Matt McCall rebounded from a spin near the halfway mark of the Thanksgiving Classic at Southern National Motorsports Park (NC) to take the win in the 200-lap Late Model Stock Car crown jewel, outdueling hometown hero Deac McCaskill for his second-straight win in the event.
The spin came on lap 101, as McCall was collected in a chain-reaction incident. Ryan Wilson spun exiting turn two just in front of the leaders, and McCall spun in the ensuing chaos. The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series crew chief by trade, battling with Bobby McCarty for second at the time, now faced restarting at the rear of the field for being involved in the incident.
“They paid money at [lap] 100, and I got a little greedy trying to get that money,” McCall explained. “It put me in a bad spot. I knew there was enough laps to fight and try to get our position back.”
“I just started to pick them up,” McCall said. “I tried to save a little bit, but there wasn’t much saving for the last run there.”
Deac McCaskill led the way from the start, as the four-time track champion and 2006 Thanksgiving Classic winner set the pace. The veteran racer worked to pace himself, saving tires and equipment for a potential final battle with one of the many big names in the field.
“We had a great car,” McCaskill said. “The car really came to life when the sun went down and we got four tires. I just rode and rode and rode and rode because I knew those guys were all smart racers. Matt McCall, Philip Morris, Bobby McCarty, Bradley [McCaskill, Deac’s cousin], they know what to do. When you’re leading like that, you’ve got to set a pace. You can’t go too fast, so I just rode.”
However, he found himself in McCall’s crosshairs in the closing laps.
“I knew what kind of times I run,” McCaskill said. “After every caution the car was just flawless. We got that big lead. They kept telling me, ‘Matt’s up to third. Matt’s up to second.’ It was just time to go. I took off, he took off.”
In the end, battles with lapped traffic allowed McCall to close in, before taking the lead with two laps to go.
“Fortunately, it went green,” McCall said about the final 30-lap run to the finish. “I think all the [lapped] guys giving the outside was a huge advantage for me. I got to practice about six or seven restarts on the outside.”
“Lapped cars hurt me a bit, but that’s just racing,” McCaskill said. “There wasn’t nothing I could do. I tried to get around them as quick as I can. I slipped a few times, and Matt was able to capitalize. I just had one little wiggle off turn four, and he got his nose underneath me. I wasn’t going to go in there and wreck us both.”
Even after McCall took the lead, he had one final episode of drama. McCall collected the outside wall on the backstretch on the final lap, giving McCaskill one more shot at the win. McCaskill was unable to capitalize, and McCall held on for the $20,000 payday.
“That’s how Deac races,” McCall said. “He raced me clean at the end when I really pile-drove the fence on the backstretch there. I got loose off two, and I was like, there’s no reason to lift, it’s just gonna get ugly. I just drove it into the fence, and it was enough to get the victory.”
“He got into the wall on the backstretch and I had another great run on him,” McCaskill said about the final lap. “I was already committed to the high side, and it was all over.
“I’ve got to sleep on this all winter,” McCaskill added. “That was $20,000. It was still a great run, got the pole, got halfway. I’m real proud of my team. I just don’t know what else to say.”
Bradley McCaskill finished third behind his cousin, while 2018 CARS Response Energy Late Model Stock Tour champion Bobby McCarty finished fourth. Layne Riggs, son of 1999 Thanksgiving Classic winner Scott Riggs, rounded out the top five.
Race fans who missed Sunday’s Thanksgiving Classic can relive the action with our Trackside Now live updates from the race. Click here to view the Trackside Now page from the Thanksgiving Classic.
-Story by: Zach Evans, Speed51.com Southeast Editor – Twitter: @ztevans
-Photo credit: Speed51.com
Thanksgiving Classic Unofficial Results
Southern National Motorsports Park (NC) – November 25, 2018
|32||23||Terry Brooks, Jr.|