Posted: Thursday, September 26, 2013 12:28 am | Updated: 12:30 am, Thu Sep 26, 2013.
By TOM GILLISPIE Special To The Record
HICKORY, N.C. -- Tyler Church was right at home on Sunday at Hickory Motor Speedway.
Church, a former HMS regular and a native of Hickory, won the rain-delayed PASS South race in just his fifth series start.
The best thing, of course, was winning in front of family and friends. And the No. 2 finisher, Preston Peltier, a four-time HMS winner, was Church’s Johnson Motorsports teammate for the race.
“It’s the biggest win I’ve had,” Church said. “To do it out there at home, with my mom buried there at the cemetery, was special. I outran some of the best drivers around. And the guy (Peltier) who let me race his car, it was neat to beat him for the win.
“It was pretty special.”
Church said he didn’t go to HMS races as a youth.
“I never started going down there until I started racing myself,” said Church, a 2007 graduate of Hickory High. “I always loved the races, but I watched TV and the NASCAR stuff. I didn’t go to short-track races.”
Church raced Mini Stocks from 2004 to 2006, then tried Limited Late Models in 2007. He eventually moved to Late Models and last year he raced locally and did a few touring-series races.
He had planned to run the 10-race ZLOOP Challenge this year and do a few other races.
“I ran four or five (ZLOOP races) and had two top-fives, but then we had bad luck, so I quit,” said Church, who has run three PASS South races this year.
Peltier was second Sunday, with Jay Fogleman, Ryan Moore and Roger Lee Newton rounding out the top five.
“A caution came out with about 13 to go,” Church said. “(Peltier) chose to restart on the bottom. He pushed up the track a bit, but I gave him room. I kept on digging and got around him, and the rest of the time I was trying to keep him behind me.
“It was the longest 13 laps I’ve ever had to run.”
Church says he’d like to focus on PASS South next year.
“But it comes back to finding sponsors to financially do it,” he said. “We’ve still got our cars if we want to run a Late Model race here or there, but I have no definite plans.”
Gary Young Jr. won the CCS Modified race, and Ryan Mackintosh took the Legends race.
How many times has HMS been (re)configured?
Saturday’s Fall Classic features a 100-lap Limited Late Model race, plus the trucks, Renegades and Ford Focus cars. Practice is at 2 p.m., with the drivers’ meeting at 4:15 p.m., qualifying at 5 p.m., an autograph session at 6 p.m. and racing at 7 p.m.
• The X-1R Pro Cup Series will race on Oct. 19.
• A 200-lap Late Model race is set for Oct. 26, with the Limited Late Models, Renegades and Sportsman Racing Classic cars also running.
• Through Sept. 18, HMS Late Model champion Austin McDaniel (54th) was the only Hickory regular in the top 75 in NASCAR’s national Division I Asphalt short-track standings.
• Through Sept. 18, McDaniel was 10th in the Division I North Carolina rankings, with Shane Lee 20th.
• Lee, also the Limited Late Model champion at HMS, was eighth in NASCAR’s national Division II standings.
• Kevin Eby, HMS’s Street Stocks champion, was 82nd nationally in Division III.
A look back: 1960
Let’s look back to the 1960 Hickory 250 Grand National (now Sprint Cup) race, held on April 16, a Saturday, at HMS.
The late Joe Weatherly finished ahead of Ned Jarrett, Richard Petty, Bob Welborn and “Tiger” Tom Pistone.
Other notable finishers were hall-of-famers Lee Petty (11th), Buck Baker (12th), Rex White (14th), Buddy Baker (17th) and Junior Johnson (23rd, last). Johnson, a former HMS champion, went out early with a broken axle.
White, from Taylorsville, won six races that year and was the 1960 champion. Richard Petty, Bobby Johns, Buck Baker and Jarrett finished behind him in season points. Jarrett, by the way, posted five victories and 26 top-10 finishes in 40 GN races that year.
K&N debut for Joyce
Former HMS regular Cory Joyce finished 21st on Saturday at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in his NASCAR K&N Pro Series East debut.
Joyce, a 21-year-old native of nearby Gilford, N.H., was racing for the 10th spot when he was involved in an accident and dropped out of the 100-lap race.
Today is the birthday of NASCAR’s founder, the late “Big” Bill France (104). It is also the birthday of NASCAR driver Joe Nemechek (50), 1989 Busch Series champion Rob Moroso (45) and western singer/part-time racer Marty Robbins (88).
Scott Kilby, the HMS champion in 1992 and 1996 (and now the track’s tech man): “Other than spending time with my family, there’s nothing I’d rather do on a Saturday night than spend it at Hickory Motor Speedway.”
Four configurations; Hickory opened in 1951 as a half-mile dirt track. It’s been reconfigured three times, as a .4-mile dirt track in 1955, a .4-mile asphalt track in 1967 and a .363-mile asphalt track in 1970.
Tom Gillispie, the author of “Angel in Black: Remembering Dale Earnhardt Sr.,” writes about racing at Hickory Motor Speedway for HDR Sports. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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