LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – Howard Moore knew that just by taking the green flag in Saturday’s 31st annual Short Track Nationals that he would be the ASCS Mid-South Region champion, but he wanted more.
Moore wanted to cap the season off with what would have been the biggest victory of his career.
After winning the Mike Pack Building Dash to earn the pole for the 41-lap, $10,041-to-win finale feature, he and car owner Mike Ward felt that they had a realistic shot at achieving that goal as well, but it just wasn’t meant to be for the Stinson’s Industrial No. 40 team.
Moore led the first 12 laps of the feature before losing the top spot to eventual winner Blake Hahn on a turn one slide job that took two tries before Hahn finally made it stick. From there, Moore dogged Hahn in and out of traffic for the rest of the feature, but just couldn’t find what he needed to get back by.
“Blake was just better than all of us tonight,” admitted Moore. “We got better towards the end, but I needed to move up my entry into turn three and I didn’t know it, because I didn’t have anyone to judge off of … and he snuck by me.
“I don’t think even a caution would have helped, honestly,” he continued. “He would just jerk me off the corner. The only way I could keep up with him was by keeping my momentum up (off the top lane). He just had more drive than we did.”
In the closing laps, Moore then found himself locked in a torrid battle for the runner-up spot with two-time defending ASCS National Tour champion Sam Hafertepe Jr., eventually losing out on that battle and ending up with the bottom step of the podium – a third-place finish – in the final rundown.
Moore’s battle with Hafertepe was spectacular, though. The duo exchanged the second position at least four times in the final 10 laps before Hafertepe finally worked his way clear with six laps remaining.
“Hafertepe is just a really good driver, but I felt good that I could give him a run for his money,” Moore smiled. “I found a little moisture off turn two, but I just couldn’t get enough drive up off (turn) four to clear him back. It was a ton of fun, though. I enjoyed racing with him.”
In looking at the season box score, a record of two wins, eight top-five and 10 top-10 finishes in 13 races helped Moore secure the championship by more than 100 points over Tim Crawley and Ernie Ainsworth.
“This is pretty cool and it means a ton,” said Moore of winning the title. “We’ve worked hard for this – it’s my first championship in a sprint car – and endured a lot of rough nights to get to this point. The nights that we did finish were up front, though, and that’s what got it done.
“It’s definitely a moment I’ll never forget, for sure.”