The historic Hickory Motor Speedway is set to return to racing this weekend with Paramount Automotive Twin 51s for Late Model Stocks Cars. A large field of top talent is expected for the event on Saturday, with several track champions expected to be in attendance for the pay-per-view broadcast on Speed51.
2017 Hickory Motor Speedway track champion Ryan Millington can already call himself a winner at the “Birthplace of the NASCAR Stars,” having swept Twin features at the season opener on March 7. He joined “The Bullring” in advance of Saturday night’s event.
“That first race of the year we definitely learned what we’ve got to work on. Even though we won both races there’s still work that’s needed to be done on the car,” Millington said. “Heck, we’ve gone to the track ten, 15 times practicing, just working and trying to get better. We found a lot of speed we didn’t have that first race.”
At a track that has had names like Earnhardt, Jarrett, Johnson, Gant and Ingram go on and win track championships, Millington not only joins those names as a champion, but he is also the youngest to ever do so at Hickory. He is back to go after a second title in 2020, while chasing points at another North Carolina track.
“Winning that championship in 2017, it was really an honor. Me and Charlie Watson battled hard that year for that championship. We won 10 races and probably qualified on 11 or 12 poles. We had an awesome year that year. We haven’t been back for a full season at Hickory since and I think this year we’re going to try to run the whole year over there this year, and at the same time run at Ace full-time. We’re going to have a busy schedule but we’re going to go for it again.”
His run after a second title was off to a strong start after sweeping twin features to open the 2020 racing season at Hickory. Millington says it’s important to start strong when going after a championship.
“The big thing is the first seven or eight races really sets the tone for the season for you. If you go out and have a good start to the year it really makes the rest of your year easy. Being prepared and having a good seven or eight races will really help a lot. So far, for that first race we got two wins, that’s a great start for us.”
While an entry list has yet to be released for Saturday’s Twin-51s, a strong field of Late Model Stock stars are expected, with up to seven former track champions potentially taking part. Twin features at Hickory often pull in one of the strongest fields in all of Late Model Stock racing, and Saturday appears to be no different.
“Anytime you go to Hickory for those Twin races it’s going to be a difficult field, you never know who’s going to be there at the front,” he said. “We’ve been fortunate to have been halfway consistent there, it’s really a tough place to tame. That track is so old and so abrasive. You go and have a good car one week, and then the next week it’s not that great and you’ve got to change a lot at practice to get it good. That place is definitely very demanding as far as setup perspective and driver’s perspective.”
With the season set to resume, Milington is itching to get back to the track. Even though it will a crowd-less event, he believes a return to racing will be good for fans and drivers alike.
“We’ve been sitting around not knowing what to do. To get back to the track this weekend, fans or no fans, it’s a step in the right direction. The last two months, there’s been nothing going on besides a little bit of practicing. Just to be able to get back to the track and race with other people is going to be a good thing in my opinion.”
Click here to order your pay-per-view ticket for Saturday’s historic event at Hickory Motor Speedway, and remember to use the coupon code “HICKORY” to save $5 on your purchase.
Fans who missed Millington’s interview can watch a replay of “The Bullring” by clicking here.
-Story by: Koty Geyer, Speed51 National Correspondent – Twitter: @kgeyer3
-Photo Credit: Speed51 Photo