Coming into Saturday’s Paramount Kia Big 10 Challenge Series season opener at North Carolina’s Hickory Motor Speedway, 14-year-old Ryan Millington had just a couple Limited Late Model starts in 2015 at another track as his only Late Model experience.
When the checkered flag flew Saturday, he stood alone in Victory Lane, now 1-for-1 in his Late Model Stock Car career, besting veteran racer Dexter Canipe, Jr. and the heavily favored JR Motorsports led by driver Josh Berry, who had already set a new track record in time trials.
It was Berry who garnered the attention throughout the afternoon, and rightfully so. The 25 year old broke a 12-year-old track record with a fast lap of 14.767 seconds to sit on the pole for the 100 lap main event.
After opening up close to a full straight away advantage, Berry watched the young Millington eat away at his lead steadily throughout the late stages of the race before the rookie made the pass and opened up a full second advantage of his own over the final 13 laps to take the win.m
Millington played the patience strategy to perfection, despite a few hiccups on restarts.
“I had some tough restarts but overall it was a great night.” the elated teenager said in his victory lane interview. “I knew we had a really good car, we just had to save it until the end.”
Millington began his run to the front with roughly one-third of the race remaining. After passing Canipe for second place, he ran down Berry from a complete straight-away back, under green, to complete the winning pass on lap 87.
“I’m pretty disappointed. We just ran too hard,” Berry explained to the crowd in attendance. “There was weather in the area so we ran pretty hard at the beginning and I just burned the right-rear (tire) off of it.”
Berry lost the runner-up spot with two laps to go to Canipe, who started and ran inside the top five all race long. After a great early battle with Limited Late Model feature winner Charlie Watson, Canipe was both apologetic and thankful to Watson for sacrificing his own run, and allowing him to finish on the podium.
“I first have to apologize to Charlie Watson.” were the first words uttered by Canipe in his post-race interview after the two made contact just shy of halfway sending Watson around and relegating him to the tail of the field.
“There at the last minute my spotter said ‘door, door, door, door’ and I, I just have to apologize. He did me a favor, he spun himself out to try and stay off of me.”
When asked about beating the likes of Canipe and Berry in his very first LMSC race, Millington could only say, “I’m kind of speechless.”
The next race for the Paramount Kia ‘Big 10’ Challenge Series is Saturday March 12th.
Paramount Kia ‘Big 10’ Challenge Series
|2)||5c||Dexter Canipe Jr|