Friday, August 15, 2014

Drivers feature 03/07/14


Most HMS drivers will return for 2014

By Tom Gillispie

Most of the drivers will be back at Hickory Motor Speedway this season, but there may be a few changes heading into Saturday’s season opener.
Austin McDaniel, the two-time defending Late Model champion, says he’ll run the Big 10 Racing (formerly ZLOOP) Challenge, the 10-race Late Model series that features 100-lap races and more money for drivers. But McDaniel says he’ll try to run Late Model races at other tracks as well, perhaps Southern National in Kenly, the Motor Mile in Radford, Va., South Boston (Va.) Speedway and Myrtle Beach (S.C.) Speedway, or elsewhere.
“I think that’ll make us better as a team and me also,” said McDaniel, a 19-year-old engineering student at UNC Charlotte.
McDaniel, who won the inaugural ZLOOP Challenge in 2013, says he will race as many or more races as last year.
“That’s what we’d like to do,” McDaniel said. “We’ll see how it plays out.”
Shane Lee says he’ll concentrate on Late Model this year. Lee is the track’s two-time defending Limited Late Model champion, and he was McDaniel’s main competition in Late Model last season.
Landon Huffman, last year’s runner-up to Lee in Limiteds, has said he plans to run Late Models this season. He is the son of Robert Huffman, the former HMS track champion and five-time NASCAR Dash Series champion.
Track promoter Kevin Piercy doesn’t expect Christian Calvo to run Late Models again this year, but he says he expects most drivers to return. Among those are champions in other divisions, Kevin Eby in Street Stocks, Carroll McKinney in Renegades, Chase Pollard in 4-Cylinders, Jeremy Birch in Super Trucks and Don Fenn in Sportsman Racing Classics.
“It’ll be exciting, too, with Shane Lee (and Landon Huffman) moving up to Late Models,” Piercy said. “We’ll have a good crop of cars. The Gold King Limited division will be wide open with a new champion.”
McKinney says he’ll run for points in the Renegades division and run another “five to 10” races in Street Stocks.
Fenn practiced March 1 and said “the car ran real good.”
“We’re going to run the same class (4-Cylinders), but we really did our homework and did many changes to the car,” said Pollard, the son of former racer Larry Pollard. “We also hope to race at some different tracks while still competing for the championship at Hickory Motor Speedway.”
Piercy says that Taylor Stricklin, the son of former Cup driver Hut Stricklin, will race full-time in the Limited division after running Late Models part-time last year.
McDaniel knows that running a part-time schedule will mean that his championship streak will end this year. He was asked if that’ll bother him.
“It would a little bit,” he said, “but as long as we’re trying to travel and get more experience, it’ll be all right.”
He says it’s tough being a student, working part-time at a job and being a racer.
“Working at the dealership, it’s hard getting everything done, all my homework, during the week so I’ll have the weekend free to go racing,” McDaniel said.
He says he still hopes to have a racing career, then perhaps use his UNCC engineering degree to become an engineer for a Cup team.
“Eventually, I’d like to be a car owner,” he added. “It’s just something I’d like to do.”
For now, he’ll get down to work, as a student, a worker and a racer. Saturday, it’s time to go racing.
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