ATWOOD, Tenn. — On Monday night, Memorial Day became special for Derek Hagar in more ways than one.
Hagar, the defending United Sprint Car Series charged from third on the grid around K&N polesitter and 10-time USCS champion Terry Gray on lap two of the 30-lap “Memorial Day Meltdown” at Clayhill Motorsports, never looking back and racing to victory despite two cautions, a green-white-checkered finish and repeated challenges from his longtime mentor Marshall Skinner.
The victory was Hagar’s third straight in three USCS Sprint Speedweek events and his 26th career USCS feature win, moving him past Skinner and into sole possession of fourth on the all-time wins list.
“This…wow,” Hagar said. “(Marshall) gave me a heck of a fight. He’s one of the few guys that can work that bottom groove the whole race like he did. We got real tight there near the end; I was actually really worried when that last caution came out. We got so tight as the run wore on I didn’t think we would have enough to hang on those last two laps. I was just glad it was Marshall we were racing. It’s perfect that it was him behind me tonight.”
The win was made even more special by the fact that it came on the birthday of Hagar’s late father, who passed in 2010 and was a longtime supporter of the young gun’s racing efforts.
“This is two years in a row now that we’ve won on my dad’s birthday, and I know he’d be smiling at all this,” Hagar added, emotion evident in his voice. “What a special night.”
Skinner, also out of Marion, came home second after starting fifth and came right to victory lane to congratulate his protégé and former shop mate.
“That kid right there, he’s the real deal,” Skinner said. “He’s like my little brother; I knew he would break my mark eventually. It wasn’t a matter of if, but when. I’m just glad I was able to make him earn it tonight. I thought maybe we could get him, but he had just enough there at the end. He’s done so well. He says he’s learned a lot from me, and I appreciate that. I think it’s something that works both ways. This is his night though; we’ll take second tonight.”
Brandon Hanks, Terry Gray and Joey Moughan rounded out the top five.