Scott Hunter led all 30 laps of Friday’s USCS Outlaw Thunder Tour event at Carolina Speedway, scoring his second career win with the Southeast-based 360 Sprint Car series. But his victory in the Fifth Annual Joe & Jim McLain Summer Sprint Classic was anything but a runaway.
Hunter, who hails from Milford, Michigan, but lives in Concord, North Carolina, finished second in his heat, and thanks to a favorable redraw started on the pole for the 22-car A-Main at the 4/10-mile red clay oval in nearby Gastonia. The track lies approximately 20 miles southwest of Uptown Charlotte, putting it squarely in the heart of one of the nation’s motorsports hotbeds.
Hunter quickly jumped out to the lead and the race ran clean for most of the first half of the event, marred only by a caution for a spin in turn four by Johnny Bridges on the second lap. The result was that Hunter quickly was forced to navigate lapped traffic, all while being stalked by Troy Betts and Eric Riggins Jr.
However, the race’s final 13 circuits were marred by two yellow flags for spins and a red-flag period. On Lap 18 Lance Moss spun in turn two to bring out the yellow. Just two laps later, the race was stopped after a violent three-car crash on the backstretch, in which Jake McClain took a wild tumble. Tony Agin and Moss were also involved. All drivers emerged unscathed.
Hunter survived another restart with six circuits remaining after a spin by Shawn Murray in turn two, then used clean air and a clear track to take the checkered flag.
“That was a long race, but it’s all thanks to these guys right here,” Hunter said of his crew in Victory Lane. “We ran a Midget last week and this week we won in the Sprint Car. We got lucky starting on the pole which really helps with all the wind. But these guys worked really hard on this car and it shows. There were a lot of cautions, a lot of lapped traffic to get around, but we were able to pull it off there at the end.”
Hunter told OneDirt his No. 1X Brown & Noffsinger entry is a new Maxim chassis with only a handful of races on it. He also praised the track crew for their prep at the sometimes dusty facility. “I still think if we started in the top three or four we might have pulled that out, our car was pretty good,” he said. “So just thanks to all the guys, track crew and all the fans for giving us a good racetrack and a good car.”
Although the win was his second with USCS (he also won at South Carolina’s Lancaster Speedway last season), and has found success in multiple series on dirt, Hunter is well-versed in a variety of motorsports disciplines. He was a member of John Force’s last championship-winning team in 2013, building superchargers for the famed Funny Car driver, and won the 2010 and 2014 USAC Eastern Midget championships on pavement.
As Hunter pulled away on Friday, Troy Betts and Eric Riggins Jr. waged a battle for the runner-up position. Riggins pulled alongside on multiple occasions, but was ultimately unable to complete the pass. Betts finished second, with Riggins taking third. “I knew he was coming at me, Eric’s always fast,” Betts said. “When he’s behind you, you know he’s coming.”
He continued, “I needed to get a better start on that 1X car [Hunter], he killed me on the starts. He knew what I was doing, he knew I was outside of him, he knew I was ready, but he just always caught me at that split-second that I wasn’t on it … I think I just need to slow down, maybe calm myself a little bit and take the start a little easier. I’ll get the car in on one and two, keep that speed up and then maybe try to attack in three.”
Betts lives in Townsend, Delaware, and competes primarily with the URC Series in the Mid-Atlantic and at Pennsylvania’s Selinsgrove Speedway. “We love coming down here and supporting [series promoter] Pete [Walton] and the whole USCS,” he said. “I mean these guys treat you like family.” Charlotte driver Riggins meanwhile was a bit disappointed to finish third after winning the six-lap Hoosier Tire Speed Dash to open the night and his heat race.
“I felt like we had the best car tonight, it was just a product of the track being so fast that clean air was worth a lot,” he said. “Once we did get racing it up pretty good with traffic, the caution came out and reset the field again. It was just a race through clean air. Even in clean air I could get up there and challenge, but [Riggins] just took away my lines at the right times and I never could make the move to get by and challenge for the win.”
Thirteen-time USCS national champion Terry Gray came home fourth, with Danny Smith rounding out the top five. The three heat races were won by Gray, Smith and Riggins.
Although the track lies in stock car country, open wheel fans attend events at Carolina Speedway in droves. It is the series’ only yearly stop in the Tar Heel State, where it makes three appearances. The Friday night track was built in 1961 with famed promoter Humpy Wheeler part of the original management team. Yet despite its history, the track doesn’t take itself too seriously, apparent in the pre-race tunes by Conway Twitty and the giant green mascot, Mudwagon the Dragon. During the USCS’ four-wide salute to the fans, one gentleman waved his cane in appreciation.
Six local divisions also were on the docket. A photo gallery featuring a look at the pit area and several action shots is below.
RESULTS (Courtesy of USCS)
Heat 1, Group A – Engler Machine & Tool (8 Laps)
1. 10-Terry Gray ; 2. 22b-Troy Betts ; 3. 59III-Johnny Petrozelle ; 4. 5k-Jake Karklin ; 5. 38-Tony Agin ; 6. 22-Shawn Murray ; 7. 33-Joe Larkin ; 8. 5-Justin Barger
Heat 2, Group B – Brown and Miller Racing Solutions (8 Laps)
1. 4s-Danny Smith ; 2. 1x-Scott Hunter ; 3. 23-Lance Moss ; 4. 20-Nick Drake ; 5. 43-Terry Witherspoon ; 6. 51-Jay Dunham ; 7. 44-Jason Troutman
Heat 3, Group C – ButlerBuilt (8 Laps)
1. 47-Eric Riggins Jr. ; 2. 29-Johnny Bridges ; 3. 14-Jordon Mallett ; 4. 4b-Bronzie Lawson IV ; 5. 21b-Brandon McLain ; 6. 67-Jake McLain ; 7. 99-Tanner Witherspoon ; 8. 17-Bobby Komisarski
USCS Hoosier Tire Speed Dash (6 Laps)
1. 47-Eric Riggins Jr. ; 2. 14-Jordon Mallett ; 3. 20-Nick Drake ; 4. 10-Terry Gray ; 5. 5-Justin Barger
5th Annual Joe & Jim McLain Summer Sprint Classic 2018 Round #1 – (30 Laps) FireAde main event:
1. 1x-Scott Hunter ; 2. 22b-Troy Betts ; 3. 47-Eric Riggins Jr. ; 4. 10-Terry Gray ; 5. 4s-Danny Smith ; 6. 14-Jordon Mallett ; 7. 5k-Jake Karklin ; 8. 21b-Brandon McLain ; 9. 4b-Bronzie Lawson IV ; 10. 43-Terry Witherspoon ; 11. 20-Nick Drake ; 12. 22-Shawn Murray ; 13. 17-Bobby Komisarski ; 14. 99-Tanner Witherspoon ; 15. 33-Joe Larkin ; 16. 44-Jason Troutman ; 17. 51-Jay Dunham ; 18. 67-Jake McLain ; 19. 38-Tony Agin ; 20. 23-Lance Moss ; 21. 59III-Johnny Petrozelle ; 22. 29-Johnny Bridges
DNS- 5 Justin Barger
The second round of the Joe & Jim McLain Summer Sprint Classic took place at Lancaster Speedway in Lancaster, South Carolina, on Saturday. Lance Moss was awarded the win after just three laps as the skies opened up following a lengthy delay when Bronzie Lawson left the track in turn two. He was airlifted to a local hospital where he is recovering.