Carsyn Gillikin Headlines Carteret County Winners

Carsyn Gillikin in victory lane at Carteret County Speedway. (Andy Marquis photo)
Carsyn Gillikin in victory lane at Carteret County Speedway. (Andy Marquis photo)

PELETIER, N.C. – An electrifying performance from rookie sensation Carsyn Gillikin headlined Saturday night’s season opening Team Chevrolet of Swansboro Shootout at Bobby Watson’s Carteret County Speedway.

Gillikin, 14, from Newport, N.C., qualified in second after showing tremendous potential in practice on Friday night.  Shortly after singing the National Anthem during pre-race festivities, she strapped in her Mini Cup for her first start at Carteret County Speedway.  In the closing laps of the race, she ran down and passed Scotty Benford for the lead and held on to score the victory – a win that was popular with fans and competitors alike.

“I did not think I was going to be able to push that through,” Gillikin said of her daring pass to take the lead.  “I’m super glad that I was able to.  It was definitely a big fight between me and Scotty but it was all worth it in the end and I’m really glad that I have this opportunity to stand right here [in victory lane] right now.  It’s just an honor.”

Benford finished in the second position while Caleb Braswell finished in third.

Gillikin was the youngest winner on Saturday night and was the only rookie to take home a victory.  The oldest winner was Johnny Johnson, who picked up the victory in the East Coast Flathead Ford feature on the eve of his 80th birthday.

“My car is a little bit older than I am and I believe it’s a little bit better than I am,” Johnson said.  “It just drove wonderful.  I want to thank everyone for coming out.  I want to dedicate this win to Jerry Stroud, who lives next door and has put up with me the last couple of days.  I love that family and Richard Wikle’s family.  Those two families adopted me.  I turn 80-years-old tomorrow and did the best I could.”

Aiden Hetu, son of 2019 Carteret County Speedway Most Popular Driver Kris Hetu, flashed past Joseph Bryant on the last lap to score an emotional win in the Mini Cup division.  After the race, he dedicated the victory to his grandfather, Ronnie, who has had health complications recently.  Ronnie Hetu was escorted to victory lane where the Hetu and Bryant teams both savored the moment.

“I just want to dedicate this win to my grandpa,” Aiden Hetu stated in victory lane after the race.  “He’s been going through some hard times and I just wanted to win this race for him because he means the world to me.  This win’s for him.”

The headline race was a Legends doubleheader.  Austin Thompson, who won last fall in the Semi-Pro portion of the INEX Legends Asphalt Nationals, unofficially swept both races.  In the first race, he made the pass on Cody Hall inside 10 laps to go.  In the second race, he was able to pass Jaiden Reyna in the closing stages and survived a series of late race restarts to score the victory.