With just over ten laps to go, Modified rookie Caleb Heady had Southeast Modified aces and a NASCAR Hall of Famer looking to steal a win at Florence Motor Speedway. However, the Kentucky driver would not be denied.
In just his second-ever Tour-Type Modified start for Tommy Baldwin Racing, Heady fended off a charge from 2000 NASCAR Cup Series champion Bobby Labonte to take the SMART Modified Tour win in South Carolina.
After setting fast time in qualifying, he saved his tires for the majority of the event before taking the lead from Burt Myers with 20 laps to go. After a pair of late cautions, he was left to fend off a field of drivers with fresh tires.
Heady couldn’t believe what he had just accomplished after making it to victory lane.
“This is the top, I can’t believe this. I think when that last caution came out, I was saying am I really leading right now?” Heady said on the Speed51.TV broadcast. “I couldn’t believe it.”
Heady has come far since his first Modified test session held earlier in the year at Carteret County Speedway, when he crashed. He looked back on that test session and the progress he has made both physically and mentally behind the wheel.
“As soon as it happened I went to the hotel and I thought to myself I can’t let this scare me. I got back in the car the next day and immediately picked it back up. This is a dream come true.”
It was a case of too little, too late for Labonte in the final laps of Saturday’s race. After hanging out towards the rear most of the race, he took his one new tire with 12 laps to go and made a charge towards the front.
After restarting in the latter parts of the top-ten in the final restart, he finished the race just under three-tenths behind Heady at the checkered.
“He was good, congratulations to them for winning. I thought we played the strategy right with getting that right rear tire on it, but you can always sit there and say we can wait on it a little bit. You really have to manage them and the last time I didn’t really manage them quite as good.
He was just a tick quicker on the get-go than I was on the restart but I was trying to make sure I kept the No.1 (Burt Myers) or No.15 (Brian Loftin) behind me. I just needed to be smart about it, I wasn’t sure about how hard to go. It was a lot of fun and after last weekend, coming back with four wheels is sweet.”
Brian Loftin, Gary Putnam and Burt Myers rounded out the top-five.
-Story by: Koty Geyer, Speed51 National Correspondent – Twitter: @kgeyer3
-Photo Credit: SMART Modified Tour
Smart Modified Tour Results:
- Caleb Heady
- Bobby Labonte
- Brian Loftin
- Gary Putnam
- Burt Myers
- John Smith
- Brandon Ward
- Jason Myers
- Dennis Holdren
- Tim Brown
- Jeremy Gerstner
- Bryan Dauzat
- Mike Norman
- Daniel Yates
- Brody Jones
- Brian Weber