When it comes to the New Year’s Bash at Dillon Motor Speedway, there is one name that stands out above the rest – Gary Ledbetter, Jr. The question entering the race this weekend is simple: can he be stopped?
Ledbetter has won five times in the marquee Street Stock event’s 10-year history, including the last two runnings of the event in 2019 and 2020. In the 2019 triumph, Ledbetter led from flag to flag in the event.
The North Carolina driver believes he can contend for another win this year in the Street Stock Bash.
“I think we have a good shot at winning, as long as no mechanical failures happen,” Ledbetter told Speed51. “Hopefully we draw good tires. As long as nothing breaks, I think we’ll be alright.”
What makes Ledbetter so dominant in the New Year’s Bash? He believes one factor is the length of the race. Compared to most Street Stock features during the year, which range between 25 and 50 laps, the New Year’s Bash is more than 100 laps long.
This year, the race is 111 laps for the 11th running of the event. Ledbetter is confident his car will be just as strong on lap 111 as it will be on lap one.
“It’s a long race, and our car stays pretty consistent throughout a long race. It usually doesn’t go away. I think that helps quite a bit.”
Ledbetter’s success has not come against weak competition. The $2,500 winner’s payday during the winter months draws Street Stock racers from across the country, hungry to get back on track and go for a big win.
Ledbetter knows the competition will be stout once again, but he tries to focus on what he can control, running well at a track close to home against the invaders.
“I try not to let it bother me too much. It’s pretty unbelievable when you win that race. There’s people who come from all over to that little track in Dillon. We have pretty good success there, and hopefully we can continue it.”
Over the years, the New Year’s Bash has grown from humble beginnings to a major, nationally televised event for Street Stock competitors. Ledbetter admits he is surprised by the growth of the event since its first running, which only had nine starters.
“I went to the first race and watched it. I would have thought more people would have showed up for the money, but there weren’t many cars there. We didn’t know it would grow like this. Every year, it gets bigger and bigger. With it being on MAVTV now, it’s unbelievable. More people can watch it than usual because they can’t travel that far.”
The last two years, fans who watched the New Year’s Bash on Speed51’s Short Track America on MAVTV have seen Ledbetter in victory lane at the end of the race. Ledbetter admits watching his wins on national television has been surreal.
“It’s pretty surreal, really. When you start racing, when you’re young, everyone wants to go to NASCAR. Whenever stuff doesn’t fall in line for that, you’re running Street Stocks, that’s not even a Late Model. That’s a couple of steps below a Late Model.
“When you turn on the TV and see yourself, it’s pretty unbelievable.”
Fans can watch this year’s New Year’s Bash live on Speed51.TV. Click here to watch Sunday’s race live.
-Story by: Zach Evans, Speed51 Content Supervisor – Twitter: @ztevans
-Photo credit: Speed51 Photo