Tri County Racetrack holds season opener
Fans of high horsepower, door-to-door, sideways racing filed into Clay County’s own Tri County Racetrack on Friday night for the track’s season opener. After a winter consumed with anticipation, the cool air was not a big enough evil to keep racing lovers away.
After practice laps and qualifying, the Street Stock division rolled onto the clay surface for the first feature of the year. Lynn Burchfield started on the pole as the result of winning his qualifying race. Burchfield debuted a new car and new number and flexed his motor muscle at the drop of the green flag. Burchfield put his No. 0 in the lead and never looked back. Ty Crisp seemed to have second place secured until his No. 11 came up lame off turn two ending Crisp’s night. Dylan Truhan and youngster Brawley “Pudding” Stillwell then mixed it up for the runner-up position. The checkered flag waved, giving Burchfield the win while Truhan claimed second with Stillwell settling for third.
An interesting addition to the Modified Hobby division this season: older Late Model chassis fitted with a 602 motor can also run in the division and will be called Sportsman. The class may have new rules but a familiar face could be seen up front. After a couple of false starts, Charles Devine Jr. cleared second year driver and pole sitter Colton Stroud to grab the lead. Stroud battled to stay on Devine’s bumper but drifted high in turns one and two allowing several cars to go by. The night got worse for Stroud as he was involved in a couple of accidents before the race was over. Meanwhile, Devine found himself being chased down by Greg Suddereth. It was too little too late for Suddereth’s charge and Devine held on to claim the victory. John Howard finished third.
The first Late Model race of the night belonged to the Crate division. Defending champion Jason Deal turned the fastest lap in qualifying and brought the field to the green. Deal got a great jump but was unable to hold off Alex Smith who used the high line momentum to clear Deal and lead the first lap. Deal refused to just follow Smith and mounted several attacks during the event. The two passed under the white flag door-to-door and continued around the track that way. As the duo came off of turn four, Smith was able to clear Deal to secure the win. Tennessee’s Josh Fields came home third. The one-two punch of Smith and Deal could be setting up for a great rivalry.
“Charging” Charlie Parker made a statement in the season opening Limited Late Model race. Parker started second to Wesley English but rocketed to the lead at the drop of the green flag. The only thing that could have beaten Parker was bad luck. Unfortunately for the competition, nothing happened and Parker cruised to victory by almost 3/4 of a lap. English crossed the line in second followed by Devon Dilbeck in third.
If there was a hard-charger award for the night it would have gone to Pony division driver Bobby Rhinehart. After starting on the pole, Rhinehart spun and had to restart in the rear of the field. With Rhinehart out of the picture, Shannon Jones and Jamie Saunooke put on a show as they battled for the top spot. Meanwhile, Rhinehart continued to move through the field and in just a handful of laps was once again battling for the lead. With one lap to go a blanket could have been thrown over the top three cars. Jones inched across the line in first with Saunooke in second and Rhinehart in third.
Next out on the “Brasstown Bullring” were the mean machines known as the Super Late Models. Defending track champion Shawn Chastain took the green from the top spot but was overtaken by the “Murphy Bulldog” Jamie Oliver. Oliver pulled away and appeared to be on his way to victory lane. Chastain had other plans and began to reel in Oliver’s No. 38. On lap 12 Chastain darted low on Oliver to regain the lead. Chastain then slowly pulled away en route to the win. Oliver held on to second and Randy Nichols crossed the line in third.
The track will host its first points race on Friday, April 8. Gates open at 5 p.m. with racing starting at 7 p.m.