect in his double duty stint. He started it off by finishing runner up in the Limited Late Model feature, and then turned around and capitalized in the Late Model Stock feature by taking the savvy win that highlighted his growth as a true Late Model Stock contender. He said in his interview that he’d rather be lucky than good, but truth is, he was the best on Saturday night even if the car wasn’t, in the epitome of a seasoned veteran finding the prime of his career. Congratulations Landon Huffman and team, you were on it this weekend! Until next time, See You At The Track!
(Race write up by Joshua Weatherman. Intro and My Take written by Billy Weatherman. 2023 Copyright SHORT TRACK REPORT)