The inaugural running of the South Carolina 400 at Florence Motor Speedway saw Manning, SC native Averitt Lucas hold his own against many strong competitors, which enabled him to finish as the last car on the lead lap in eighth.
Lucas finished in front of both Nelson Motorsports entries and 2020 Hampton Heat winner Brenden Queen with his small operation, and expressed his gratitude towards everyone who assisted him ahead of his first Late Model race.
“It was a long weekend,” Lucas said. “We weren’t that strong when we came out of the trailer, but we overhauled this car after qualifying and drove from the back of the field into the Top 10 in the first half. I knew I was a longshot with the best of the best here this weekend, but I wanted to see what I had, and I didn’t think it was too bad of a first showing.”
The car that Lucas piloted on Saturday has normally been used for Charger and Limited Late Model features, but after he won the final LLM feature at Myrtle Beach Speedway earlier this year, Lucas and his team decided to convert it to a Late Model for the South Carolina 400.
Lucas’ debut Late Model race initially started poorly, as he was one of the slowest cars in the lone practice session on Saturday afternoon. Lucas ultimately posted a time of 18.089 in group qualifying, which placed him on the inside of the 14th row.
Once the green flag dropped, Lucas quickly worked his way through the field and found himself inside the Top 10 after only 40 laps. Lucas’ momentum stalled out after he encountered faster cars, but he entered the Lap 100 break confident that he could maintain his track position.
Lucas admitted that his car was not as strong during the final 125 laps, but a couple of long green flag runs gave him an opportunity to battle drivers from highly-funded organizations such as Timothy Peters, who eventually faded outside of the Top 5 and settled for an 11th place finish one lap off the pace.
“I’ve known Timothy for about ten years now,” Lucas said. “He’s a cool, down to earth guy, and this is the first time I’ve ever gotten to race with him. These are all awesome drivers out here and it’s good to be a part of them. I had a lot of fun [in the South Carolina 400].”
As the South Carolina 400 began to wind down, Lucas struggled to deal with a car that had gotten tight on him, but he did everything possible to salvage a lead lap finish as the race leader in Ty Majeski put several drivers a lap down and got closer in his rearview mirror.
Majeski got to Lucas’ back bumper when the white flag was displayed, forcing him to get slightly more aggressive without impeding Majeski’s progress. A strong run from Lucas off Turn 4 kept him in front of Majeski and capped off an eventful, yet stellar weekend for his team.
Lucas said that the Top 10 run in the South Carolina 400 was something his program needed after a strong performance in the South Carolina 250 during the previous weekend was derailed by a late-race accident, but he believed that his car could have been better on Saturday with a couple more adjustments.
Although he was unable to battle Majeski or Josh Berry for the win, Lucas was grateful that Steve Zacharias continued Myrtle Beach’s two most prestigious races at Florence and is looking forward to seeing how his staff carry on the legacy established by late owner Charlie Powell.
“Our plan is to support Steve [Zacharias],” Lucas said. “Florence has always been my home track, and this is where I’ve been racing since 2004. I would have loved to have gotten a win in a race that was dedicated to Charlie Powell, but we were just a lot better last weekend than we were this weekend, so we have some homework to do.”
Lucas does not have a concrete plan for the 2021 season at the moment, but he intends to be at Florence’s first race for the new year and would not mind seeing Zacharias hold Myrtle Beach’s former season-opening Icebreaker at the facility in February.