SMT: Ace season finale preview

HEDGECOCK HOPES TO CHANGE HIS LUCK AS NASCAR WHELEN SOUTHERN MODIFIED TOUR CLOSES 2005 SEASON AT ACE SPEEDWAY OCT. 29 DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Oct. 25, 2005) -- It's not as if Jay Hedgecock doesn't know his way around a race car. A fabricator...

HEDGECOCK HOPES TO CHANGE HIS LUCK AS NASCAR WHELEN SOUTHERN MODIFIED TOUR CLOSES 2005 SEASON AT ACE SPEEDWAY OCT. 29

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Oct. 25, 2005) -- It's not as if Jay Hedgecock doesn't know his way around a race car.

A fabricator with over 20 years of experience, Hedgecock has built the race car chassis used by Petty Enterprises and Richard Childress Racing. Hedgecock's cars were driven by Richard Petty himself, along with Dale Earnhardt, and are still popular among local drivers. Hedgecock's Late Model Stock Car chassis are widely used by NASCAR Dodge Weekly Series teams throughout the region.

As a driver, Hedgecock has spent the 2005 season competing on the NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour, but the High Point, N.C. resident has endured a trying year on the race track.

He's won four Bud Pole awards and led over 220 laps, yet didn't finish five races. He's run at the front of the pack, yet suffered engine, axle, electrical and overheating problems that sidelined his team in several events. After 11 races, Hedgecock is tied for seventh in the point standings with Frank Fleming, 262 points behind leader Junior Miller.

"We've qualified on the pole and had the car to beat -- at least that's what I thought," Hedgecock said. "We've started out like that and it's continued the whole year long. We've given up a good chance to run for the championship. I think if we'd have won those four or five races, the rest of the season would've taken care of itself. But instead, we're not even in the hunt for the points championship.

"I don't know if it's bad luck or if you make your own bad luck sometime. There are certain things you can control, and certain things you can't, and a lot of this we could've controlled. We'll just try to do the best we can do and look forward to next year."

In addition to competing on the Whelen Southern Modified Tour as a driver, Hedgecock has expanded his chassis business to include the Hedgecock Racing Academy, a fabrication training and certification course. The all-new Academy offers an eight-week course and is certified by the North Carolina Department of Labor and Education.

"About six or eight months ago, I decided to make some changes and do some different things with my business," Hedgecock said. "We're still building cars for other people, but we came up with the idea of a fabrication school. It's geared towards NASCAR-type fabrication. There's a little bit of classroom work but it's mainly hands-on. Over last three weeks of their course, the students all build complete NASCAR Late Model Stock Cars. We go to the race track and I test the cars.

"We had eight students in our first class and I honestly think all eight of them will end up with NASCAR-related jobs -- I know a few of them already have interviews."

Hedgecock says the school was established to meet the growing demand for well-trained chassis fabricators -- many of whom will wind up working for the top NASCAR teams in the nation. Potential students car learn more about the Academy on Hedgecock's own web site, www.hedgecockracing.com.

"It's the progression of our sport. Sponsors are spending nearly $20 million per year and the top teams have lots of talented engineers working on their cars. Most all of the major [NEXTEL Cup Series] teams now build all of their cars in house. They need good fabricators; that's what we built the school for."

The Hedgecock Racing Academy is taking off, but this week, Hedgecock will focus on improving his racing luck in the Whelen Southern Modified Tour finale, Oct. 29 at Ace Speedway in Altamahaw, N.C. The event caps off the Tour's inaugural season and will crown the Tour's first NASCAR champion.

Miller, of Pine Hall, N.C., leads Burt Myers by a 28-point margin (1,762-1,734). Miller can clinch the title with a finish of at least fifth-place, or better, on Saturday. Mathematically, third-place Brian Loftin also has a chance to win the championship, but it's a tall order. Loftin, winner of the last two events, trails Miller by 88 points and could win the title for himself -- if he wins the race at Ace and Miller finishes 25th or worse.

Fast Facts

What: NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour 150

Where: Ace Speedway, Altamahaw, N.C.
When: Saturday, Oct. 29 at 7:00 p.m. (approx.)

Posted awards: $19,217.

Race length: 150 laps, 60 miles
Track layout: 4/10-mile oval.

Pre-Race Schedule: Registration begins 1:30 p.m., Practice 4:45-5:30 p.m., Bud Pole qualifying 6:30 p.m.

-nascar-

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About this article
Series NASCAR
Drivers Dale Earnhardt , Richard Petty , Junior Miller , Burt Myers
Teams Richard Childress Racing