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News

Hedgecock Holds Firm for $5,000 Score at I-75 Raceway

Hedgecock Holds Firm for $5,000 Score at I-75 Raceway

NIOTA, Tenn. (June 3) — Cory Hedgecock of Loudon, Tenn., drove 30 minutes from his home and later returned after a 50-lap feature with $5,000 in his pocket for leading from start to finish in a 50-lap Newsome/Raceway Parts Network Crate Racin’ USA Dirt Late Model Series event Friday night at high-banked I-75 Raceway.

The Adam Stewart-managed touring series was returning to the track for the first time in a little less than six years, and the high-banked oval has undergone a configuration change since the last time the organization visited the facility, which was originally built years ago as a much larger oval that dwarfed in size the current layout specifications. It has been changed significantly twice from its start as a massive facility that eventually proved too fast and too large for weekly-type racing.

“This is about the second or third time they’ve improved on it after the first big reduction in size, and typically now you will mostly run the middle to top here,” Hedgecock said. “Prior to the last change, you’d run mostly around the bottom, but it’s a lot more racier now. It’s better, for sure.”

Hedgecock, who claimed series championships in 2016 and 2017 the last time the track was a frequent stop for the tour, set fast time in the touring circuit’s return and elected to start from the outside of the front row. From there he engineered a flag-to-flag victory that was accomplished with a steady efficiency that kept his fellow competitors in chase mode for much of the extra-distance grind.

Hedgecock led by as much as a straightaway at times, and was rarely challenged on his way to the winner’s circle ahead of Ricky Weiss, Chip Brindle, Mark Whitener and Blake Craft. Whitener did stay close on restarts through five caution periods, but only for two or three laps before Hedgecock pulled a lead.

The zip code for the racetrack is listed as 37826, but Hedgecock spent a lot of time in a different one than the rest of his challengers on the way to his first win of the season in the touring circuit’s sixth event of the year. He drove away from the field in a higher groove than many used, and became the fifth different winner in six races held this season on the Adam Stewart-managed touring circuit.

Winner Survived a Flat
His lead dwindled a bit in the closing stages to a 1.581-second margin, but had been larger during the race’s earlier stages, and Hedgecock revealed it was a deflating tire that likely cost him a healthier advantage during the waning laps.

“We had a right-rear tire going flat, so we must have ran over something out there,” Hedgecock said after loading his car for the short drive home. “The car is sitting on the rim up in the trailer. The dirt at this track has got a few rocks in it, and we run a lot of right-rear temperature here with our tires, so when you roll across a rock, a flat can happen pretty easily.”

The win continued a successful season for Hedgecock, who has rolled with steady momentum for much of the season, scoring 10 victories thus far in Super Late Model, Limited Late Model and Crate Late Model-type events. His ability to stretch a lead after a front-row start kept a close race for the top spot from happening except on restarts, and he left in his wake a tremendous battle for the runnerup spot that raged between Weiss and Whitener.

Duo Wages Tough Duel
The pair traded the top spot on numerous occasions, using repeated and intense slide jobs and crossover maneuvers during a tight-fisted and sometimes-heated duel that kept the crowd’s attention for most of the race. While they battled furiously with each other, Hedgecock was often able to drive away and leave the hotly-contested battle in his rear-view mirror.

“Those guys racing so hard together I think might have helped me a lot more,” Hedgecock said. “I was feeling like, ‘Let ‘em have at it all they want.’ When they’re racing that hard for second behind me, then I ain’t gotta deal with ‘em. I think that assisted us a little bit, and we were able to open a stronger lead while they were busy.”

Both of his fellow challengers agreed with Hedgecock’s assessment of the situation.

“I actually think I might have had something for [Cory] Hedgecock,” Weiss said while sitting in his car waiting for postrace tech procedures. “I got to racing with [Mark] Whitener for second place, and he [Hedgecock] kinda drove away from us.”

Whitener was able to stay with Hedgecock on early restarts, but found himself busy swapping the second spot with Weiss in what turned out to be likely the best race for position during the main.

“If it wasn’t for Cory Hedgecock, that would have been a helluva good race for the lead,” Whitener said. “Ricky [Weiss] was so fast, and we were both driving for all it was worth. He ran me off the track once, and I delivered him a right rear at one point in return, but eventually he passed me clean when he did for the final time. It was a lot of fun. I was looking for a ‘Hail Mary’ opportunity at the end, but my car was done and I didn’t really have anything left. We raced for second, and dropped to fourth. Basically I just wore the car out.”

It all added up to yet another victory for a driver in the midst of potentially putting together a tremendous season considering it’s only early June. The success is helping Hedgecock to firmly establish his family-owned BMF Chassis, which they kicked off during the winter months.

“We’ve had a great season this year, and these cars right now are doing so well,” Hedgecock said. “Having momentum on our side in the Crate Late Model helps us in the Super Late Model division. I would probably 10 times rather win a Super Late Model race, but around here in East Tennessee, one division is no easier than the other. We’ve got our home tracks in this region where we have had a lot of success, and those places usually treat us very well when it comes to results."

Brindle Closes Near the End
Wheeling a Randall Hill-fielded entry from the outside of the seventh row after making the field via a runnerup finish in the second B-main, Chatsworth, Ga., driver Chip Brindle emerged as a factor during the mid-to-late stages. He engaged Weiss in a late duel for second-place honors, and the pair crossed the stripe dead even with the checkered flag waving.

Advantage Weiss, but it was so close visually that series officials had to rely on electronic scoring lag times and transponder locations before making a full determination and declaring Weiss as the runnerup finisher.

“I really thought I had the position at the finish line,” Brindle said. “There’s a bunch of good ones racing here tonight, and it’s so close out there. It’s tight, and all I know is it was close at the stripe. I felt like we had him by a fender, but it’s all good. We’ve been really decent since we got this Longhorn Chassis, and Josh Gunter has been helping us with it. You’re only as good as your last race, though. It can be a very humbling sport.”

While able to race hard for second place, Brindle felt he might have been a factor with better results in time trials.

“We just ain’t qualifying where we need to be, and we were seven rows back in the field tonight when the green flag waved,” he said. “If we’d started the race from closer to where we finished it, we might have had a better shot tonight. Cory Hedgecock…he’s just on a roll right now, and he’s hard to beat.”

Sponsors and Schedules
Hedgecock’s Eagle Racing Engines, Inc.-powered BMF Chassis carried sponsorship from Service Transport Inc., SFP Performance Systems, W.E. Hardscapes & Masonry, Noble Knights Construction Services, Currin Construction, Vineyard Enterprises, Circle H Services, E-Z-GO and CH Enterprises.

The touring series’ next event is scheduled June 3 at Talladega Short Track in Eastaboga, Ala., where the Golden Hornet 50 will pay $10,000 to the winner and also award points towards the Crate Racin’ USA $100,000+ Challenge program, which is a collection of designated races that carries a separate points fund from the regular touring circuit.

I-75 Raceway: 1. Cory Hedgecock, 50; 2. Ricky Weiss, 50; 3. Chip Brindle, 50; 4. Mark Whitener, 50; 5. Blake Craft, 50; 6. Justin Smith, 50; 7. Hunter Peacock, 50; 8. Parker Martin, 50; 9. Jackson Hise, 50; 10. Richie Stephens, 50; 11. Hayden Cardwell, 50; 12. Mario Gresham, 50; 13. Jake Knowles, 50; 14. Anthony White Jr., 50; 15. Caleb Gay, 50; 16. Deke Waters, 49; 17. Derek Dent, 48; 18. Ty Giles, 44; 19. Cody Courtney, 39; 20. Trevor Sise, 29; 21. Jason Welshan, 22; 22. Maddux Mullinax, 13; 23. Trynt Lloyd.
Did not start - Stephen Pedulla.

Entries: 38
Fast qualifier: Cory Hedgecock, 14.861 seconds.
Lead changes: None.
Lap leaders: Cory Hedgecock 1-50.
Margin of victory: 1.581 seconds.
Cautions: 5
B-main winners: Hunter Peacock, Hayden Cardwell.

Crate Racin’ USA Dirt Late Model Series (current points): 1. Mark Whitener, 534; 2. Hunter Peacock, 496; 3. Blake Craft, 488; 4. Jason Welshan, 476; 5. Jake Knowles, 470; 6. Mario Gresham, 448; 7. Trynt Lloyd, 430; 8. Jimmy Thomas, 350; 9. Cody Overton, 308; 10. Jason Markewitz, 284; 11. Joshua Bishop, 248; 12. Ty Giles, 240; 13. Jackson Hise, 212; 14. Jeremy Steele, 210; 15. Dillon Brown, 200; 16. Hayden Cardwell, 198; 17. Chip Brindle, 190; 18. Dalton Dowdy, 180; 19. Ashton Winger, 178; 20. Parker Martin, 176.