After bringing home a championship in the Southeast Super Trucks Series at the end of October, Denton, North Carolina native Clint King is hoping to keep his stellar 2019 season going by qualifying for the Myrtle Beach 400 on Saturday evening.
King has not participated in a Late Model race since the end of the 2015 season, but he is thrilled to have an opportunity to return to his roots and is ready to do battle with many familiar and new competitors this weekend.
“I bought a Late Model about four months ago when we were still in the middle of the Super Truck season,” King said. “We’ve been out of the Late Model market for a while, but I’m looking forward to getting back into one this weekend and hopefully I can run a few more races next year.”
King admitted that his early years of Late Model competition were filled with numerous positives and negatives, but he developed his skills behind the wheel in the UARA STARS Late Model Series, in which he registered five Top 10s and a victory at Kingsport Speedway in his 18 starts.
As the years progressed, King gradually began to fall behind other Late Model organizations that had more resources available, but his team’s own lack of funding forced him to cut back on the number of Late Model races for 2011 and 2012, with most of those attempts concluding is disappointing fashion.
Despite the dwindling number of Late Model starts, King managed to secure a part-time ride in the ARCA Menards Series with Venturini Motorsports beginning in 2011 and obtained four Top 5s in 11 starts, with his best career finish of third coming in his first career start in the 2011 Herr’s Live With Flavor! 200 at Madison International Speedway.
Although he put up consistent numbers with Venturini, King would be released from the team during the 2013 season, which forced him to return to his family-owned team for limited starts in the K&N East Series in 2014 before making select appearances in the NASCAR Xfinity Series in 2016 and 2017 with Rick Ware Racing and B.J. McLeod Motorsports.
King has kept his auto racing career going in the Southeast Super Truck Series over the past few years, and admitted that his recent success in the division with his long-time crew member and childhood friend Jeffrey Russell by his side has given him confidence as he prepares to re-join the Late Model community on a more regular basis.
“I’ve really missed the grassroots aspect of Late Model racing,” King said. “The Xfinity stuff was fun, but you kind of lose touch with the short track feel when it comes to working on the cars. There’s a sense of pride you get from running well with your own stuff, and it’s just fun to race with your buddies and your family cheering you on.”
King’s return to Late Model racing comes at a facility that was infrequent to him during the early days of his career, but he still vividly remembers his lone UARA start at Myrtle Beach, which resulted in a 14th place finish after leading 39 laps in a field that included Ty Dillon, Brennan Poole and Jamey Caudill.
King chalked up his poor showing in that race to his lack of experience in understanding tire conservation, but with the Myrtle Beach 400 consisting of 250 laps as opposed to only 150 in the UARA event, King knows that patience in every aspect will be imperative to obtaining a strong run at the end of the evening.
“It’s a fun place, but you have to play the tire game,” King said. “Playing the strategy right will help get yourself in a position where you can make a run at the front. I jumped out way early in the UARA race and burned my stuff up way too soon. The same rules apply now just as they did back then, so we’ll need to conserve, be smart and not get torn up too early.”
While King would love to add his name to the long list of Myrtle Beach 400 winners, his focus for the weekend is to make the 250-lap feature and get properly acclimated with the on-track environment so that he and his team can lay the foundation for many victories in the near future.