A Big Get Together, a Rowe Rookie and More

Friday at Hickory Motor Speedway consisted of six hours of practice for the PASS South Super Late Models.  There were 30 cars signed into the pits with drivers and teams coming from all over,Maine to Texas to Florida, to take part in the WFMX 105.7 Easter Bunny 150.

On Saturday morning, an additional three entries rolled in.  Larry Pollard, Clay Jones and Alex Fleming unloaded their cars in preparation for Saturday evening’s main event.

CRA standout Chuck Barnes stood out on Friday.  The Kentucky driver topped the speed charts in three of the four practice sessions during the day [Freddie Query was top dog in the other one].  Surprisingly though, Barnes had never taken a lap around the famed Hickory oval until this weekend.

“It’s my first time here,” said Barnes.  “I don’t know how smooth I’ve been, but it’s been fairly quick.  We just got to get it to ride a little better for the long haul of the race.”
Chuck Barnes' #55 was quick all day on Friday. 
(51 Photos)
Going fast at Hickory requires a delicate balance according to Barnes.

“It reminds me of Shady Bowl.  It’s real slick.  If it was dirt, I think we’d be real good because I’m sideways halfway around here.  It’s a cool place.  It’s a driver’s track.  You have to have finesse, but also be aggressive at the same time.”


Originally, there was a cookout scheduled for the competitors at Hickory on Friday night after the final practice session of the day.  However, the caterer couldn’t make it and the plans were officially scrubbed on Friday morning.

Scott Mulkern was one of the drivers disappointed with that turn of events.  But rather than complain, the Maine gentleman decided to take matters into his own hands.
“The barbeque got canceled so I decided just to buy some food and suck it up,” said Mulkern.  “I talked to [Jason] Hogan and they have a grill so we didn’t have to buy one.  We cooked for everyone who wanted to eat.  I think it was a great idea to have the barbeque, they used to do that oh twenty years ago, up in Maine and we would have a big chicken barbeque in the middle of the infield and everyone would get together and drink beers and eat.”

The sudsy beverages didn’t flow at this gathering though.  That might have been a very good thing.

“I knew Mulkern would do the cookout,” said fellow Mainer Cassius Clark.  “He is crazy enough to do anything. He’s the man.  This should bring the drivers
together, there’s not beer so nothing should get too out of hand.”

Mulkern’s wife Vicki wasn’t at the track when the plans for the gathering were hatched, but she did end of being the main party planner after a little explanation from her husband.

“I talked to my wife and said ‘Well, you’re not going to like this but you are going to have to go to the store and get some food to do a cookout.”

Jason Hogan thought that it was a great idea.

“We will share food with anyone, that’s how good we are as racers,” said Hogan.  “It might do something by bringing all of the PASS drivers together for this first PASS South race,  by bringing these Northern guys down with these Southern guys.”

That was after the two camps learned how to communicate with each other.

“I’m pretty sure they can’t understand us,” said Hogan, who is from Cleveland, Georgia.  “We can’t understand them so maybe we worked on that language barrier a little bit.  If we all are eating, and all have food in our mouth we might be able to understand each other.  Everybody speaks hotdogs and hamburgers.”

Several drivers tested at Hickory Motor Speedway, even as recently as Thursday, but Corey Williams was the first one to officially take to the track during the inaugural weekend of PASS South competition.  The 20-year-old from Maine made the first practice laps of anyone shortly after 11:00am on Friday when the track went green.

Pay attention.  That fact could be a trivia question someday.

Wade Day, the final Rookie of the Year winner in the history of the ASA National Tour, was a surprise entrant on Friday.  The driver of the #96 car had not made any noise about going to Hickory, but was one of the fastest cars when practice began.

“I’ve been planning on coming,” said Day.  “I just didn’t get my pre-entry in.  I crew chief a Hooter’s Cup car [the #29 of Trevor Bayne] and you just don’t know what is going to happen.  That’s my primary thing right now.”
When his schedule allows, Day plans on putting together a patchwork schedule of Super Late Model and LMSC races throughout the Southeast.

“We’re going to race when we can,” said Day.  “I’m building a Late Model Stock Car and we’ll run that next weekend at Motor Mile.  This weekend, we’re running this and having a good time.”

Day’s main goal for the Saturday night race is pretty simple – survive.

“This is my first time in a Super Late Model here and we want to finish the race,” said Day.  “We’ve nicknamed this car the beast.  We’ve run it four times and haven’t finished a race with it yet.  I’m going to try and make all 250 laps here.”

There aren’t very many places where Mike Rowe goes where he can be called a rookie driver.  But Hickory is one of them this weekend.  Rowe, a three-time winner of the famed Oxford 250, had never taken a lap around the track in his career of several decades.
“I’ve never been here,” said Rowe.  “But I’ve heard a lot about it.  There’s a lot of history here.  I’m glad to be here.  Everyone says it’s an old track, but we are all running good on it.  I think it’s great.  I think that we’re going to have a good race.  There’s a good field of cars, so now if we just draw the fans, we’ll be okay.”

The day started a little bit slow for Rowe and his #24 team, but once they made a few adjustments and bolted on new tires, they were one of the cars to watch in practice.

“We had to throw a few shocks and springs at it, but we got the car good at the end of the day, so we’re happy.”

The pit area got to sample some Northern hospitality at Hickory thanks to Scott Mulkern.
Corey Williams goes out on track for the first time.
Wade Day (L) talks to fellow ASA National Tour refugee Jay Middleton (R) at Hickory.
Wade Day (L) talks to fellow ASA National Tour refugee Jay Middleton (R) at Hickory.
Mike Rowe made his first laps at Hickory on Friday.