NASCAR WHELEN SOUTHERN MODIFIED TOUR DRIVER JAY HEDGECOCK EAGER TO MAKE GREENVILLE-PICKENS SPEEDWAY DEBUT SATURDAY DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (April 3, 2006) -- Jay Hedgecock has never actually competed in a race at the famed Greenville-Pickens...
NASCAR WHELEN SOUTHERN MODIFIED TOUR DRIVER JAY HEDGECOCK EAGER TO MAKE GREENVILLE-PICKENS SPEEDWAY DEBUT SATURDAY
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (April 3, 2006) -- Jay Hedgecock has never actually competed in a race at the famed Greenville-Pickens (S.C.) Speedway. Yet the veteran NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour driver has turned more laps around the half-mile track than a lot of competitors who race at the facility on a weekly basis.
That fact will change for Hedgecock this Saturday night when the NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour travels to legendary promoter Tom Blackwell's Greenville short track for the Kevin Whitaker Chevrolet 150.
Hedgecock might well be one of the favorites Saturday night, thanks to his past track time at Greenville testing stock cars that he has built throughout his career. Hedgecock owns and operates Hedgecock Racing, which has built cars over the last 35 years for drivers including Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt. In fact, if Hedgecock needs any advice this Saturday all he has to do is to walk over to several Late Model drivers that he has built cars for that compete at Greenville-Pickens on a weekly basis.
"I've tested at Greenville quite a few times before, but I've never actually got the chance to race there yet," Hedgecock says. "I used to test down there a lot when I was building [NASCAR NEXTEL] Cup cars, but I don't build as many of those cars anymore because a lot of the NEXTEL Cup Series cars are built in-house nowadays. I still build a few NASCAR Busch [Series] cars every now and then, but mainly most of the cars I build now are for the Saturday night racers. I drove in the NEXTEL Cup Series for a while on a limited basis and we'd always go to Greenville-Pickens to test before we raced at Martinsville Speedway."
The Greenville-Pickens Speedway was opened as a dirt track in 1946 and has seen some of the most legendary drivers in racing history visit victory lane at the second oldest track under NASCAR sanction -- brothers Tim and Bob Flock, Buck Baker, Ned Jarrett, Junior Johnson, David Pearson, Bobby Isaac and Richard Petty.
Hedgecock, a 51 year-old High Point, N.C native, knows all about the past history and would love nothing more than to add his name to that list of past winners at Greenville.
"It's going to be a good show and I'm really looking forward to it," Hedgecock says. "Greenville-Pickens really packs the grandstands and people in that area absolutely love their racing. I'd say they probably draw as many fans on a weekly basis as any other track out there. I know there's going to be a lot of hype because it's been so long since these cars have raced at Greenville-Pickens. We're going to draw a lot of people this Saturday night because they're excited about seeing what this modified racing is all about.
"To be able to win at Greenville-Pickens would be unreal. To me it would be as big as winning at Martinsville. I've always wanted to win the grandfather clock that the winner at Martinsville gets but I've not been able to get one just yet. To win the first Whelen Southern Modified Tour race at Greenville-Pickens would definitely rank right up there as one of the biggest racing accomplishments of my life. It's going to be a fun night and the race fans are going to see a good show."
Some of the local Greenville-Pickens racers that drive cars built by Hedgecock include Randy Porter -- who won the Late Model season-opener -- as well as Brandon McCarson.
"I've built cars for drivers that race at Irwindale (Calif.) Speedway and I've never seen the place," Hedgecock jokes. "I've built cars that race in New York, Texas ... I've got them scattered all over the country."
Hedgecock got his 2006 Whelen Southern Modified Tour season started off under bizarre circumstances at Caraway Speedway on March 25. As Hedgecock's No. 41 Kernersville Motorsports Dodge came off the fourth corner to take the green flag for his qualifying lap, his car broke loose and suffered right front damage when he hit the wall just before the start-finish line. Hedgecock and his team fought back to finish ninth, the final car on the lead lap, after starting 24th in the largest field in the history of the NASCAR Southern Whelen Modified Tour.
"When they unhooked the car from the wrecker, we had exactly 40 minutes to fix the car so we really weren't able to get everything the way it needed to be after I wrecked," Hedgecock said. "All in all, considering everything we went through at Caraway, I think things probably turned out better for us than it should have. It wasn't one of the finishes I wanted but I had a car that I could take back home and work on it to get it better for Greenville-Pickens this weekend."
Hedgecock admits it's hard to fathom how far the Whelen Southern Modified Tour has come only one year after going under the sanction of NASCAR. A record 29 cars turned out at Caraway for the season-opener, though two drivers withdrew because of mechanical problems, leaving 27 cars to start the race.
"All the praise should go directly to NASCAR because they really stepped up their advertising and marketing for our series," Hedgecock says. "A lot of people kind of knew there was a modified series that raced in this area, but they didn't really understand what it was really about. I think you're going to see a lot of the northern modified drivers making their way down to race with the Whelen Southern Modified Tour just like we did at Caraway because this series has really taken off. When you've got guys like Ted Christopher and Chuck Hossfeld (who was second behind Christopher at Caraway), those guys are going to be tough everywhere they race with us. Those guys are good -- I don't care if they're racing in New York, North Carolina or Australia.
"I was telling somebody the other day that I wished NASCAR had picked up this series 10 years ago because there's no telling where we'd be today."