Rusty Harpe was a racer. Those who got to race against him before his passing in 2007 spoke of his character and how much of a competitor he was on the track, as well as a friend off the track. At the young age of 15, Ty Gibbs is hoping to become that type of racer, and on Saturday night he added to his young legacy by winning the Rusty Harpe Memorial at Caraway Speedway (NC).
The Rusty Harpe Memorial race has seen many different stories over the years. Entering the 12th running in 2018, there had been nine different winners in 11 runnings of the race. Only BJ Mackey had won the race more than once, and he did it on three different occasions.
Over the years some of Late Model racing's biggest stars have won the show at Caraway. That list includes names like Lee Pulliam, Tommy Lemons Jr. and Kaz Grala.
Like the former winner's list, the 2018 show featured both young talent and crafty veterans. In the end, the youth outlasted the veterans and Ty Gibbs became the 10th different winner in the history of the race.
The focal point of the race came when Tommy Lemons Jr. finally got a good run on Gibbs for the lead off of turn two. The pair touched and Gibbs went up the hill, giving Lemons the lead for one turn. Gibbs went down into the next corner and used his bumper, leading to a spin cycle for Lemon's No. 27.
From there Gibbs had to hold off Ryan Millington, who won the track title at Hickory Motor Speedway (NC) in 2017. While Gibbs was occupied holding off Millington, Lemons worked his way back to third as fans anticipated fireworks on the race track.
Ultimately, Gibbs was able to inch away from Millington and Lemons was dead in the water after his tires gave up, allowing Gibbs to cruise to the checkered flag.
Victory lane was abbreviated as Gibbs went to Lemons to apologize about the contact that took Lemons out of a quest for the win.
“I got into Tommy there, that was totally my fault,” Gibbs admitted after the race in Victory Lane. “I locked the tires up cause I got into there so hard. I didn’t want to wreck him. I felt so bad afterwards. We had a great run and I love this place, it’s probably one of my favorite places to race.”
In victory lane, the young Gibbs was reminded that his uncle and dad has raced at Caraway, but neither had won races.
“That’s neat,” Gibbs stated. “It really means a lot to win this race. We came out and really got better here last year and ended up fourth and today we got redemption for that night because we set fast time and this time we got the win. “
Lemons, who makes limited starts nowadays, wasn’t upset with the result. Instead, he was just happy to be racing in the Rusty Harpe Memorial.
“I just come out to support the Harpe family tonight,” Lemons said. “I loved Rusty to death and I wish he was with us here tonight. We didn’t have a good car after qualifying and these guys worked their butts off to make us fast. We got to race with Ty and I got into him and he got into me. That’s just racing.”
Sandwiched between the two drivers was one of the quietest success stories in Late Model Stocks today: Ryan Millington.
Millington posted the runner-up finish in the historic event.
“This was a fun weekend and hopefully we can come back and win one soon,” Millington said after the race. We were down a little bit on power, but overall a good night.”
-Story by Elgin Traylor, Speed51.com Southeast Correspondent - Twitter: @ElginTraylor
-Photo credit: Speed51.com
Rusty Harpe Memorial Winners
2018 Ty Gibbs
2017 Mason Diaz
2016 Josh Berry
2015 Tommy Lemons Jr.
2014 Kaz Grala
2013 BJ Mackey
2012 Lee Pulliam
2011 BJ Mackey
2010 Dan Moore
2009 Alex Yontz
2008 BJ Mackey
2007 Robert Tyler