Ryan Millington approached the 2019 Rodney Cook Classic with the same strategy that helped him win numerous races and a Late Model championship at the track by saving his equipment and methodically working his way to the front inside the last 40 laps.
The promising afternoon for Millington ended on Lap 114 when he was turned into the outside retaining wall on a restart by Bobby McCarty, which relegated him to a 14th-place finish behind the wall and left him frustrated, but unsurprised, after the checkered flag.
“I wasn’t expecting [that accident] to happen,” Millington said. “Anytime me and him have raced together, he’s driven me dirty like that. I know how he drives now, that’s for sure.”
The conflict between the two drivers started with less than 30 laps to go when Millington got a strong run on the outside of McCarty for the lead but ended up making slight contact with the wall after McCarty washed up the track.
Millington maintained his position on the track and retaliated against McCarty in Turns 3 and 4 by knocking out of the groove, but he would receive an unlucky break moments later when RD Smith looped his Late Model while trying to avoid McCarty, which brought out a caution.
Following the choose cone to set up the ensuing restart, Millington would have McCarty lined up beside him, which would prove to be costly as McCarty turned him head-on into the outside wall, bringing an end to both of their afternoons after McCarty was parked by race control for his maneuver.
McCarty, who had led nearly every single lap in the Rodney Cook Classic up to that point, stated that he was prepared to return the favor to Millington as soon as everyone settled into the next green flag run, but he affirmed that the incident with him on the frontstretch was purely accidental and not indicative of his driving style.
“I knew I was close to Millington, and I had to fill the gap quick so I could get to the bottom,” McCarty said. “As soon as we touched, he started going around, and I tried to get off of him, but he kept coming up. I’ve been racing since I was six years old and have that happen to me before, and I would never do something like that intentionally.”
Millington was not the only driver furious with McCarty after the conclusion of the race, as Dustin Rumley criticized him following a separate late-race accident that sent him behind the wall and left his #88 AAR Roofing Late Model severely damaged.
After McCarty spun his tires on a Lap 111 restart, Rumley was able to take him three-wide for the lead along with Layne Riggs, but Rumley and McCarty up making contact in Turn 1 on the following lap, which sent Rumley’s brand new car hard into the outside wall.
“I really thought Bobby was a better driver than that,” Rumley said. “I don’t know what he was thinking there, but I have never been hit that hard getting into the corner. It knocked my car in the air and everybody that I talked to who saw the wreck said he just turned right on us, and you just don’t race like that. He trashed my car over some aggressive, bone-headed driving.”
Like with Millington, McCarty hated to see Rumley’s Late Model get torn up after a hard battle for the lead, but he stated that what happened between the two of them was nothing more than a racing incident.
“I’m not sure what happened there,” McCarty said. “He was trying to crowd, and I was trying to get a good arc and we made contact. It knocked the wheel out of my hand and sent me up the track. I hate it for him, but it was two guys going for the same real estate.”
Rumley said that he has no plans to talk with McCarty about the accident, and is more focused on making the necessary repairs to the right side of his Late Model while also making preparations for the 2020 season.
Millington has one more major Late Model event circled on his calendar in the Myrtle Beach 400 and is confident that he can carry over the consistency that he possessed during the weekend into the prestigious Late Model event as he tries to move on from a disappointing finish.
“I had a shot at it,” Millington said about his race. “We were coming up through the field there, and we had a pretty good car for the end of [the Rodney Cook Classic.] It’s too bad that we didn’t have anything to show for it.”
Millington and Rumley know that they will have more opportunities to race against McCarty in the near future, with both of them stating that they will remember the events that transpired in the Rodney Cook Classic the next time they see him out on the track.
Cover photo by Lori Hopper.
Langley Austin contributed to this story.