HELTON BEATS EIGHT OTHERS FOR BEACH WIN by Jeremy Troiano
Labor Day Classic Rather Lame With Nine Cars In Field
Besides Memorial Day weekend, the Labor Day holiday may be one of the busiest in the racing world. With most series coming to an end, points battles heating up and big-time money “special events” abound, there are plenty of options for racers.
than 15 cars, making for a less than stellar show for the fans.
Southern All Stars points leader Gary Helton led just three SAS regulars at “The Beach.” Southeast Series standout Jason Hogan, along with Concord Motorsport Park regular Dennis Schoenfeld joined up with Helton, Ricky Turner and Eric Wallace for the 150-lap event, but few others did.
A paltry nine cars took the green for the headlining event, with Helton dominating for the pole position despite trailing outside front row qualifier Hogan for the first 46 laps.
Once Helton took the lead, it was lights out. Helton even held the lead following a round of mandatory pit stops at lap 80, beating out Turner and Hogan. Only a brief rain shower, which fell at lap 132 could beat Helton. The race was called complete after 137 laps.
“We came on over here on Thursday and Friday and worked on the setup of this car and (the crew) is responsible for this win because they did a fantastic job at making this car very comfortable for me,” said Helton. “We knew this was going to be a tire management deal and because of that, we wanted to be at the front. It pretty much worked out exactly how we planned.
In addition, the entire East Coast was under the threat of a major hurricane that was moving very unpredictably in the week leading up to the Labor Day weekend.
All of that was evident on Sunday at Myrtle Beach Speedway. The track provided the facility for what sounded like, on paper, a great weekend of racing; the first annual Labor Day Classic, featuring all the weekly Myrtle Beach classes, along with a big-money $4,500-to-win Late Model Stock show and a $5,000-to-win Southern All Stars Super Late Model points event.
Unfortunately, the both “showcase” classes pulled in less
A paltry nine cars lined up for the SAS race at Myrtle Beach Saturday. (51 Photos)
Hogan (#92) lead early, but Helton (#44) came back for the big prize at the end.
“This track is a little similar to Birmingham, so we had a baseline to start off of and it worked out just right.”
It was exactly tire management which killed Hogan, who built quite a lead in the first third of the race.
Turner, who was running second when the rains came, bolted down pit road, thinking the hard rain was going to bring out the red flag. Unfortunately, the race had not yet been red flagged. The mistake dropped Turner from second to sixth in the finish.
“We had a new car that we wanted to try out,” said Hogan, on why he came to the Myrtle Beach race. “If I had to do it again, I’d put my other engine in this car because I think it would be easier on tires. We got out there and the car was feeling pretty good and the right rear tire just died on us. I didn’t think I was pushing the car too hard. I was watching Gary in the mirror and just making sure I was keeping him at a good distance. Then the car got bad loose and he got by me. I just let him go and figured we’d come in to pit and everything would be better. By the time that came around, a bunch of them guys had gotten by us.
“I made the wrong call in the pits too. I guess I should have let the crew chief make that call. I made the call to take some stagger out and it made the car way too tight. I should just stick to being the driver and not try to be crew chief as well.”
Hogan faded to fourth at the finish with the wrong stagger in the car. Schoenfeld finished second and Ed Barrier came home third.
Myrtle Beach regular and nine-time 2004 feature winner Jason Calhoun led from the green to checkers in the Late Model Stock race. Calhoun got just a brief challenge from “Slick” Rick Smith off the last restart, but pulled away when the checkers waved.
“Wow, these 100 laps races can take it out of you,” said Calhoun in Victory Lane following the race. “We are used to gearing up for these twin 40s. This motor is what helped me win this race. It was awesome off the start and on the restarts.
“The 17 car (Smith) got beside me on that restart and we went down into one and I got a little loose and got into him. I’m glad we all came out of there ok.
Jason Calhoun led from start to finish in the Late Model Stock feature.
“These races just get harder as the year goes on.”
Sam Yarborough finished third.
Brian Loftin won Saturday night’s SMART Modified Tour feature, followed by Junior Miller and Jay Hedgecock.