|JEREMY PELFREY AT HICKORY MOTOR SPEEDWAY.|
(SHERRI STEARNS PHOTO)
Pelfrey wants to kick his season into gear
By Tom Gillispie
Jeremy Pelfrey is fourth in Limited Late Model points at Hickory Motor Speedway, just two points out of third, but the Lenoir resident isn’t happy with his season so far.
“I’ve struggled this year a little bit,” the 35-year-old Lenoir resident said. “I haven't won, although I’ve finished second five or six times.”
Taylor Stricklin and Trent Barnes hold down the first two spots in Limited points, and Travis Byrd of Sherrills Ford is third, two points ahead of Pelfrey.
Pelfrey says he went into the season hopeful, partly because the two drivers who had finished ahead of him in points last year, Shane Lee and Landon Huffman, had moved up to Late Model full-time.
But Stricklin has found his stride, young Barnes came along, and Byrd, Casey Pierce and Dillon Houser began competing for victories.
The last two Limited races, on July 12 and Aug. 2, weren’t among Pelfrey’s better ones. On July 12, Pelfrey ran 12th, seven spots behind Byrd. Then on Aug. 2, he finished 11th, one spot behind Byrd.
“I keep losing points,” he said. “I enjoy running Hickory, and I don't want see anything happen to it. It’s convenient.”
Still, except for his recent struggles, he’s done pretty well there.
In last year’s Fall Classic, featuring a 100-lap Limited race, Pelfrey finished third behind Justin Bolton and Landon Huffman.
And in the 2013 season finale, Pelfrey won, with Spencer Boyd (now the Super Trucks points leader), Dylon Wilson, Sheflon Clay and Houser filling out the top five.
And in the 2014 season opener, Pelfrey finished second behind Byrd, with Stricklin fourth.
But the next week, Pelfrey qualified second but finished 18th, last. He says he’s had a lot of those up and down finishes this year, with no victories to sprinkle in there.
“Last year I had a better setup,” Pelfrey said. “I need to be patient and stay out of trouble. I’d like to start winning races (again), and I think I’m capable of that. We were running great last year.”
Pelfrey says he started his heating and air business “six or seven years ago,” but he admits that it makes racing a little harder.
“It’s one of the best decisions I’ve ever made,” he said. “Still, it’s been tough doing that, racing and having (three) kids.”
Pelfrey graduated from Hickory High in 1997 and moved to Lenoir when he married wife Krista. Strangely, they met racing go-karts, and he says she still rags him that she once beat him for a go-kart points title. “It came down to me, her and another guy, and she won it,” Pelfrey said without malice.
He started racing Street Stock in 1999 at Hickory and Tri-County Motor Speedway and did that for four years.
He has not-so-fond memories of his first try at a Late Model race. Early in the race, he got knocked into the outside fence and destroyed the car.
“It was the first time I ever drove one,” he said. “It caught fire, and I was young enough that it didn’t bother me much.”
It bothered him at the time, though. He was terrified of the fire. The crash had knocked the car apart — a good thing, as it dissipates the force of the wreck — and he battled to get out.
“It seemed about three minutes, but it was probably closer to 10 seconds,” he said.
After doctors released him to race again, Pelfrey bought a racing truck and raced two-thirds of the season at Tri-County.
Pelfrey later took a couple of years off from racing, but he kept his hand in by spotting for Shane Huffman, the 1999 track champion.
He’s been racing Limiteds successfully the last few years at HMS, and he says his goal for the rest of the season is to get back a little swagger from past seasons.
“I’d like to get back to where we were before,” he said. “Lately, I felt we were fast enough. I want it to be something that’s all the time.
“I want to be the guy beat, not a guy who shows up and you don’t know how he’s going to run.”
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