Mother Nature finally gave us a beautiful night for racing on Friday, and racers and fans took advantage of it at Hilltop. The pits were packed with 40 of the fastest ground pounding Late Models from 5 states, and they put on one hell of a show all night. The track held together much better than I expected, and they made use of every inch of it all night. Watching guys like Casebolt, Blair, Balzano, Miller, and the rest fighting it out with our own locals in the heat races alone was enough to make up for the long cold winter. The 50 lap feature showed just how strong the competition can be around here. 3 and 4 wide battles were common throughout the field, with some very intense action for the front spot nearly every lap. Rob Blair would finally pull off the win, but he sure as hell earned it. What an awesome race!
In the Modified class, it was Rory Reed that had my full attention all night. At noon on race day, there was still no body on his car, and the motor was yet to be fired. Once at the track we hustled to get his numbers put onto the car while the crew got to those finishing touches on the rest of the car. I only wish we could have gotten the rest of his new vinyl on the car before the heat race because it would have made for a better picture in the the winner's circle. ;-) Rory fought his way to the lead early and never looked back. The feature would be bit tougher, but he fought just as hard. He did manage to take the lead briefly but spent most of the race battling for 2nd and 3rd. A bit of a slip on the last lap cost him 3rd place right at the stripe, but it was one hell of a run for a team with so little preparation time before hitting the track. The car should look a bit nicer for that next winner's picture. Maybe next week??? ;-)
The Pure Stock class brought more than one pleasant surprise on Friday. First off, with the new rules in place, there was plenty of doubt on how many cars would show up. The car count was very close to some nights in the past, but this time the field was actually made up of real Pure Stocks. Sure, they weren't all as "flashy" as we've grown to expect from this class over the years, but then again these things aren't supposed to look and run like Late Models now are they? I'm told that there are more of these cars in the works and hopefully once word gets out that you can actually afford to run a Pure Stock without a Late Model budget, this class will not only survive, but thrive once again. From what I hear of the car counts elsewhere, something tells me that this might not be just a dream after alll. Let's hope not.
The standout in the Pure Stocks had to be Jeff Facemire. After missing most of last season due to engine problems, this guy was eager to prove that his last strong run was no fluke. Mission accomplished! In the heat race, he quickly found himself once again battling Fred Snyder and this time he used what he learned from their last battle to take the lead away. Jeff picked up his first ever heat race win, and quickly went hunting for that feature win. Starting beside Brandon Gardner on the front row would be a real test, and Jeff was up for the challenge. The first few laps had Jeff glued to the rear of the 27 car and even looking for a way around him, but the traction started to go away for Facemire later in the race. He was still able to finish a very strong 2nd when it was over. NICE RUN Hoss!! Denny Shear returned for another season of action, but he didn't have as much luck as Facemire. Right off the trailer mechanical gremlins jumped out and bit him in the ass. Later in the night while making a mad dash towards the front, he was nailed from behind, and he was done for the night. I'm hoping the damage isn't bad enough to keep Denny from action next week.
Racing action was cancelled at Hilltop for Saturday night so we'll have to wait another week to see the Steel Block Late Models, Mini Stocks, and Mini Trucks in action. The Steel Blocks will be racing for $800 to win this Saturday. BE THERE!!
A HUGE thanks goes out to K-RaCe Photo (RaceOhio.com) for providing the pictures!