Tri-County 150 at Tri-County Motor Speedway Momentum Carries Lavender To Tri-County For Jody Lavender (No. 88 H&R Block Chevrolet), he couldn't ask to be in better position heading into the second race of the NASCAR Camping World Series East.
Tri-County 150 at Tri-County Motor Speedway
Momentum Carries Lavender To Tri-County
For Jody Lavender (No. 88 H&R Block Chevrolet), he couldn't ask to be in better position heading into the second race of the NASCAR Camping World Series East. Lavender will arrive at Tri-County Motor Speedway in Hudson, N.C., Saturday coming off a second-place finish in the season opener. With points leader Brian Ickler in Kansas getting a shot in Billy Ballew's No. 51 for the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series event, Lavender will unload his hauler in the top position.
Against a field full of talented development drivers and multi-car operations, the significance isn't lost on Lavender, whose team had just one full-time employee and may be bringing one of the oldest cars to the track.
"The guys have worked really hard over the winter," said Lavender. "They really went through and fixed the car up real nice for us. I felt like we had a top three car, and it was pretty much up to me to make sure we finished that way."
That was one of the struggles for the 29-year-old Hartsville, S.C., native. Last year, Lavender finished 11th in his first NASCAR Camping World Series East season. He started 12 of the 13 races and record a top five and six top 10s.
Previous to 2008, Lavender had made 23 starts between the NASCAR Nationwide Series and NASCAR Camping World Truck Series.
"We've had some pretty good cars at some places," said Lavender, "but we were just not able to put together the whole race and get the type of finish we should have."
It was almost over before it began in the season opener at Greenville (S.C.) Pickens Speedway.
Lavender was one of the unfortunates that was caught up in the multi-car incident in Turn 1 of the first lap that caused series officials to bring out the red flag for cleanup, and then restart the race. After that, though, Lavender was able to methodically work his way up through the field. He cracked the top 10 by lap 50, and was up to third by lap 100. He got by fellow veteran Eddie MacDonald (No. 71 Grimm Construction Chevrolet) on a lap 134 restart when MacDonald got hung up on the outside lane, and then had two cracks at Ickler on ensuing restarts before settling for second.
Considering the progress that signified from his 2008 campaign, he'll happily take that finish heading to Tri-County.
"It's huge," Lavender said. "Momentum is everything in this sport. Getting that type of run right off the bat is instrumental for any race team. These guys here, they don't have a lot of money. We get a little bit of help from H&R Block and some smaller sponsor.
"You've got a bunch of guys who are there for the love of the sport -- not for the money or the glory -- they're there because they love what they do. And when you go out and compete against the bigger teams and the development drivers, that means more to these guys than anything else.
"It shows that a little bit of hard work and effort can still get you to the front."
Moffitt Sets Camping World East Pole Record
Not even a slight bobble coming out of Turn 4 could keep Brett Moffitt from the record book.
Moffitt broke Joey Logano's two-year old series record for the youngest Coors Light Pole Award winner in the NASCAR Camping World Series East with his pole-winning lap in the season opener at Greenville (S.C.) Speedway.
Moffitt's lap of 20.691 seconds (86.994 mph) was .075-seconds faster than eventual race winner Brian Ickler.
Moffitt, who was born Aug. 7, 1992, was 16 years, 11 months old when he won the pole award.
Logano also won his first Coors Light Pole Award at Greenville Pickens in 2007, and was 16 years, 11 months at the time.
News & Notes
The race ... The Tri-County 150 is the second event in an 11-race schedule this year for the NASCAR Camping World Series East, and the only trip to North Carolina.
The procedure ... The starting field is 30 cars, including provisionals. The first 26 cars will qualify through two-lap time trials. The remaining four spots will be awarded through the provisional process. The race will be 150 laps (60 miles).
The track ... Tri-County Motor Speedway is a .400-mile banked asphalt oval. This is the inaugural event for the NASCAR Camping World Series East at the track. Tri-County is part of the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series, running a weekly Friday night program with the Late Model division as its featured class.
Familiar faces return ... While two of the top four finishers (Brian Ickler and Josh Richards) from Greenville Pickens will not run at Tri-County, the race will see the return of two familiar names: Austin Dillon and Trevor Bayne. Dillon, who finished second in points last year, will drive the No. 3 Chevrolet. Bayne will be in the No. 9 Chevrolet as a teammate for Patrick Long under car owner Dave Davis. Ickler will be running the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race in Kansas Saturday, while Kyle Fowler will be in the No. 52 for Ken Schrader Racing that Richards drove to a fourth-place finish at Greenville Pickens.
North Carolina roots ... The NASCAR Camping World Series will return to North Carolina for the first time since it ran at Rockingham Speedway on March 3, 1990, when it was the NASCAR Busch North and ran a combination race with the NASCAR Nationwide (then Busch) Series. That race was won by the late Dale Earnhardt Sr. (who also won the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series title that year).
Casola Looking For A Happy Homecoming This Weekend
While the NASCAR Camping World Series East is making its first visit to Tri-County Motor Speedway, at least one driver is very familiar with the Hudson, N.C., track.
After all, the family of New Jersey native Dominick Casola (No. 1 A Casola Farms Ford) own the facility.
"We're really looking forward to it," Casola said It should be a great "deal of fun.
"I'm just looking to have fun and get a good night out of it."
Dominick's parents, Kim and Tony Casola, are the track's owners and promoters. The track, which was originally built as a dirt track in the 1980s but was paved a short time later, hosts the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series on Friday nights.
While Dominick Casola does have a number of laps on the .400-mile oval, most have come during his behind-the-scenes duty. The only race he has run there was in 2005 in a Late Model. He qualified third and was running third when he was involved in a wreck near the halfway point.
He's looking to get back on there with a NASCAR Camping World Series car.
"It's a really fun track to drive on," Casola said. "You can run multiple grooves. You can run the bottom or the middle. This track tends to lend itself to some really exciting side-by-side racing.
"Visually, (the turns) look about the same, but you have to drive them differently."
Casola is hoping a little home cooking will help his season get on track. After being involved in the 'big one' during the ARCA race at Daytona International Speedway, his NASCAR Camping World Series debut season got off to an inauspicious start when he was in the middle of a multi-car pileup in Turn 1 of lap 1 at Greenville Pickens. He was one of two cars that were not able to continue.
"It was tough, but that's racing," said Casola, who is contending for Sunoco Rookie of the Year honors.
The team fixed that car, including putting a new nose on it, to run this weekend as they head home looking for a reboot on their 2009 season.
Friday Night Lights
Tri-County Motor Speedway joined the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series last season, and the dividends were immediate. Late Model champion Andy Loden was crowned the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series North Carolina state champion.
The track runs a Friday night program, allowing drivers like Loden to also run at Hickory Motor Speedway Saturdays, where Loden won his third track championship.
The track's multiple-grooved racing surface and location make it a popular stop. Last weekend's racing action saw Jesse Lefevers win his first Late Model race of the season. Dexter Canipe Jr. (son of former NASCAR Whelen All-American Series champion Dexter Canipe Sr.), David Wilson, Ryan Truex (brother of NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Martin Truex) and Ty Dillon (grandson of NASCAR Sprint Cup Series car owner Richard Childress) rounded out the top five.
Current NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Brian Vickers ran Late Models there as he made his way up the NASCAR ladder.
An Insider's View: Jarit Johnson
Jarit Johnson arrives at Tri-County Motor Speedway this weekend with a little insider's perspective.
The younger brother of three-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson, Jarit Johnson (No. 23 Trail Motorsports Chevrolet) has run a Late Model at both Tri-County and nearby Hickory Motor Speedway.
Here's his view of Saturday's setting for the season's second race:
"Hickory and Tri-County are really similar. We've had good success at Hickory with 12 wins up there, and we've taken the Late Model up to Tri-County and ran very well.
"The last race we ran up there we sat on the pole and I think we ended up finishing fourth with some carburetor issues.
"It's a fun track. It has an inside wall like Greenville, but you aren't up against it like you are at Greenville. That track has a good amount of grip."
Johnson had a rough start to his season at Greenville Pickens. After qualifying 14th, overheating problems forced him off the track on lap 107 and left him 24th.
Park Returns East After Successful Road Trip To Arizona
While most of the NASCAR Camping World Series East competitors took advantage of the break between the opener at Greenville (S.C.) Pickens Speedway April 11 and the upcoming trip to Tri-County Motor Speedway, some elected to head West and run in the NASCAR Camping World Series West race at Phoenix last weekend.
For Steve Park, the decision almost paid off in a big way.
Park, who opened the season seventh at Greenville Pickens, led three times for 39 laps and contended for the lead on a green-white-checkered finish before settling for third behind race winner Jason Bowles and Eric Holmes.
"I had nothing to do this weekend," joked Park, before adding that his sponsor, Waste Management, had a big plant in the Phoenix area and brought more than 100 people to the race.
"To put on a good show and lead laps and run with these guys is something I found exciting," Park said at the post-race press conference. "I'm used to racing. I'm enjoying myself.
"It's fun to come out here and race with these guys and race on the West Coast at a place like Phoenix, and then to go back and race on the East Series."
The Race: Tri-County 150
The Place: Tri-County Motor Speedway, Hudson, N.C.
The Date: Saturday, April 25
The Time: 8 p.m. ET
TV Schedule: SPEED April 30, 3 p.m. ET
Track Layout: .400-mile paved
Race Purse: $110,805
2008 Winner: Event not held
2008 Polesitter: Event not held
Event Schedule: Saturday, April 25 - Practice 1-1:45 p.m., 2:25-3 p.m.; Qualifying 6 p.m.