Carteret County Speedway played host to the Memorial Day Classic Sunday evening. Despite cool temperatures for late May, the nine-car field turned the 75-lap Late Model feature into a hot night of racing. The 4/10ths mile track in the Crystal Coast of NC was rife with action.
Connor Hall had qualified on pole with Zach Lightfoot and Tim Allensworth rolling off in second and third place. The race had a few different elements as far as tires were concerned. The track’s Late Model competitors were required to run two new tires on the outside and two scuffs on the inside. This tire rule was due to the raw material and labor shortages within the Hoosier tire company. When the race went green, there was some moving and shaking in the opening laps. Zach Lightfoot passed Connor Hall in the opening sequences of the feature. Despite only nine drivers entered in the event, plenty of activity occurred during the race.
Young driver Chirs Horton Jr. came into the infield and had to park after 19 laps. BooBoo Dalton experienced troubles on lap 26 when his race car came to a halt due to an alternator issue. Problems continued for the Liberty North Carolina driver just after halfway. He had a right rear tire go down that put him back to the rear of the field. Dalton was able to rebound and finish on the lead lap. A former winner and one of the favorites going into the event had a case of bad luck as well. Chris Burns had mechanical issues that forced him down to pit road. His day ultimately came to an abrupt end on lap 45.
Lightfoot and Allensworth ran in positions 1 & 2 before Connor Hall got around both cars to retake the lead. Trevor Ward had qualified sixth climbed positions. Ward was able to get around Lightfoot. The Zach Lightfoot car had started to experience brake fade near halfway. Both vehicles of Lightfoot and Allensworth were still running strong and looked to be well within striking distance as the race was approaching the 25 to-go.
Lap 50 was the moment that shocked everyone in the stands when Tim Allensworth nudged Zach Lightfoot in turns three and four. The drivers made slight door-to-door contact. They pulled alongside each other on the front stretch before the two drivers careened into the turn one wall. The driver of the Mike Darne Racing, Speedy B’s, Chevrolet hopped out of his steaming vehicle and reached into the window net of the Smithfield Family restaurant car of Zach Lightfoot. Lightfoot matted the gas to evade the driver after Allensworth had exited his machine to confront him. According to the Carteret County Speedway website, as of Tuesday, June 1st, Tim Allensworth broke section 2.9 of their competition rule book. He is under suspension for the next Late Model race scheduled in July at Carteret County.
The rulebook states, “If involved in an accident, drivers must remain in their car until safety workers can attend to them – unless it is a safety hazard to do so. Failure to remain inside the cockpit may result in fines or suspensions.”
The two had strong words to say about each other after the incident post-race.
“Allensworth got under me on a restart and just never lifted going into one,” Lightfoot said. “I guess it’s some kind of payback for a racing deal from the last race when he checked up real hard in turn 2. I had gotten into the back of him. We’re just frustrated racing with idiots like that. We’re a small team, it’s uncalled for and shouldn’t really take place. We don’t need to come here and tear up cars because of that idiot with a barrel of money.”
Allensworth had his take on what happened.
“The seven-car had hit everybody he passed tonight, he wore his stuff out,” said Allensworth. “I was reeling him in and passed him clean down the front stretch. He decided to wheel-slam me and he broke the right front spindle. He’s run over the top of me twice, and I don’t appreciate being raced like that. These cars are too expensive to tear them up every week over a little brat kid that’s never been taught how to race.”
Zach Lightfoot is 17 years old and had driven Legends cars before moving to full-bodied Late Model competition. Tim Allensworth has more experience. He piloted Super Late Models for most of his career before moving to Wallace, NC. Allensworth calls Kil-Kare Speedway in Ohio his home track, including others, like Columbus, Midvale, and Loraine Speedway.
Lost in all of the controversies of the Memorial Classic was the drive of Winston Salem North Carolina’s Trevor Ward. Ward was able to save his tires throughout his run despite the inside tires being 20 lap scuffs. After the crash on lap 50, he was able to make a run on pole-sitter Connor Hall. Once Ward got by the machine of Hall, it was a clear path to the checkered flag. Ward was able to score his first victory at the Eastern NC track. Something unique to Carteret County Speedway is that every Late Model feature winner gets to put their name on the wall at the track.
Ward beamed with joy in victory lane as he learned his name will grace the front stretch wall.
“It’s cool that they do that here,” Ward explained. “I’m happy to be a part of that. I gotta thank the good Lord above man for putting me in this position; to travel out here and get the win, it’s incredible. I gotta thank Mike and Corey, Mechanical & Digital Repair. I can’t think of a better racing family than what I have and all the blessings the Lord has done for me tonight. We weren’t going to have enough money to race the next race if it didn’t turn out good this night. It took everything we had to do it, but we pulled it off man.”
Bobby Watson’s Carteret County Speedway put on a barnburner of a Late Model feature amid a tire shortage, a fuel crisis just a couple of weeks ago, and a smaller field than average. Despite all of the potential hindrances, the venue itself is a fever dream of memorabilia and quirks that no other track in the country can boast. Despite the controversy and ultimate suspension of a seasoned veteran driver; The late Bobby Watson could look down and be proud of his dream that has continued into the next decade and beyond.
Cover photo by Eric Creel.
Final Running Order
1) Trevor Ward
2) Connor Hall
3) Daniel Vuncannon
4) Boo Boo Dalton
5) Kenneth Mercer
6) Zach Lightfoot
7) Tim Allensworth
8) Chris Burns
9) Chris Horton Jr