HICKORY, N.C. – After nearly a dozen laps of pushing, shoving and heated tempers, Chris Dilbeck survived to capture his first CARS Response Energy Tour win in the super late model division Saturday at Hickory Motor Speedway.
Bobby McCarty outran some of the country’s best racers to claim his second career CARS Tour triumph on the late model stock side.
Brandon Setzer captured the super late model pole following two rounds of knockout qualifying to earn the right to start from the pole for the 150-lap contest, which opened the Cloer Construction 300. Setzer led the opening five circuits before yielding the top spot to Chris Dilbeck on lap six.
For nearly 120 laps, drivers patiently swapped positions back and forth on the .363-mile oval as the laps slowly wound down. A spin by Taylor Stricklin on lap 120 set the stage for 30 laps of mayhem.
On the restart, Raphael Lessard and Dilbeck raced into the first turn while trading paint with one another until Dilbeck narrowly emerged as the leader. He held that spot despite heavy pressure until Jake Crum and Tate Fogleman got into a tussle on lap 139 which brought out the caution flag yet again.
Soon after the restart, Brandon Setzer muscled his way to the lead around Dilbeck and Lessard on lap 143, but the six-car pack of aggressively racing drivers allowed Lessard to slide into the lead just one lap later. The other five drivers in the lead battle continually pushed, shoved and nearly wrecked their cars over the final half dozen circuits.
Setzer reeled in Lessard after navigating the on-track calamity just in time to attempt a last-lap pass for the win. He made contact with Lessard in turn one, sending the Kyle Busch Motorsports Toyota up the hill, allowing him to take the lane and scurry to the lead.
Seconds later, however, Lessard drove into turn three to repay the favor and Setzer spun in front of the field. Caution quickly waved, but not before Chandler Smith nearly totaled his car in the inside wall after making contact with Lessard on a last-ditch effort to race to the line for what he thought was the finish.
With a green-white-checkered restart on the docket, Lessard was placed at the tail for his contact with Setzer, leaving Chandler Smith and Dilbeck on the front row. Again, the top racers leaned on each other in a highly physical race for the trophy, resulting in Dilbeck leading the field into turn three on the final circuit.
Smith attempted to upset the No. 9 of Dilbeck and was able to move him, but the maneuver was not enough to secure the victory as a three-wide race to the checkered flag resulted in Dilbeck’s first CARS Response Energy Tour win.
“I didn’t think it was going to happen because these kids, they don’t have to fix their own stuff and they think it’s okay to run over everybody, but it got to ’em tonight,” Dilbeck said. “It was tough there at the end and we struggled for about five laps until we were good to go, but I’m out of breath; that’s the hardest ten laps I’ve ever driven I think. We had the best car. That’s why I was so frustrated. My spotter and crew chief calmed me down, said it would come back to us, and it did. I was willing for them to just lay over and not have to fight, but I guess they wanted to fight for it, so we fought.”
Although all of Dilbeck’s battles were fought on-track, other events were transpiring behind him. Following the cooldown lap, Setzer hastily emerged from his race car and sprinted the length of the frontstretch to Raphael Lessard’s pit where a scuffle ensued. Drivers, crew members and fans all engaged one another briefly until order was restored.
Smith managed to hold on for second, followed by Jared Fryar, Anthony Cataldi and Fogleman.
In the late model stock car class, Ty Gibbs earned the pole in knockout qualifying. The teenage grandson of NASCAR owner and Super Bowl winning football coach Joe Gibbs led the opening 40 laps of the event until former track champion Austin McDaniel took the point on lap 41.
McDaniel paced the midportion of the event through an assortment of minor cautions for spins and similar issues. Soon after a restart on lap 73, Craig Moore motored to the front of the field and paced the pack for the next 38 laps.
Moore fended off challengeds from McDaniel, Josh Berry, Tommy Lemons Jr. and others through restarts on lap 81, 86 and lap 95 before the final green flag of the night flew on lap 117.
While Moore was racing for the lead, point leader Bobby McCarty quietly carved his way through the top five and restarted fourth with just over 30 laps to go. Soon after the restart, he passed last August’s Hickory winner Justin Carroll and set his sights on McDaniel and Moore as they raced side by side for the race lead.
McCarty made his maneuver look easy, gluing his Toyota to the yellow line on the bottom of the track and bypassing both drivers within just a few corners to take control of the race on lap 118.
McCarty withstood challenges from Berry, Lemons, Lee Pulliam and Deac McCaskill to claim his second win of the season by nearly two seconds.
“That was tough,” McCarty said. “Those last 30 laps I gave it all I had, I didn’t have nothing left. I was driving away but the 88 (Josh Berry) was coming, and I definitely wanted to make sure I was out ahead of him so that in case he got to second I could go ahead and get gone.
“I really have to thank all my guys at Nelson Motorsports,” he continued. “We’re family. This isn’t a business. This is personal. We want to win races and we want to do it together and we want to succeed as a team. I think that’s what makes our team so good is that it’s personal.”
Super Late Model: Chris Dilbeck, Chandler Smith, Jared Fryar, Anthony Cataldi, Tate Fogleman, Jeff Batten, Tyler Church, Cory Heim, Taylor Stricklin, Wayne Jefferson, Brandon Setzer, Raphael Lessard, Blaise Rutherford, Molly Helmuth, Matt Craig, Jake Crum, Darrell Gilchrist, Bradley Riethmeyer.
Late Model Stock: Bobby McCarty, Josh Berry, Tommy Lemons Jr., Lee Pulliam, Deac McCaskill, Ronald Hill, Sam Mayer, Justin Carroll, Layne Riggs, Cole Glasson, Ty Gibbs, Grayson Cullather, Trevor Ward, Charlie Watson, Dexter Canipe Jr., Austin McDaniel, Brandon Pierce, Jacob Heafner, Bradley McCaskill, Ryan Millington, Will Burns, Craig Moore, Chris Denny, Ryan Repko, Cody Haskins.