HEDGECOCK WINS WHELEN 150 AT ACE SPEEDWAY; MILLER WINS NASCAR WHELEN SOUTHERN MODIFIED TOUR CHAMPIONSHIP ALTAMAHAW, N.C. (Oct. 29, 2005) -- Jay Hedgecock won Saturday night's Whelen 150 at Ace Speedway, the season finale for the NASCAR Whelen...
HEDGECOCK WINS WHELEN 150 AT ACE SPEEDWAY; MILLER WINS NASCAR WHELEN SOUTHERN MODIFIED TOUR CHAMPIONSHIP
ALTAMAHAW, N.C. (Oct. 29, 2005) -- Jay Hedgecock won Saturday night's Whelen 150 at Ace Speedway, the season finale for the NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour. By finishing eighth, Junior Miller won the points championship, becoming the first Whelen Southern Modified Tour champion in the Tour's inaugural season.
"Tonight, my can ran good all night long, stayed 'hooked up' and nothing went wrong with it," said Hedgecock, who had suffered five DNF's (Did Not Finish) this season due to various mechanical problems. "We probably could've won five or six races this year but little things stopped me from doing that. It's good to end this year, with this series, on a winning note. It really makes it all worthwhile when we work and start to build a new car for next year -- it makes it all worthwhile when you look back at tonight."
For Miller, the championship is the 13th championship of his legendary racing career. Miller, 54, has won five NASCAR Dodge Weekly Series track championships at Bowman Gray Stadium in Winston-Salem, N.C., along with seven titles on the former Southern Modified Auto Racing Teams (SMART) Tour. The 2005 Whelen Southern Modified Tour championship is the eighth touring series title of his career.
"We just ran where we needed to run to win that championship," said Miller. "I probably could've run up front a little bit, but I just ran exactly where we needed to. That's the whole season, right here in one night, so that's what we were looking at."
Miller, of Pine Hall, N.C., and Hedgecock, of High Point, N.C., lined up on the front row at the start of the 150-lap race and Hedgecock's Chevrolet was out in front from the opening lap.
While Hedgecock and Miller paced the field, Burt Myers, who was Miller's only challenger for the championship in Saturday's race, started in the 10th position and gradually moved towards the front in an attempt to catch Miller and race for the championship. By the 20th lap, Myers was in the sixth position, behind Michael Clifton, still struggling to catch Miller who rode behind Hedgecock at the front.
Miller was still running in the top five when a caution period began on lap 63, then pulled into the pits for repairs and returned to the track in 11th place -- with his championship rival Myers five positions in front of him. The risky move by Miller placed him in a pretty vulnerable position in terms of the championship picture at the time. If the race ended in that order, Miller had only a narrow eight-point advantage over Myers. From that point forward, any position gained or lost on the track was critical for the championship contenders.
Despite the high-pressure situation, Miller remained calm and kept his title hopes intact.
"I had Burt in sight, and I was watching him to see what he was doing," Miller said. "I was saving the car; I didn't want to spin the tires off of it. I was just riding along and saving the car. "
With 46 laps remaining, Miller pickup up the pace and passed Jay Foley to take over the 10th position, giving him a more comfortable lead over Myers, who remained in sixth place.
With 29 laps remaining, Myers made a move to the outside of Frank Fleming, in an attempt to close the gap on Miller's points lead. As Myers continued his charge on the outside lane, he lost control in turn four and spun his car on the frontstretch, sustaining minor damage to his car but diminishing his championship hopes. Miller and Myers both pitted under the ensuing caution period, and returned to the track in eighth and 10th positions, respectively.
With the championship battle between Miller and Myers now subdued, the focus of the race returned to the front, where Hedgecock continued to set a rapid pace and maintained a lead over Clifton and Brian Loftin. The race ended with Hedgecock in victory lane for the first time of the season and Miller collecting the NASCAR championship trophy from Phil Kurze, Director of Motorsports for Tour sponsor Whelen Engineering.
The champion and other special award winners from the 2005 season will be honored at the Whelen Southern Modified Tour awards banquet, Dec. 10 in Winston-Salem, N.C.
<pre> Top 10 Driver Points: Junior Miller 1904 Burt Myers 1872 Brian Loftin 1844 Tim Brown 1752 Michael Clifton 1740 Jay Hedgecock 1680 Jay Foley 1669 Frank Fleming 1655 Brian Pack 1585 Bobby Hutchens 1579