Jamey Caudill Uses Experience To Claim UARA Hickory Victory by Jason Buckley
Contact Between Crum and DiBenedetto Flares Up Tempers Between The Youth In The Series
There have been many milestones this season in the UARA-Stars Late Model Stock series. On May 17th, 16-year-old racer Matt DiBenedetto entered victory lane at Bristol Motor Speedway (TN) as the youngest driver to win at the famed half-mile track. On May 31st of this year, UARA ran their 100th series race at Dillon Motor Speedway (SC) with the checkered flag going to 16-year-old Jake “The Snake” Crum.
Just two weeks after the 100th series event, both DiBenedetto and Crum headed to the historic Hickory Motor Speedway (NC) for the 150-lap “Bad Boy Mowers 150” looking to be the first repeat winner of the 2008 UARA season. Both were a factor throughout the race, but when the checkered flag fell it was 38-year-old Jamey Caudill taking the victory, the sixth different winner this season.
Rain throughout the day forced the start of the 150-lap event to start nearly four hours behind schedule. Once the green flag dropped it was pole-setter Crum taking the early lead with Caudill and DiBenedetto in tow.
“The car was awesome tonight,” said Crum. “Nick had worked on the car all day. We decided what we wanted to do after practice. He decided and made an adjustment. We qualified on the pole and lead almost every lap. We had the high line working.”
Crum set the pace up front, but DiBenedetto wasn’t ready to just hand him the win. Moving his way around Caudill for the second position just after the halfway point, he tried multiple laps to get by Crum on the low line. The two raced side by side for multiple laps, but DiBenedetto just couldn’t get his car to hook up and get by Crum on the low line. That is when he switched to the high line, and coming off turn two the two drivers got together.
“He (DiBenedetto) was on the outside,” explained Crum. “I was coming off the bottom. It was hard racing. I slid off the corner, slid the rear tires and I slid into him. I apologize. I think he is mad at me.”
DiBenedetto was less than thrilled about the move, but aimed a lot of his frustration at Crum’s spotter, who used to work with DiBenedetto last season.
“We were real good in the long runs, then I started rolling up on the outside and moving up from there,” said DiBenedetto. “I rolled up on the outside of him (Crum) and he stuffed me right into the wall. Bill Lett was spotting for him; my old crew chief from last year. He pretty much didn’t tell him I was there. He was telling him to block me and he was blocking. I was fine with that I wasn’t going to touch him.
“I used to have respect for Jake but not anymore. I went up on the outside of him. I was inside his door and I thought he would let me have the line a little bit but he stuffed me into the wall. I bounced off of it pretty bad and then unfortunately we blew a motor.
“The next race I am running with him I am not going to race him too clean. That is all I am going to say.”
Jake Crum (top) and Matt DiBenedetto (bottom) had a run-in on the track late in the race. Neither driver could become the first repeat winner of the UARA season. (51 Sports Photos)
With DiBenedetto out of the picture and just under 10 laps to go, Caudill made his move for the lead past Crum with just five circuits remaining, driving on to take the checkered flag first.
“Early we were just staying back,” said Caudill in victory lane. “Then we got a little bit tight across the center. It was kind of strange. Normally when you are tight across the center it doesn’t get better, it gets worse. On the long run it got better.
“There at the end they (DiBenedetto and Crum) were racing each other pretty hard, using their stuff up. I didn’t know how good we would be once they settled their little feud, but I felt like we were pretty decent.”
Caudill had the best seat in the house when Crum and DiBenedetto tangled. Seeing what happened in front of him, Caudill was going to do what it took to get the lead and the win, but didn’t have to rough up Crum to get it as he worked his way by.
Jamey Caudill in victory lane. (51 Sports Photo)
“I am going to drive a guy like he drives other people,” explained Caudill. “Matt ran him (Crum) a long time clean. I definitely wasn’t going to get into Matt when he was working him trying to get by him. They were racing hard; call it what you want. Matt got squeezed up into the wall back in the back straightaway.
“It is kind of one of those deals I don’t want to take him (Crum) out, but I don’t want to cut him slack. We were going to do what we had to do to win the race. I know he would have raced me the same way. Fortunately I didn’t have to. I just got under him and got by him.”
At 38 years of age, Caudill is considered one of the “old guys” in the UARA-Stars Series. In fact, adding the ages of the two drivers he battled for the victory against at Hickory still didn’t equal to his total years on Earth. Even though the series is full of youth, Caudill isn’t ready to move over and let the young driver crop steal all the thunder this season.
“I am 38 years old,” said Caudill. “I’m not going to kick the bucket or nothing I hope. These guys keep getting younger and younger. There is some good talent out there and these guys race hard. It is a really tough series and it is getting tough to win each week and each year. We will take them as they come.”