Mason Ludwig closed out the regular season at Hickory Motor Speedway in grand style by winning the 50-lap Paramount Kia Big 10 Racing Challenge limited late model finale on Saturday night.
The Michigan native started the feature from the third position in the No. 12 entry fielded by Leicht Motorsports Driver Development. A slow start dropped Ludwig into a battle for fourth on the initial start, but by lap six he laid claim to the position and began his march to the front.
By lap 13 Ludwig had moved up to third and was continuing to gain on the lead duo. He slipped past Mitch Walker to take second on lap 21, leaving only the race leader Cody DeMarmels in front of him.
Ludwig was quickly catching DeMarmels when suddenly the leader slowed in turn one just as the field started lap 28, bringing out the caution flag and giving Ludwig the lead of the race. The ensuing restart set up a duel between Ludwig and runner-up Walker, who immediately went to war over the top spot.
Ludwig and Walker raced side-by-side for the next few laps, with neither driving giving an inch. Going into turns one and two on lap 31 both cars got sideways, with Ludwig barely recovering and hanging onto the lead. Walker wasn’t so lucky as he spun in front of the field, making contact with another car to bring out the caution flag.
After a red flag to clean up the incident, racing resumed with 20 laps left as Ludwig lined up alongside Kyle Barnes on the front row. Barnes got the jump on Ludwig during the restart, but Ludwig held strong on the bottom and refused to be dispatched.
For 10 laps Ludwig and Barnes waged war for the lead, with the duo racing side-by-side lap after lap. Finally on lap 41 Ludwig got the advantage and powered past Barnes on the bottom to take the race lead. Once in front Ludwig drove off into the distance, easily pulling away from Barnes to score his second victory of the season at historic Hickory Motor Speedway.
“That was one of the hardest races I’ve ever run. I can’t believe we won it,” Ludwig said. “I’m not sure what happened in the incident with Mitch when we were battling for the lead, I think we both just got loose and I somehow kept the car pointed in the right direction.
“Then on that restart I battled with Kyle Barnes for what seemed like forever. He had the advantage on me on the restart, but I stayed on the bottom and eventually I was able to get past him to win the race. What an incredible feeling. Thanks to everyone, the Leicht family, my parents and all of my sponsors Wiley X, Shoot and Reel, Sparrow Ranch on the Island, MPM Marketing and Dietrich’s Collision.”
Leicht Motorsports Driver Development co-owner Eugene Leicht was ecstatic with the victory.
“What a drive by Mason tonight,” Leicht said. “From nearly wrecking that car racing for the lead to holding off Barnes after that restart, he earned every bit of that victory. We’re so proud to have him in our race cars. He’s such an amazing young man and he showed that tonight.”