Paul Kelley Steals the Show In Zaxby’s World Crown 250 at Peachstate
Kelley Passes a Dominant Hawkins With Two to Go for Second-Straight World Crown Triumph
King (Paul) Kelley (L) discusses the final laps of the race with runner-up Matt Hawkins (Center - black firesuit, back towards camera). (51 Photos)
Years from now, when fans and drivers look back on the stats of the 2007 running of the Zaxby’s World Crown 250 at Peachstate Speedway, they will see that Matt Hawkins led 244 of the 250 laps. Those records will show Hawkins setting fast time in qualifying and people will see that Hawkins had a dominant racecar.
They won’t see Matt Hawkins’ name as the winner of the Zaxby’s World Crown 250 though, at least not this time.
Paul Kelley, who nearly went down a lap to Hawkins before a lap 178 caution kept him on the lead lap and gave him a shot at victory, hunted Hawkins down late in the race. With just a few laps to go, Kelley dug deep to get to Hawkins’ bumper. The two battled hard, but with two laps remaining, Kelley muscled his way by Hawkins and the young driver never looked back for his second-straight World Crown victory and his third overall victory in the prestigious Pro Late Model event.
“Two in a row feels good. Three overall feels even better,” said Kelley. “Something big like this, you do have to give it that extra effort. I wouldn’t take anybody else or anything like that. Trading paint is fine. You have to do that. The cars are so close, if you don’t, you’re not going to pass anybody.”
The paint was traded with two laps remaining, as Kelley’s Lakeshore Motorsports #23 machine closed in on Hawkins’ #22. Off the second turn on lap 248, Kelley dove beneath Hawkins for the lead. The two made contact, ran door-to-door through the third and fourth turns, but Kelley emerged with the lead coming to the white flag.
“We got on the inside of Hawkins and evidently he was still on the outside of us,” said Kelley. “I may have crowded him just a little bit. I felt him up there, so I pulled back down. I guess he fell in right behind me and I knew that now that he was behind me, I was just going to have to drive the wheels off it.
“I just stuck it to the bottom because I knew that I couldn’t let him get underneath me to have a chance. The high side at that point didn’t have anything left, because you can only make the high side work in the first laps on new tires. I knew if I just kept it on the bottom, I would be all set and that’s how it worked out.”
As happy as Kelley was with the way things turned out in the final laps, Hawkins found little consolation in finishing second after dominating much of the race.
“I just tried to run around the bottom when I was up front,” said Hawkins. “I knew even if he could get under me, he couldn’t get by me. I didn’t really know whether to run the top or bottom. I just stuck to the bottom. But he got under me and pretty much put me in the wall. I tried as hard as I could to get back to him to wreck him. I just couldn’t get to him.
“When he got under me, I didn’t pinch him or nothing. I gave him all the room he needed. He just turned right on me. When he turned right on me, I turned left on him. He hit the wall and that just put me more into the wall.”
Kelley nearly did not even have a chance to make a move for the lead late in the race. Kelley ran second to Hawkins for much of the early part of the race and continued to run inside the top five, but after the lap-100 competition caution, Kelley’s car was not quite the same. The handle went away from his #23 machine and was within a half-straight-away from getting lapped by Hawkins. A lap 178 caution kept him on the lead lap.
From there, strategy took over where Kelley’s car could not keep up. With just a few laps remaining before the final competition yellow of the race at lap 200, Kelley brought his car to pit road for new tires. In the final six laps under green before the lap-200 break, Kelley picked up two positions on the track, positions that if he had not gained, may have impeded his progress to get into a winning position.
”We got out there for that second 100 and the car was going pretty good in the first maybe 50, 60 laps. From there, it just fell off big time. It got so loose. My spotter was on the radio telling me, ‘You gotta go. Man, you gotta go.’ I was driving the wheels off of it. He said if it had been a few more laps, I would’ve gotten lapped. Luck happens that way, I guess.
“Coming in to pit when we did, that was really important. We kind of argued a little bit on the radio about what to do. Then our ‘shot caller’ got on the radio and said to come in and put on four tires, because if you don’t you’re going to have to pass guys when they have new tires also. For now, they were all sitting ducks. So, there was only one thing to do. We came in and got four tires and went back out.
“We didn’t get around him until the last couple laps. If it took us a couple laps to get by those two cars in that last run, then we probably wouldn’t have had enough time to pass him.”
The win earned Kelley the $10,000 winner’s purse for the second year in a row. Hawkins earned bonuses for leading at both competition breaks and brought home second. Bubba Pollard ran strong throughout the 250-lap feature to finish third, while 2007 Georgia Asphalt Series Champion Russell Fleeman and Wes Burton rounded out the top-five.
ZAXBY’S WORLD CROWN 250
November 11, 2007
1. Paul Kelley
2. Matt Hawkins
3. Bubba Pollard
4. Russell Fleeman
5. Wes Burton
6. Joey Senter
7. Taylor Satterfield
8. Ryan Crane
9. Jimmy Garmon
10. Jack Smith
11. David Hole
12. Troy Radford
13. Ronny Kittle
14. Mitch Cobb
15. Brian Weimer
16. Shane Sawyer
17. Chris Cable
18. Chris Dillbeck
19. Larry Jordan
20. Gary Greenwood
21. Chase Austin
22. Wayne Willard
23. John Wes Townley
24. Michael Pope
25. Jimmy Weller
26. Kyle Fowler
27. Dennis Wilder
28. Jimmy Lang
29. Bear Lynch
30. David Elliott
31. Alex Garcia
32. Ronnie Sanders
33. Max Gresham
34. Bobby East
35. Dwayne Buggay
36. Kevin Perry
37. Will Thomas
All drivers walked away from this big crash that left the cars of Jimmy Lang (#86), Kyle Fowler (#4) and Bear Lynch (#108) beaten up.