As forecasted throughout much of the week, Saturday’s weather was supposed to be perfect. Unlike last week’s event at Lancaster, the weather threat was near zero percent for Saturday. However, when Saturday rolled around, Mother Nature had written a completely different story. Rain threatened the event for most of the day, with a heavy shower accenting pre-race activities. Actually, for some drivers, the rain was an added benefit to help make create a racier track. Yet, for the second week in a row, several cars fell victim to mechanical problems, overheating engines, tire failures, and this week – crashes.
Earl Pearson, Jr. of Jacksonville, FL appeared for the event since the Lucas Oil Series was idle for Easter weekend. He was fastest in hot laps, but was not able to clinch the fastest qualifier for the event. That nod went to Roanoke Rapids, NC “Wild Child” Willie Millken, who was the only one of 28 entrants to crack the 16 seconds bracket during time-trials, at 16.823.
Milliken took the lead on the opening lap in a battle with Earl Pearson, Jr, but a caution in turn one halted the event. The second attempt was to the advantage of “The Hurricane” with a second caution halting the event once again. This time a serious crash involving Casey Barrow, Doug Sanders and Johnny Pursley caused damage to their machines. All were able to continue, but Sanders and Barrow pitted after lap two, along with Kyle Pierce, who had engine problems. While Milliken was able to maintain the lead, more cars fell out with mechanical issues, including Tim Allen, Roger Lucas, Kevin Wilson, and Jeff Smith.
The most serious incident of the evening involved the point leader Ross Bailes. Transferring into the feature by virtue of a heat race win, Bailes was battle with Dustin Mitchell on lap 14 when the cars came together in turn two. Bailes car slowly slid up and over the turn two bank, but the transition off of the banking caused his car to slow-roll onto its top. Bailes was okay, but he and Mitchell were both out by lap 19. After a long green-flag run, Milliken appeared to be on his way to victory.
After taking the signal for two laps to go, Milliken approached the backstretch with a different look. His #1 Price Construction Longhorn seemed to be loosing grip and appeared to lose momentum entering turn three. Franklin quickly closed and capitalized on it. Franklin took the white flag and found his chance on the bottom as Milliken drifted high in turn two. Franklin powered past Milliken and held off a turn three charge to collect the win by 0.788 seconds. Chris Ferguson, Earl Pearson, Jr. and Donald Bradsher all provided the fans with some great racing for the rest of the top five.
Hard Charger of the Race Anthony Sanders notched his best finish of the season with a 6th place run from his 19th place starting position. Dean Bowen collected a 7th place finish and inherits the lead in the Carolina Clash point standings. Another rookie to Carolina Clash racing Greg Clark finished 8th, while Johnny Pursley and Forrest, VA driver Mark Parks, driving the JC Clary automobile rounded out the top 10.
Entering the Fayetteville race, Ricky Weeks was on his way to a successful return to Carolina Clash racing, but an engine problem during the qualifying was discovered and Weeks left the scene before the heat races and did make the feature.
Defending champion Ben Watkins of Rock Hill, SC continues to experience early woes with a 12th place finish, having retired from the event just past halfway. Watkins and Rookie of the Year driver Brett Hamm were both having strong runs until pulling off after 29 laps.
After three consecutive weeks of racing, the will go on a hiatus until May 7, 2016 with a return to Cherokee Speedway in Gaffney, SC for the first of four stops there in 2016.
The Carolina Clash series would like to congratulate Hoosier Racing Tires for their return to Carolina Clash Victory Lane on the Dennis Franklin Longhorn machine sponsored by M&W Towing and Transport and C&D Properties.
FIN. START CAR# DRIVER HOMETOWN/CHASSIS LAPS