SWEETWATER, Tenn. – Cory Hedgecock swept the NeSmith Chevrolet Dirt Late Model Series season opener on Friday night at I-75 Raceway driving the Eagle Racing Engines Rocket.
Hedgecock was the fast qualifier with a new track record and then led all 40 lap of the main event to capture his first career NeSmith Chevrolet Dirt Late Model Series victory.
“It feels good to finally win one of these NeSmith Late Model races and to do it here close to home is even more special,” Hedgecock said. “We’ve led a lot of laps in these races, but we could never get the win. This is how you like to win races by setting fast time and then leading all of the laps.”
Riley Hickman finished second in the Hickman Manufacturing CVR, and John Ownbey took the third spot in the Sam’s Restaurant Equipment Special. Richie Stephens was the Cruise With The Champions Rookie of the Race after a fourth-place effort driving the K&J Trucking Special. Chase Edge drove the Edge’s Gas Company Special to a fifth-place finish.
Hedgecock took the lead when the green flag waved followed by Hickman, Matt Henderson, Edge and Ownbey. On lap two, Henderson tried to drive his Rebel Diesel Duayne Hommel Tribute Rocket to the inside of Hickman to challenge for the second spot in turn three. The two cars got together and spun, triggering a multi-car pile-up and bringing out the first of five caution flags.
Henderson was ticketed with the caution flag and had to go to the rear of the field for the Dixie-Style Double-File Restart. The field went back to green flag action, but not for long, as the defending and three-time NeSmith Chevrolet Dirt Late Model Series National champion Ronnie Johnson cut down a left-rear tire on lap four.
On the restart, Adam Gauldin spun his Adam Gauldin Racing GRT out of the eighth spot in turn two. Michael Blount cut down a left-front tire on lap five to bring out the fourth caution flag. Hedgecock had Hickman, Edge, Ownbey, and Stephens behind him for the restart.
When the green flag came back out, Edge, Ownbey and Stephens broke out three wide in turn two to battle for the third spot. By the time they got back to the start/finish line, Stephens held the third spot with Ownbey in fourth, and Edge fell back to the fifth spot.
Hedgecock reached the cars on the tail of the lead lap by the 12th lap, and Hickman began to chip away at the leader’s 12 car-length advantage. With Hickman on his rear bumper, Hedgecock got a break when the fifth and final caution flag came out on lap 27 with Gauldin stalled on the high side of turn two.
Track conditions led NeSmith Late Model officials to call for a single-file restart with Hedgecock leading Hickman, Stephens, Ownbey and Edge. On the restart, Ownbey got to the inside of Stephens in turn three, and he then drove under the Rocketman coming off the fourth turn to take the third spot.
Hedgecock once again encountered lapped traffic on lap 35 and Hickman closed in and looked like he was going to make it a hard fought battle to the checkered flag. Hedgecock was up to the challenge, as he was able to put a lapped car between himself and Hickman with three laps to go. That move sealed the deal for Hedgecock as he took the checkered flag with a 1.532 second margin of victory.
The top nine qualifiers broke the track record of 13.552 seconds set last season by Henderson. Hedgecock took Fast Time honors with a lap around I-75 Raceway in 13.302 seconds for a new track record. In other preliminary action, the two ten-lap B-Main Races were won by Anthony White and Brandon Williams.
Cory Hedgecock, Riley Hickman, John Ownbey, Richie Stephens, Chase Edge, Scott Dedwylder, Donald McIntosh, Brandon Williams, Jeremy Shaw, Jason Manley, Matt Henderson, Justin McRee, Greg Huskey, Marcus, Minga, Jason Britton, Ruben Mayfield, Michael Blount, Ronnie Johnson, Ryan King, Ross White, Adam Gauldin, Will Roland, Matthew Turner, Anthony White.