ATLANTA, GA :: Well, what would the Myrtle Beach 400 be without a little rain and a whole lot of drama?  Both of which were bountiful this past weekend!  We arrived at Myrtle Beach on Thursday around Noon to take advantage of the “free” open practice the track scheduled to offset the expense of getting shafted last November….we unloaded and made a few runs and the car was as good as it was in November running some strong times.  One addition I haven’t covered thus far is the addition of Stacy Puryear to our team.  Stacy has come on board and really helped our operation and is already making us better and the MB 400 is a prime example of how his expertise has paid off.  It’s the first time I have made the MB 400 in seven previous attempts… no need to talk about that stat anymore as it still pisses me off to have never made that race before, so we move on.

Next up is Friday morning and Race Day!  Friday started at 7am and why in the hell we had to be there at 7am is beyond comprehension but as racers we do what we do.  Tech went smooth and, since we corrected our issues from November, we breezed right on through.  Practice went well and we were in the top four on the speed chart.  As the afternoon wound down and the other SELLM race concluded, it was getting closer to go time.  Normally I get a little nervous when strapping in for a big race but not this time. I felt good, I knew my car was good and, as long as I stuck to the game plan, I knew we would be a factor.  I had another addition to our team this weekend to assist me and that was Brad Brinkley helping in the spotters stand with my crew chief Dale Faircloth. Brad didn’t have a team he was helping since Harrison Rhodes sold out so he volunteered to come down and help out.  Brad provided great radio feedback and told me when to go and when to save my tires. Having these 3 guys really means a lot to my team and they proved invaluable.

When I would miss the field I always stayed and watched the races. I always wondered what it was like to race at “half throttle” saving tires in the MB 400.  Folks, you have no idea how boring that race is for the first 125 laps inside the car. .I was riding around discussing strategy for Saturday night’s races and if Brad and his wife’s hotel room was nice enough or not.  That’s the kind of stuff you do because you are literally just killing time.  Then the storm hits.  When the rag drops for the second half its like Talladega, literally!  Three and four wide racing was commonplace Friday night, cars ducking out on the straightaway and passing and it really showed the caliber of drivers we have in Late Model Stock Car racig being able to give and take and make the moves we made going three and four wide without making a mistake.  Then came Frank Deiny and him dumping the 07 car while he was running several laps down.  I guess he needed a caution?

As we were riding around under cautionm Brad was telling me how much he “liked” Frank and that he was going to throw his spotter from the scoring stand.  I’m laughing my ass off in the car as all I could think about was Greg Marlowe having Frank’s blonde locks in a head lock as Frank’s wife started throwing water bottles at Greg.  I’ll put my $$ on Marlowe….seen him handle his business back in the day.  Back to the real racing.  I started to make my move to the front around lap 190 and I started from 10th spot and, in nine laps, was passing the 02 for the lead when Puryear said to follow the 02 for a while. Brad kept saying, “Don’t be afraid of the high side” and, as a Caraway regular, there is never any upside to the high side. So, after him begging me to try it, I ventured up and it was like the car found another gear. I could pass anyone and rode by a lot of great cars in the process. After reaching the leader, Stacy said let’s just ride with him for a few laps and settle down and, after about 10 laps, I let a Hfew more by and was just riding. here is where it gets tricky, at Myrtle Beach, when they decide to go and you decide to ride you can lose 10 car lengths in two laps and after settling around fifth, I started to move back up and was gaining on CE Falk for fourth as the “phantom” caution waved with eight to go.  This allowed others the chance to take the cone and create the drama that ensued.

I struggled to turn through the center after my tires cooled down and it cost me a few positions and we fell to seventh but I had a good view of the wreck for the lead as the 41 and the 02 battle. Any racer knows the deal on the last lap with that kind of cash up for grabs. The 02 did what he had to do and it was a tough break. The 41 did what he did as the 02 had a great car. However, Lynn Carroll was VERY CLEAR in the drivers meeting that there would be a black flag to anyone who took out the leader to win the race.  I know the precedent that was set in Daytona and Lynn mentioned that in the drivers meeting as well saying that that call came from above his pay grade and that it would not be acceptable at any race he calls. So, as drivers, we were warned.  I’ve seen the replay and honestly it looks like a raw deal for both as it’s hard to tell but the 41 sure had a lot of real estate on the high side.

All in all, Myrtle Beach was great and the track really made a positive effort to make the racers feel welcome. However, do we really need to charge tax at the concession stand?  Hopefully the racers return in November and keep the tradition of the MB 400 alive as it is definitely one of the best races of the year!