Earlier this week, Sam Yarbrough said his main goal for the 2020 season is to claim his sixth track championship at Myrtle Beach Speedway.
If he is able to accomplish that feat in the track’s final season, he will be able to point to Saturday night as a cornerstone moment in the championship.
After a collision with Ryan Wilson took him out of the first twin feature of the evening, Yarbrough and his team repaired the car in time for the second race. From there, the Shallotte, North Carolina native blitzed the field, driving through the pack and dominating the nightcap.
The win was a special and rewarding one for Yarbrough after the hard work his team went through to answer the call for the final race of the night.
“It was a lot of fun, really,” Yarbrough told Speed51. “I have to give a hat’s off to my guys for getting this thing back into actual driving shape. It was pretty beat up. The right-front was completely laid over, adjusted camber, rebuilt the air box, pretty much rebuilt the whole nose of the car.
“That’s pretty special, to be able to go through a wreck like that and tear up as much stuff as we did and to be able to come back and dominate the field, it feels pretty good. That’s probably how the first race would have gone. We just didn’t get to show it, unfortunately, but we got to in the second race.”
Yarbrough started 10th in the first race, by rule after sweeping the twin features during the first points event of the 2020 season in March before COVID-19 shut down racing. He was working his way through the field before contact with Ryan Wilson.
The two drivers met on the frontstretch, squeezing Yarbrough into the outside wall just shy of the start-finish line. The two made contact again exiting turn two, ending Yarbrough’s night and dashing Wilson’s shot at a win.
Wilson took blame for the initial contact, saying he was unaware Yarbrough had pulled alongside him exiting turn four.
“I didn’t realize the 95 was on the outside of me, and he was,” said Wilson. “At the same time, there should have been some give and take there. That does explain why he tore my car up getting into turn one.
“It’s still very disappointing, when I was just trying to ride. I had absolutely no idea he was up to my quarter. A little give and take on lap five on both of our parts would have done us some good.”
Yarbrough was still miffed by the incident, feeling Wilson’s instincts as a veteran racer should have made him more aware of his surroundings.
“I was all the way up to his door, and he just slammed me in the wall,” said Yarbrough after the first race. “He came over and apologized and said his spotter never spotted him. He said the spotter didn’t say anything. He came over and apologized, which doesn’t really mean anything. You’ve raced as long as he has, you know someone’s on your outside. You can hear it, you can feel it.”
A pair of Yarbrough’s most likely title contenders also collided while battling for the lead in the first race. Will Burns and Justin Milliken made contact in turns three and four while battling for the top spot coming to the white flag.
Milliken had taken the lead after slight contact between Weatherford and Burns, making a three-wide pass for the top spot. Milliken then positioned himself on the outside lane for momentum on the run to the finish, leaving the 2018 track champion feeling he left plenty of room for Burns.
“The 94 [of Weatherford] and 41 [of Burns] were bouncing off each other, and we squirted through three-wide on the bottom. I felt like we had the race won. I gave [Burns] plenty of room. I was running the top lane on both ends, giving him plenty of room, because I knew I just needed to be on the outside coming to the checkered flag.
“We went down into three, and he just come up the racetrack and hooked me in the left-rear, turned me in front of the field. We’re just fortunate we didn’t tear it up. We’re just a family team doing this for fun. These guys are professionals, but they aren’t driving like professionals tonight.”
Burns had been battling an ill-handling race car, with the rear-end failing on the machine. He was unsure what led to the contact with Milliken, but knew he had his hands full inside the race car.
“We broke the rear-end. The locker was going out all day in practice. That’s where my loose was coming from. I felt it off of [turn] two just completely give. The car turned completely sideways and it was no good after that. It sucks that those guys even caught us, but I got into the corner with the 02 over here.
“I’m not sure what happened. I know it looks like I spun him out. I don’t have any marks on the nose. If I touched him, it wasn’t intentional, it was just hard racing. My car was very ill-handling after the rear-end broke.”
When the dust had settled, Jamie Weatherford took the checkered flag in the first twin feature of the evening. Weatherford was thankful to come away with a win after the chaos surrounding him.
“Before all that happened on one of the restarts, I got into the 41 in three and four. I just overshot the corner, the car wouldn’t turn. I felt bad about that, because I got into the door of him, lifted and let him go. We might have had a second or third place car. It’s the first time we’ve gotten lucky in a long time.”
Burns came back for the second race to finish second, while Milliken came home fifth. Still, scoring the win over his title contenders after their shared struggles in the first race was critical for Yarbrough’s championship hopes.
“That first race, I figured we were done because it’s a shortened schedule, you can’t have mistakes. I think the 41 and 02 finished terribly, there were a couple of other wrecks. If we can come out on top after facing some adversity, that’s pretty special.”
Race fans who missed Saturday’s racing at Myrtle Beach Speedway can click here to watch an on-demand replay of the event.
-Story by: Zach Evans, Speed51 Content Supervisor – Twitter: @ztevans
-Photo credit: Speed51 Photo