Ever formidable veteran Travis Swaim captured a wire-to-wire victory in Caraway Speedway’s (NC) season opener Sunday and left it to some of the other drivers in the field to provide the fireworks.
The drama-free victory for Swaim was his third victory in a row, a streak that includes his biggest career win in last November’s Myrtle Beach 400. It is a career-long winning streak for the multi-time Caraway Speedway track champion.
Swaim started first thanks to the post-qualifying redraw of the top-six qualifiers and scooted out to an early lead. All was going smoothly for the field before Dean Fogleman’s spin on lap 33 set up a chain of events that led to controversy and emotion before the season was ten minutes old.
On the subsequent restart, Dalton Sargeant was second to Swaim’s outside and fast qualifier Peyton Sellers was third. Sargeant didn’t get a great restart but figured to have plenty of room to tuck in behind Swaim entering turn one. Yet Sellers was just barely there and fenders were locked, sending Sargeant hard into the inside wall. Sargeant bounced off the wall and then collected Tyler Ankrum and Ryan Wilson spinning back into traffic.
Those three would be done while Sellers’ team managed extensive repairs to get the car back to full song for the second half of the race. Sellers quickly made his way back up to second but never could manage to do anything with Swaim. Swaim cruised to a ten carlength victory on Sellers.
“We built a new car beginning of the year last season,” said Swaim when reflecting on what has led to his hot streak. “It took us about halfway through the year last year to figure it out. But since then we’ve barely turned a bolt on it, whether it be here or Hickory or Myrtle Beach. It also helps that we’ve picked and chosen our races. We’ll keep running here quite a bit, but we made a point to go the big money races last year and it stepped our game up. So we’ll do that again this year, starting with Hickory on the 28th.
“I didn’t really see what happened on that restart [when the big wreck happened]. I heard 99 [Sellers] got into 51 [Sargeant], but I’m not really sure whose fault it was. I was just focused on getting a good run into one. Just thankful that we were able to start up front in the lead and stay out of the pack all day.”
One driver who certainly saw that incident up close and personal was Sellers.
“We took the inside figuring it would be the same route because there’s not a lot of grip on the outside going into turn one,” explained Sellers. “The 51 didn’t go there on the start and I guess when Travis cleared him he tried to squeeze down into line. And when he did, he came across my nose, hung up our fenders, and shot him into the inside wall. We were middle of the straightaway when that happened. My apologies if they’re mad, but it was just racing and he came across my nose.”
“It kind of ruined our day too, truth be told. I’m really happy with this chassis, but we had to pit there and work on knocking the tow back in. But that said, hats off to Travis Swaim. He was hooked up. We got a bit tight, but I’m not going to blame it on the contact. No excuses here, just got beat.”
Sellers said he will also pick and choose which races to run in 2015 after spending most of last few seasons challenging for the South Boston title. He won’t defend his SoBo title this year but does plan on running there for their season opener next week and will also run quite a bit at Caraway and Motor Mile this year.
Sargeant was unavailable for comment after the team packed up and left early, but his team posted to his Twitter feed “51 went for a gap that was there, 99 disagreed.” It was a rough bookend for the youngster who captured his first career NASCAR-sanctioned late model victory Saturday night at Greenville-Pickens Speedway.
Mike Darne rounded out the podium with a solid run despite losing power steering just ten laps into the event.
Caraway will continue its 50th season of action next Saturday night as it hosts the NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour season opener. More information can be found at carawayspeedway.com.
1 21 Travis Swaim 100
2 99 Peyton Sellers 100
3 14 Mike Darne 100
4 51 Kyle Dudley 100
5 7 Gene Kepley 100
6 57 Justin Carroll 99
7 81 Patrick Coleman 99
8 71 Dean Fogleman 93
9 82 Christian Eckes 57
10 58 Tyler Ankrum 33
11 51S Dalton Sargeant 33
12 12 Ryan Wilson 33
13 66 Nathan Buttke 13
— Story & Photo by Tim Quievryn // Southeast Editor & 51’s Third Turn // @thethirdturn