PHENIX CITY, AL — Audio and recap by Managing Editor Jacob Seelman for Speed77 Radio and Race Chaser Online — Chris Seelman photos — On a night when the number 27 was recognized in many different ways, Derek Hagar used the numerology of the evening to further extend an already sterling 2014 record.
Hagar, the defending United Sprint Car Series Outlaw Thunder Tour filtercharged by K&N champion out of Marion, Arkansas, streaked by K&N polesitter Johnny Bridges on the opening lap of Saturday night’s 7th annual Randy Helton Memorial 27 and never looked back, leading wire-to-wire to pick up his sixth USCS win of the 2014 season and his fourth consecutive. Hagar also became the first driver to win the Randy Helton Memorial twice, following his win a year ago in the prestigious event.
Appropriately, the victory was Hagar’s 27th career win, matching the car number Helton campaigned for multiple years on the USCS tour before his untimely passing in March of 2008.
“This is really really cool,” Hagar said in www.rockauto.com Victory Lane following his traditional wing-walk celebration. “Randy was a friend to everyone in the sprint car pits; I got my first win ever in the series here in 2007 racing against Randy, and this race is so special. It’s one that everyone wants to win and I’m honored to have two of these trophies now. It’s a special night for us.”
“I’m not sure what happened on the start there; all I know is the 47 (Eric Riggins Jr.) and the 07 (Bridges) got a little crazy there on the opening lap the first two times. Third time was the charm for us though; we got out front there and that was that.”
Bridges, the Cherryville, North Carolina native, started from the K&N pole position and led the field to the green flag, but hopped the left-front tire of the 47 of Riggins on the initial start, forcing a second try to get the race going. On the second try, chaos struck in the form of a six-car melee in Turn 4 that started on the front row and swept up Riggins, Brian Thomas, Terry Witherspoon, Bob Auld, Clint Weiss, and Jeff Willingham, who flipped end over end but came to rest on all four wheels and climbed out of his car uninjured.
Save for Willingham, all cars involved were able to make repairs and restart the race, though Riggins was a bit displeased with the second restart and how he felt he was raced.
“You know, I felt like we got run up the race track a bit on that one start and I’m not crazy about that, but it is what it is,” Riggins lamented after the event. “We were able to fix our front end and get back out. I felt like we had the fastest car here but we just couldn’t get through the field fast enough to contend with Derek and I did burn the tires off there towards the end. Congrats to Derek on the win though; he earned it tonight and he’s been on a heck of a roll. That’s cool for those guys.”
As Hagar drove away from the field, a three-car battle for second raged behind him between ten-time USCS champion Terry Gray, Bridges and Riggins, who both drove from the back up to the top five before Riggins ultimately inherited third place on lap 16 when Bridges spun in turn 2 while trying to lap Pendergrass, Georgia’s Brian Thomas to bring out the only caution of the night.
That set up a restart which gave Gray and Riggins a shot to catch Hagar and battle for the win, but the Arkansan would not be denied. Gray, out of Bartlett, Tennessee, had to settle for second, with Riggins (Charlotte, N.C.) completing the podium in third. Cordova, Tennessee’s Morgan Turpen finished a solid night in fourth, and Floridian Terry Witherspoon rounded out the top five.
Bridges held on despite a fading car to come home sixth and Indian Trail, North Carolina’s Brandon McLain continued a recent string of strong runs with a seventh place finish. Thomas was scored eighth at the checkered flag, with Largo, Florida veteran Bob Auld racing his way to a ninth place finish. Active-duty Army serviceman Clint Weiss completed the top ten finishers.
Eric Riggins Jr. kicked off the night’s racing action by scoring the win in the Hoosier Speed Dash. Riggins then backed up his dash win by grabbing the Engler Machine and Tool First Heat victory, while Derek Hagar drove to the checkered flag in the Butlerbuilt Second Heat. After first heat winner Riggins pulled a zero in the inversion draw, Johnny Bridges scored the K&N Filters Pole Award. Brian Thomas advanced the most positions in the A-main (three) to score the Wilwood Disc Brakes Hard Charger Award.
For rules, schedules and more information on the United Sprint Car Series Outlaw Thunder Tour, please visit www.uscsracing.com or call 770-460-7223 or 770-865-6097.
RESULTS: USCS Outlaw Thunder Tour presented by K&N; East Alabama Motor Speedway; Saturday, June 14, 2014:
Hoosier Speed Dash: Eric Riggins Jr., Morgan Turpen, Terry Gray, Terry Witherspoon, Bob Auld, Brandon McLain.
Engler Machine and Tool First Heat: Eric Riggins Jr., Terry Gray, Bob Auld, Brandon McLain, Jeff Willingham, Brian Thomas, Clint Weiss, Jay Dunham (DNS).
Butlerbuilt Second Heat: Derek Hagar, Morgan Turpen, Johnny Bridges, Terry Witherspoon, Collin Cabre, Tanner Witherspoon, Jason Troutman, Joe Larkin (DNS).
United Sprint Car Series “Randy Helton Memorial 27” at East Alabama Motor Speedway Main Event:
1. #1A – Derek Hagar, Marion, AR
2. #10 – Terry Gray, Bartlett, TN
3. #47 – Eric Riggins Jr., Charlotte, NC
4. #10M – Morgan Turpen, Cordova, TN
5. #43 – Terry Witherspoon, Jacksonville, FL
6. #07 – Johnny Bridges, Cherryville, NC
7. #21B – Brandon McLain, Indian Trail, NC
8. #67 – Brian Thomas, Pendergrass, GA
9. #83 – Bob Auld, Largo, FL
10. #0X – Clint Weiss, Jesup, GA
11. #4 – Jason Troutman, Vale, NC
12. #28 – Jeff Willingham, Ripley, MS
13. #99 – Tanner Witherspoon, Jacksonville, FL
14. #12C – Collin Cabre, Thonotosassa, FL
15. #33 – Joe Larkin, Suwanee, GA (DNS)
16. #51 – Jay Dunham, Grovetown, GA (DNS)
USCS Outlaw Thunder Tour presented by K&N Filters Race Awards:
K&N Filters Pole Award: #07 – Johnny Bridges
JE Pistons Top Guns Award: #47 – Eric Riggins Jr. (3rd place)
K&N Filters Podium (3rd place) Award: #47 – Eric Riggins Jr.
Wilwood Disc Brakes Hard Charger Award: #67 – Brian Thomas
Keizer Aluminum Wheels Top Five Award: #43 – Terry Witherspoon
Saldana Racing Products Super Sixth Award: #07 – Johnny Bridges
Pyrotect Racing Cells Lucky Seven Award: #21B – Brandon McLain
DMI/Bulldog Rear Ends Top Ten Award: #0X – Clint Weiss