THOMAS: The Racing Industry Needs More Dillon Motor Speedwaysby Hunter Thomas September 26, 2016 0 comments
DILLON, S.C. – Dillon Motor Speedway’s season is nearing its close, but on Saturday night, competitors in all of the track’s seven divisions certainly put on a show for the fans in the stands.
This season, I’ve spent much of my time working in the professional ranks of the country’s motorsports world. In year’s past, my schedule primarily consisted of short track racing, but that’s just not how this year has worked out; however, as soon as I walked through the gates at Dillon Motor Speedway this weekend to commentate, it was like a beat was never skipped. I was welcomed by everyone who saw me, and it was just a good ol’ fall Saturday night in Dillon County.
These days, it seems that folks in the industry are too worried about what upsets them, rather than finding enjoyment of what’s on the track in front of them. After the races this past weekend, I don’t think that there was anyone, who left the track complaining about the racing at Dillon Motor Speedway. Returning to the grassroots level on Saturday night was just so refreshing for me, but I certainly had no idea what was in store for the night of racing.
To kick the night off, Four Cylinder drivers, Kevin Jackson and Wayne Locklair battled back and forth for the win. Late in the race, the two drivers got together, sending Locklair spinning. Jackson went on to win, and Locklair raced his heart out to finish a close second. Soon to follow in the Super Truck feature, Billy Hogan and Clay Thomas went head-to-head for an incredible finish. Hogan went on to win his first race at the track, and Thomas finished a close second. However, the Four Cylinders and the Super Truck features were just the beginning of quite a night in Dillon County.
The Street Stock drivers took the competition to an entirely different level. As the field lined up on the frontstretch for driver intros, track owner and promoter, Ron Barfield and CSI Mortuary Services put up some extra cash for the top drivers to start from the rear. Soon to follow were multiple other sponsors. There were so many sponsors putting up money that I can’t even begin to tell you how it all tallied up. Pole sitter Jeff Melton, Sonny Schoffen, Wayne Locklair and Greg Barnette agreed to start at the rear for an extra bunddle of cash. Their only request: five extra laps. With the top-four drivers starting in the back of a stout 15-car field, the incredible chain of events set the stage for an awesome finish.
On the first lap, several drivers crashed exiting Turn 4. Included was Melton, who sustained extensive damage, but he was able to continue and compete for the win. As the race played out, the four guys, who started from the back dodged wrecks and navigated their way towards the front.
Ricky Locklair Jr. was able to set sail and easily win the 30-lap feature. Melton battled back for a second place finish, and after the race, he performed his signature burnout for the fans, who came out to watch the event. I don’t know about y’all, but I’ve never been to a race, where the runner-up driver performed a burnout just because he felt like it. When I talked with Melton just outside of Victory Lane, he said that he did it because the fans wanted to see it. Now that’s pretty cool if you ask me!
As for Greg Barnette and Wayne Locklair, who started from the back, they finished third and fifth. Sonny Schoffen finished seventh. Although the three drivers came up just short, coming through a stout pack of cars was quite impressive.
JR Moore, William Haynie and Brian Owens kept the fans on their feet during the Charger feature, and Late Model drivers, Justin Hicks and Ben Stanton also put on one great show in their 50-lap feature.
Hicks went on to win the Late Model race, and Stanton finished in second. Emotions were high after the race, but it reinforced the passion that all racers have deep in their soul. There were only nine cars in the feature, just a little low from the number of driver, who usually compete at the track but all it took were two drivers battling hard up front to create edge-of-your-seat excitement.
Bill Willis won the Mini Cup feature, and the speedway crowned Aiden Hetu, a 13-year old kid as the 2016 Carolina Eastern Mini Cup Association (CEMCA) champion. I don’t know what I was doing at the age of 13 but it certainly wasn’t winning championships.
To conclude the night, the racetrack hosted the Banger division. The division is primarily for individuals to get some seat time and compete alongside of a few veteran drivers. There was great racing, and in the end, Matt Carter took the checkered flag.
I don’t know about y’all, who witnessed the racing in person, but Saturday night’s competition at Dillon Motor Speedway felt like the way it should be every night at every track in the country. Everyone worked together, and the fans were placed first. We all work hard during the week so that we can provide for our families and enjoy the weekends. There’s enough stress and rioting in the world that we don’t need that dysfunction to carry over to the places that we love to enjoy. So, the next time that you’re at a racetrack, how about buy some concessions, sit down or carry out your job, cheer for a driver and enjoy the night. Don’t make something simple too complicated.