The term seeing red most likely originated from the red flag used by historic armies to signal the imminence of battle. And although the green flag was used in South Boston, Virginia to start the battles at the speedway on Saturday, it was the red flag that took dominance as the evening set. South Boston Speedway is known for big races and epic events, and so the racers come into the place prepared to go to war. And this week they got what they came for. The races were hotly contested throughout the day and into the evening, and by nightfall many of them were left seeing red.
We came to the race on Saturday at South Boston Speedway after a week prior of witnessing some of the most intense racing we’ve seen thus far. We didn’t know if you could get any more competitive than what we have already witnessed. But when we got down to the track on Saturday you could feel the excitement in the air. Not just from the fans, but from the competitors themselves. A win today could be huge to a team’s 2022 season, but these races are more than just a race for points. They are billed as a tribute to the great racing throughout the years in the Commonwealth Of Virginia, and a celebration of those great drivers that made it historic. The cast has been set, the invocation given and the National Anthem beautifully sung. The crowd is pumped, and the drivers and their teams are ready to get at it, so, Let’s Go Racin’!
The # 12 of Andrea Routolo starts on pole for this one with the # 01 of Jared Dawson starting alongside. Flagman Brandon Willard looks over the field, likes what he sees, and we’re green for the South Boston Hornets! Routolo and Dawson are dead even for the point but it’ll be Routolo who gets the advantage. But the caution is out quickly as the # 02 of Colton Moore is hard into the turn 2 wall. The South Boston track crew makes quick work of it however and we’re back under green in no time. On the start, Dawson is able to get the advantage over Routolo. But Routolo is just too strong and gets back alongside Dawson. Routolo is able to clear for the lead again, but Dawson crosses over and they get together on the front straightaway. Routolo spins into the inside wall hard as the caution is immediately thrown. South Boston race control thinks that Dawson is to blame for this one and Dawson will be forced to start in the back for the incoming restart.
For the restart, the new front row will be the # 28 of Jarrett Milam and the # 63 of Dylan Davis. Willard looks them over and we’re back green. But there’s calamity behind as the # 2 of Roy Mitchell has spun and hits the inside wall hard. Mitchell is none too happy as he gets out of his mangled machine and, seeing red, marches down the front stretch, and as Dawson gets within reach, and before the officials can block his path, he chucks his helmet at the Jared Dawson car. The fans love it as the Hornets are setting the tone for the day. The top two will be the same for the restart as Milam gets a great jump on Davis. The # 54 of Jason DeCarlo is able to power by the Davis machine for 2nd as Milam is slowly but surely inching away from the field. As the white flag waves, the # 5 of Richard Montgomery and the # 07 of Jordaine Penick crash hard on the back straightaway. But it doesn’t matter as Milam cruises across the finish line to win the Hornet race. DeCarlo comes home second, Davis third, # 3 Steven Layne fourth, and Dawson makes a late charge for a fifth place finish.
Mills Family Practice Champ Karts Feature
The ever popular Champ Karts take the track with teammates # 171 Kevin Elliott and # 14 Tommy Elliott leading the field. Willard looks over the field, likes what he sees, and we’re green for the Champ Karts! Tommy Elliott gets the jump as everybody gets into line. If you’ve never seen a Champ Kart race before, the draft and survival are key, so the field will look to log some laps before mixing it up too much. As the field snakes around, the drafting duo of # 141 of Tyler Perry and # 21 Kenny Mills decide it’s time to go and draft up to the front. They stay that way as the white flag flies. Going into turn 3, all bets are off as the entire field fans out, almost hitting the pit wall in the process. # 18 Tony Arnold is able to get a massive run from dead last, makes it four wide, and barely inches out Tommy Elliott at the line for the emotional victory as the fans go wild. Kevin Elliott would finish third, Perry fourth, and Mills fifth.
Late Model Stock Feature
The # 99 of Layne Riggs qualifies fastest, but will have to start outside of the top ten as he’s won the last two races. That will put # 25 Jacob Borst on pole with defending champion # 26 Peyton Sellers starting second, # 0 Landon Pembelton third, # 01 Camden Gullie fourth, and # 31 Aaron Donnelly fifth. Flagman Brandon Willard looks over the great field of Late Model Stocks, likes what he sees, and we’re green for 100 laps! Sellers immediately jumps out in front and leads lap 1 but there’s already a huge crash in turn one involving almost half of the field. The # 82 of Trey Dillard, # 15 Ryan Joyner, and the # 50 of Raymond Pittman are among those with the most damage. South Boston’s safety crew gets it cleaned up quickly and we’re ready to go back racing in no time. Sellers picks the outside for the restart with Borst restarting inside. Willard looks them over, likes the formation, and we’re back green. Sellers once again clears quickly as the # 2D of Chris Denny is all over the Gullie machine for fourth, and powers by on the inside. Gullie will now have to deal with the # 90 of John Goin as he moves his machine to the inside. But somehow, Gullie makes it stick on the outside and retains the position. Meanwhile, behind them, Layne Riggs is slowly but surely picking off competitors one by one and is looming outside of the top five. While Riggs is powering through the field, Goin looks to the inside of Gullie once again, which sets up an amazing battle between the two for fifth. Gullie eventually is able to clear again as the top three in Sellers, Borst, and Pembelton have broken away from the field.
Riggs now finds himself in seventh, and makes easy work of Goin for sixth. Gullie puts up a good fight, but Riggs will be able to get by him as well to make it into the top five. Soon after, the caution flies for debris on the race track, just what Riggs wanted to see. It’ll be Sellers on the outside, Borst, Pembelton, Denny, and Riggs the top five. Willard waves the green and we’re back underway. Sellers once again clears with no problem, but Riggs is on a tear as he gets by Denny for fourth, then by Pembelton for third. The # 55 of Mark Wertz is able to take advantage of the lost momentum and follows Riggs through by both Denny and Pembelton. Riggs is breathing down Borst’s neck for second, and after slight contact, will be able to collect that spot. Sellers is running a perfect line up front, but Riggs is just too strong and is now to the back bumper of Sellers. He gives Sellers a nudge, but it’ll take more than a nudge to get by a racer like Sellers. Riggs then divebombs underneath Sellers, and is eventually able to take the lead. Behind them, Goin’s machine is starting to come to life as he is able to rocket by Pembelton for fifth. Pembelton then loses another spot to the # 05 of Mason Bailey. Bailey is then able to get by Goin to secure fifth. But up front, Riggs has set sail and will take the improbable checkered flag. Sellers follows in second, Borst third, Wertz fourth, and Bailey fifth.
SMART MODIFIED TOUR FLYIN’ VA 99
The SMART Modified Tour rolled into South Boston Speedway for round 4 of the 2022 season in style, paying tribute to southern Modified racing and one of the greatest to ever do it, Ray Hendrick. And at the track today are some surviving family members of the Modified great, and they’ve brought with them the iconic car he drove to many of his historic wins, the Tant-Mitchell Flyin’ 11. Coming into the race, unlike last year when the tour started the season with six different winners before a repeat winner, this year 3 races in sees only two winners, Matt Hirschman and Caleb Heady. Both will be a threat here again today, but it’s Matt Hirschman qualifying on the pole with a fast lap of 13.890 seconds, just a tick off of Tommy Catalano’s South Boston Speedway track record 13.849 seconds. An indicator that the track is fast here today.
Also showing tremendous speed in qualifying and practice is Hall Of Famer Bobby Labonte, as he puts down a lap of 13.914 seconds, but the tour puts a challenge to the drivers and applies a starter invert for the starting lineup for the 99 lap feature, and that will put the # 5E Kyle Ebersole machine at the point, followed by the # 7 of Caleb Heady second, # 4 Jason Myers third, # 15 Brian Loftin fourth, and # 22 Jonathan Brown fifth. Hirschman will roll off eleventh, just outside of the top 10, so it’s going to be interesting to say the least to see if he can overcome his assigned starting position. The tour has brought a strong field of 30 hot rod Modifieds to South Boston Speedway here today to do battle, and the crowd is on their feet as the drivers are paced around the speedway by the Flyin’ 11 piloted by Ray Hendrick’s son Roy, an awesome sight for the great fans who’ve shown up for this big event.
The red Flyin’ 11 pulls down into the pits, and I can’t help but be reminded of the armies past who saw the red flag a signal to battle, much as the drivers and their teams see the Flyin’ 11 here today. And everyone here today can feel it too, these teams are about to go to war. Kyle Ebersole brings the field around and SMART Tour flagman Jeff Bunton surveys the field, gives the nod that he likes what he sees, and he drops the green and we are underway in the Flyin’ VA 99 here at South Boston Speedway! Ebersole gets a great start as Heady settles in behind, and Brian Loftin clears by Jason Myers for third, and Bobby Labonte moves past Jonathan Brown for fifth. Labonte then starts to work on Jason Myers with Jonathan Brown following him through and dropping Myers for the time being to fifth. Labonte’s not done as he now puts the pressure on Loftin for third, and already lap traffic comes into play. But now the caution comes out for the # 8 of Chris Finocchario as it looked like he may have gotten some contact from behind from someone, sending his machine around, and now sits sideways in turns three and four. # 99 Jamie Tomaino, # 21N Tommy Neal, # 1 Burt Myers, and the # 21W of Jimmy Wallace take advantage of the yellow and all come down pit road to make early adjustments, but then everything is halted by the red flag, employed due to an electronic scoring issue, and we have our first of a number of red flags that will be deployed during this event.
We don’t have to wait long for the problem to be resolved however, and flagman Bunton shows the yellow, and we are shown for the first time the Citrusafe Grill Cleaner choose cone, and Ebersole chooses the bottom lane to restart the race. Heady will restart second, Labonte third, Loftin fourth, and Jonathan Brown rounds out the top 5. Bunton looks over the field as Ebersole brings them around. He likes the view as Ebersole drops the hammer, and we are back under the green flag. Ebersole again gets a great start, as Matt Hirschman starts to come into view, getting by Brown and Loftin, and makes a statement by falling in fourth after his eleventh place start. Up front, Heady decides it’s time for a clear view, and he makes the move on Ebersole, bringing Labonte with him, and it’s Heady and Labonte leading the field with Ebersole trying to clear for third. But as they race, # 34 JB Fortin and Jason Myers have a tussle as Fortin tries to work past Myers for position, and as he does, he comes up into the left rear quarter of Myers sending him around on the front stretch, and the field behind them have nowhere to go and it turns into a parking lot of crashed cars. When the smoke clears, the # 40 of Luke Fleming sits on top of the # 03 of Jeff Fultz. A number of cars are in this one. Myers, Fleming, Fultz, # 07 Dennis Holdren, # 51 Danny Bohn, # 79 Jeremy Gerstner, # 14 Bobby Measmer, # 8 Chris Finocchario are all involved, and we are under red flag number two, and it’s an indication of the whole race to follow. It becomes clear that calling this a war is not an understatement or an attempt to hype this race. There is no quarter given here today among these drivers as it’s clear how much a win here today means to these teams. Throughout the race, attrition becomes the norm as these drivers take no prisoners.
Through the carnage, Caleb Heady, Bobby Labonte, Jonathan Brown, # 5 B Tom Buzze, JB Fortin, battled tooth and nail up front for the win. Danny Bohn with his damaged machine made a run at them, but, Matt Hirschman in the end shows again why he picked up the “Big Money” moniker, as when the laps wound down, it was Hirschman leading the field across the stripe for the exciting win. Jonathan Brown battles his way to second, Heady third, Labonte fourth, and Tom Buzze fights his way to a hard fought fifth place finish. The race would be defined by 4 red flags and a lot of hurt feelings, and another dominating performance by Matt Hirschman.
Many might take the time to dwell on the mayhem and carnage from this race. But we see it for what it truly was. If you were to hear of just the on track incidents that led to, what is unprecedented for us, 4 red flag stoppages in this race, you might just label the Flyin’ VA 99 a wreckfest. You’d have an argument too. But, you have to take it all into context. First, the race was highlighted by some of the best racing we’ve seen. And as many of you know, we’ve seen a lot of tight, competitive, hard fought racing as we make it a point to highlight the best racing our region offers. There was a moment though as we observed all that happened here today that defined it all. It may have went unnoticed to some, but it was a glaring moment that let us know exactly what happened on the track today. After the win, the tour in their understanding of showmanship and presentation, had Roy Hendrick drive the Flyin’ 11 to the side of Matt Hirschman as he sat waiting, holding the checkered flag, sitting inside his hot rod at the South Boston finish line. Jeff Bunton then handed Roy a checkered flag of his own, and the two Modifieds, one symbolizing the greatness of the modern era, and one symbolizing the greatness of the past. It was destiny at it’s finest. A wonderful moment of time. One could even say it was fate. And when they were done, Roy Hendrick presented Hirschman with a token of his respect for the great driver. It was just a diecast of the Flyin’ 11. A small thing physically. But it was a huge gesture. And the understanding was clear in Hirschman’s eyes as he accepted it. We’ve seen Hirschman win a number of times, and he’s always the coolest guy you could imagine. He expects to win and that is his demeanor in victory lane. But what I saw in Hirschman’s eyes this time said it all. This was a big win and a moment not lost on Hirschman. And everyone that he competed with on that day wanted it for themselves.
What should be said, is that there are a lot of drivers that compete for the glory and treasure it can bring. But most, the truly successful ones…they race for the love of the sport. They eat, sleep, and breathe racing. And that mentality is represented by the career of a driver like Ray Hendrick. So passionate about stock car racing that he would race anywhere at anytime. Over 700 wins though many divisions with 6 top tens, and 2 top fives in what is now the NASCAR Cup Series. It would have been much more, but Ray didn’t spend much time running in Cup. He was too busy winning races everywhere else. Ray Hendrick was an amazing Modified driver from Richmond, Virginia. So good he was labeled “Mr. Modified”. Racing in his honor meant something to these competitors and it showed. As it should be.
Obviously, there were many drivers at the Smart Ford 234 at South Boston that we could name our Blue Collar Racer Of The Week. Many from the Modified race like Heady, Labonte, and Brown among others. Matt Hirschman took the pole, had the fastest lap in the race, and took the memorable and historic win. I watched as usually he moves through the field with ease when his car was good, but on his way to the front today, everyone in the top five took a shot at him in an effort to halt his advance. In short, he had to work for this one, and we could have easily given the nod to him with no regrets. But we take the time and look as hard as we are able to evaluate the entire event and all drivers competing. And as we did so this week, one name emerged. Layne Riggs. He also won the pole for his feature only to be regulated to an eleventh place starting position due to a rule by the Speedway that if you win two races in a row in the division, you have to start the next race you enter outside the top 10 regardless of your qualifying effort. And we watched Riggs fight his way to the front in the Late Model Stock feature event. He came away with the win scratch free, but he was challenged every step of the way. He ran an amazing race that we just couldn’t ignore on the way to his third in a row at South Boston, and his fourth win out of his last five starts. And his amazing performance here today earns him and his team their first nod for Short Track Report’s Blue Collar Racer Of The Week.
What an amazing night of racing here at South Boston Speedway. You may hear us talk a lot about destiny and fate as we did here today. But at this point those who’ve followed us from the beginning understand what we’ve been talking about. We will end our week at Franklin County Speedway in Callaway, Virginia, at the track made for Modifieds with another visit with the ground pounding monsters of the SMART Modified Tour. But how fitting is it that we were here today in part to honor the winningest driver at Martinsville Speedway, Ray Hendrick right before we head up to Martinsville to cover the NASCAR Camping World Truck and NASCAR Cup Series races. Perfect timing right? But what is amazing to us, is that even though we spend the time before the season planning out our schedule for the year, we hadn’t secured our NASCAR credentials before we scheduled this event. But, we know it was meant to be. And so we’ll carry what we saw here today in honor of Ray Hendrick to Martinsville where Mr. Modified tops the all time win list. ‘Till next time, as always, See You At The Track!