Two weeks ago, Nick Loden used the high side at Hickory Motor Speedway to perfection to score his first win at the track with the Carolina Pro Late Model Series. On Saturday, he worked in the bottom groove to reach Victory Lane at “America’s Most Famous Short Track” with the straight-rail tour.

It was a different strategy with the same result and involved some teamwork within Loden’s No. 43 camp during the closely contested event.

“In the second half [of the race] my spotter was helping to calm me down, I was overdriving a bit and he wanted me to still have tires left,” Loden said. “Once he calmed me down and I stopped driving as hard I definitely was going faster.”

Loden took control of the final third of the 75-lap affair after having started in the sixth position. With qualifying washed out, the series used points to set the field and Loden drew to invert the top six. He worked his way up to the second spot by Lap 18 and challenged leader and polesitter Leland Honeyman by looking to the outside for several circuits as William Sawalich and Toby Grynewicz made it four cars running nose-to-tail. 

The race’s first caution came out just past halfway of the 75-lap race for a spin by Landon DeVaughn on the frontstretch, allowing Loden to pull alongside Honeyman on the restart.

He cleared with 30 to go, but a rash of yellows in the race’s second half forced multiple restarts during which Loden chose the inside on each occasion.

“The outside tonight definitely did not have as much grip as it did last week, I was pushing bad when I was up there,” Loden said. “Probably because of the rain.”

A multi-car pileup on the backstretch with less than 10 laps left brought out a red flag, and in Turn Four on the ensuing restart Loden drifted up the track and Honeyman made contact with his rear bumper, giving Honeyman the advantage and forcing Loden back to the top.

The race’s final re-rack came with seven circuits remaining after a massive crash by Logan Boyett in Turn One. Running second, Loden had to go to the outside but jumped out to the lead and never looked back to take his second win of the year and third career victory with the Carolina Pro Late Model Series.

Honeyman fought to keep Loden at bay but ultimately was forced to settle for the runner-up spot.

“We ran first most of the race and I think we got to around 50 laps and then we started to lose some of our grip, so it is what it is,” Honeyman said. “I feel like [Loden] was always strong during the race, I think he was just waiting for the right moment. He did a really good job protecting the bottom and arcing his entries. We just tried keeping up with him and he beat us to it.”

With 53 laps in the books, NASCAR Camping World Truck Series and ARCA Menards Series competitor Gus Dean had worked his way from shotgun on the 19-car field into the third spot and looked to be a challenger for the race win. However, engine issues forced him to pit after a restart and Caden Kvapil eventually claimed the third step on the podium.

Kvapil, whose older brother Carson won the 2020 series championship and took his first CARS Super Late Model Tour win last week at Hickory, mounted a valiant charge to score the third-place finish.

“It was definitely a battle,” Kvapil said. “Starting deep in the field, 11th, and having to work my way up with not many yellows until the end was kind of hard. We ended up finishing third which was really good with me not really knowing how to pass considering it’s only our third race.”

Incredibly, nearly as soon as Victory Lane ceremonies were complete, the skies opened up. Perhaps it could be seen as a sign of all that’s gone right for Nick Loden this month, whose two wins bookended a family trip to Disney World.

“I don’t know if it helped, but it was fun,” he said of the Magic Kingdom’s influence on his racing.

Thus far, he simply has the magic touch.

Full Results:

  1. 43 Nick Loden
  2. 4 Leland Honeyman
  3. 35 Caden Kvapil
  4. 48 Toby Grynewicz
  5. 2 Amber Lynn
  6. 24 Penn Crim
  7. 81 Bryce Carver
  8. 63 Josh Lowder
  9. 22 Tim Hollis
  10. 43s William Sawalich
  11. 07 Riley Neal
  12. 21 Tommy Neal
  13. 71 Katie Hettinger
  14. 5 Jasec Holladay
  15. 118 Landon Devaughn
  16. 1X Logan Boyett
  17. 51 Nathan Byrd
  18. 15NC Chad Malloy
  19. 21D Gus Dean