NEWTON, NC (May 6, 2018) – To say the Cloer Construction 300 was a wild affair at Hickory Motor Speedway on Saturday night would have been an understatement. 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, while Bobby McCarty outran some of the country’s best racers to claim his second career CARS Tour triumph on the late model stock side.
SUPER LATE MODEL RECAP
Brandon Setzer captured the Mahle Pistons Pole Award following two rounds of Fivestar Bodies Knockout Qualifying to earn the right to start from the front row 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 6.
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 one of the most heart-pounding sequence of events seen at Hickory Motor Speedway in decades.
On the restart, Raphael Lessard and Chris 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 by 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.
Two weeks after a gut-wrenching defeat at Orange County Speedway, Brandon 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 offense 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 career 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 in Edelbrock Victory Lane while looking at his upper quarterpanel which was covered in tire marks from a competitor’s right front tire who climbed over him just moments before. “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, Brandon Setzer hastily emerged from his racecar 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 Tate Fogleman.
LATE MODEL STOCK RECAP
For the second time in his career, Ty Gibbs ran a lap quick enough to place him on the Hedgecock Pole Position following the late model stock car version of Fivestar Bodies 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 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 Josh Berry, Tommy Lemons, Lee Pulliam and Deac McCaskill to claim his second win of the season by nearly two seconds over and extended his advantage in the CARS Response Energy Tour points.
“That was tough,” McCarty said while leaning drenched in sweat in Edelbrock Victory Lane. “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.”
The CARS Tour resumes action at Bristol Motor Speedway as part of the US Short Track Nationals on May 18-20, 2018. Following a visit to Bristol, the tour’s respective divisions visit Anderson Motor Speedway (SLM) and Ace Speedway (LMSC) on June 9.
For more information on the CARS Tour, visit their website at www.carsracingtour.com. Fresh content and updates can also be found on the series Facebook page (@carstour), Twitter (@carstour), Instagram (@cars_tour), Snapchat (@carstour) and Youtube channel (/carstour). The series Roku app is also available for installation to see live and on-demand events by following the instructions available at www.carstour.tv.
NOTES OF INTEREST:
– Defending NASCAR National Champion Lee Pulliam uncharacteristically qualified in in the back of the top 20 for the late model stock race, then chose to make adjustments to the car during the impound time, forcing him to start at the tail. Pulliam also pitted in the mid-stages of the race for more adjustments before charging to fourth in the final stages to claim yet another top five finish in only his fourth CRET start.
– ARCA Racing Series part-timer Chandler Smith more closely resembled a pinball during the final laps. With less than ten to go, he climbed the left rear of eventual winner Dilbeck’s car. Then, he spun into the inside wall while racing to the caution flag following the Lessard and Setzer incident. The damage was minimal, and he then spun following the checkered flag after contact with Anthony Cataldi… all while finishing second.
– Late-race leader Craig Moore slowed soon after being passed by Bobby McCarty in the late model stock race, coming to pit road with an apparent mechanical issue just 23 laps shy of the finish. At Orange County, Moore broke an axle and another issue bit his No. 1 team at Hickory.
CARS Super Late Model Tour
Cloer Construction 300
Hickory Motor Speedway – May 6, 2018
POS NUM DRIVER LAPS REASON OUT
14. 16 Molly Helmuth 143 Accident
15. 54 Matt Craig 141 Accident
16. 01 Jake Crum 139 Parked / DQ
17. 2 Darrell Gilchrist 43 Accident
18. 2R Bradley Riethmeyer 27 Mechanical
CARS Late Model Stock Tour
Cloer Construction 300
Hickory Motor Speedway – May 6, 2018
POS NUM DRIVER LAPS REASON OUT
3.27Tommy Lemons, Jr.150
15.5cDexter Canipe, Jr.150
21. 44 Will Burns 138 Accident
22. 1m Craig Moore 127 Mechanical
23. 2d Chris Denny 86 Accident
24. 14 Ryan Repko 39 Accident
25. 2 Cody Haskins 33 Accident
Credit: Pit Row Media
Photo Credits: Glen Starek, Andy Marquis