If you just saw the qualifying and race results, you would think that Ryan Repko dominated the Bobby Isaac Memorial at Hickory Motor Speedway on Saturday night but it’s what the results don’t say that tells the tale of a wild night.
Repko qualified his car on the pole for the 150-lap race and from the drop of the green flag, he and teammate Philip Morris were the leaders of the pack. Morris wasted no time getting to the front of the field but Repko stayed close behind as several cautions waved in the first 20-laps of the race.
Behind Morris and Repko positions were changing hands nearly every lap with one driver in particular on a march to the front. Charlie Watson started 15th but he was coming to the front in a hurry as sprinkles of rain fell over the track and it appeared a rainstorm was on its way that could end the race early.
Before lap 50 Watson had made it to the fourth position and was closing on third in a hurry. Just after lap 50, Watson disposed of Austin Green, who was in third and then got around Repko for second. On lap 60 Watson drove up and took the lead away from Morris to become the third leader of the race.
Lap 61 saw the caution waved again as Ryan Vasconcellos broke a wheel and ended his night after a strong 10th place qualifying effort as the only car in the field with a 603 crate engine. Watson and Morris would restart side by side coming back to the green flag. Soon after the restart, the front pack would get tangled up sending Austin McDaniel, who had raced up to the lead pack from his 8th place starting position, spinning in front of a huge pack of cars.
On the ensuing restart, Morris stole the lead away on the outside but Watson was going to give up and doored Morris for the top spot on lap 85. Watson regained the lead before another caution for a Terry Brooks spin would wave. Justin Crider was having a great run, running in the top five but had to pit due to damage to his exhaust. Under this caution, McDaniel, who went a lap down during his spin earlier, got the free pass and was back on the lead lap.
Coming to 50 to go the field came back to the green flag and just as they enter turn one Watson and Morris tangle sending Morris into the wall and Watson to pit road with a cut tire. Watson and Morris would continue but Morris’ car was worse for the wear and he wouldn’t be a factor in the finish. Watson’s car continued to have issues with cutting tires that stemmed from a new spindle design.
Austin Green had inherited the lead in this exchange but picked up damage in the Morris, Watson crash that would end his night as the hood pin bar went through the radiator. This would give the lead to Repko and on the next restart he would take away from the field as now Ryan Millington and outside pole sitter, Jagger Jones battled for the second position.
Another caution just before lap 125 would slow the field and as they went back green for the next restart huge raindrops began falling and rain slowed the field for about a 50-minute delay. Once the track was dry the cars were lined back up and Repko would lead them back to the green.
Now with 20-laps to finish it Repko led the field with a bunch of anxious racers behind him wanting their shot at the trophy and hoping they saved enough tire to get there. Repko and Millington battled door to door for five laps before Repko took the lead and looked to be pulling away to victory. Meanwhile, Millington was left to battle Matt Leicht, who had been riding the whole race and was looking to make his move.
As the field came to ten to go, Morris found himself in a three-way battle with Ty Gibbs and Jacob Heafner for position at the back of the lead lap pack of cars. With Repko checked out Heafner and Gibbs were making a lot of contact which eventually led to Gibbs crashing hard into the tire barrier along the outside wall in turn one. Gibbs would be done for the day.
As this was taking place the crews of Gibbs and Heafner were having a conversation which eventually led to punches being thrown. Gibbs crew chief, Greg Marlowe was led out of the track by Sheriff’s Deputies while the cleanup was going on.
Just before the Gibbs crash, McDaniel, who overcame being a lap down earlier in the race, made a daring three-wide move on Millington and Leicht. He made contact with Leicht shoving him up into Millington. McDaniel would take second as the caution waved. Once the track was cleaned up the field resumed for a green, white, checkered finish. Repko would lead them down to the green once again with McDaniel to his outside. Repko would fend off McDaniel over the final two laps and win the Bobby Isaac Memorial.
McDaniel came across the line in second with Leicht third. As the last lap unfolded fourth-place runner Mitch Walker spun down the backstretch and hit the inside wall as the rest of the field came around to finish the race. Chris Hudspeth and Jones completed the top five finishers.
For Repko, it’s been a good last few weeks. He finished second to Corey Heim in both twins at South Boston Speedway before inheriting both wins after inspection. Then last week he grabbed his first career Hickory Motor Speedway win and backed it up with a win in one of the biggest races annually on the historic track. He’s on a roll and at a good time as we head into big race season.
1 – Ryan Repko #14
2 – Austin McDaniel #12
3 – Matt Leicht #2
4 – Chris Hudspeth #28
5 – Jagger Jones #88
6 – Ryan Millington #17
7 – Terry Brooks, Jr. #23
8 – Austin Self #15
9 – Philip Morris #01
10 – Mitch Walker #29
11 – Justin Carroll #57
12 – Jacob Heafner #95
13 – Ty Gibbs #18
14 – Dylon Wilson #4
15 – Austin Green #2
16 – Will Burns #41
17 – Charlie Watson #9
18 – Justin Crider #7
19 – Monty Cox #21
20 – Ryan Vasconcellos #10
21 – Sam Mayer #9