“Everyone told me that if I kept my four fenders clean, I would finish strong,” the 15-year-old said. “The care might be a little beat up, but that’s racing.”
Few cars left the .555-mile track unscathed, although the first caution didn’t fly until lap 33. Polesitter Justin Boston led the first 59 laps of the race until Daytona winner John Wes Townley made his move to the front. A flurry of pit stops and different tire strategies kept changing the look at the front of the field. Townley led until lap 98 when Frank Kimmel moved to the front and stayed there until lap 143 when Townley – this time after pit stops – regained the lead.
Kimmel took control of the race around the 150-lap mark when several of the eight caution flags fell in a row.
Hessert at one point was a lap down but fought his way back to the front.
“For a while, I don’t think we had anything figured out,” he said. “But, we came together at the end.”
Hessert is the first repeat winner at Salem since Justin Allgaier won the fall race in 2007 and spring race in 2008.
“It’s special being part of the few people who have come here and won back to back on this track,” Hessert said.
Boston ended up ninth after he was involved in a couple of late-race finishes that left him with a banged up race car.
Frank Kimmel, Grant Enfinger, Milka Duno, Boston and Mason Mingus rounded out the top 10.
Mingus had a great run despite going a couple of laps down early. At times he had the fastest car on the track, even passing all of the leaders to gain some of his laps back. He finished three laps down.
Kyle Benjamin placed 11th after having to accept a five-lap penalty for re-entering the track in the wrong location after a pit stop. At the end, he was four laps down.Georgia driver Anderson Bowen, 15, was transported to a local hospital for observation after a hard crash with Josh Williams on lap 107.