Stephen Sanders (16) and Kris Hetu (01) battle for the lead during a Mini-Stock race on April 14, 2019. (Josh Parrish photo)

PELETIER, NC – Stephen Sanders and Kris Hetu, two of the region’s most prolific Mini-Stock racers, are set to square off in twin features at Bobby Watson’s Carteret County Speedway on Saturday night.

Sanders, 29, from Midway, North Carolina, is the reigning division champion – outdueling Jacksonville’s Travis Miller to clinch the title.  Hetu, 38, from Wilmington, North Carolina, scored the championship in the Carolina Mini-Stock Challenge.  Now, both drivers are racing head-to-head for the Battlefield Tire Pros Mini-Stock Championship and, so far, the duel has been thrilling.

Sanders and Hetu are both equal on the stat line and each have one victory so far in 2019 – and wins could make all the difference under Carteret County’s unique points format which places extra emphasis on winning by awarding a three-point bonus to the winner.

“It seems like, if I win, Stephen’s second,” Hetu said.  “If he wins, I’m second.  I knew, if Stephen ran a full season, I would have to battle with him.  I was hoping Travis [Provost] would have a better season.  Hopefully he can get it turned around and compete with us.”

Hetu had not planned to run the full season, but his son, Aiden, backed out, and now the elder Hetu is running for the championship to fulfill sponsorship obligations.

“I wasn’t even supposed to be racing at Carteret this year, but Aiden didn’t feel comfortable about driving the big car, so rather than wreck it again, he chose to back out,” Hetu explained.  “Sponsorship obligations put me in the car for the season.”

While Stephen Sanders resides in Midway, up around Winston-Salem, he considers Carteret County his home track.  He competed in the inaugural race at Carteret in 2015.  In 2018, he planned to compete part-time at Carteret County.  However, a few races into the season, he found himself in contention for the championship and in love with the facility and has since made the decision to race at Carteret County full-time.

Once again, in 2019, Sanders is in contention thanks to one win, two runner-up finishes, and a third place finish.

“The 2019 season has been a blast so far,” Sanders stated.  “Finishing in the top-three every race this season has given the race team a huge boost.  We’re looking forward to the rest of the year.  I just hope luck keeps coming our way so I can financially keep chasing my second title.”

Like Sanders, Hetu has finished no worse than third in 2019.  However, he’s hoping to get the car even faster so he can win more races.

“Last race, we knew we were going to be off,” Hetu remarked.  “We were thankful to survive.  We think we have our ducks in a row finally and we’re coming to win both races.  The way this season has gone, I could have a great night and Stephen could finish just in front of me.”

The points lead isn’t the only thing being shared by Sanders and Hetu heading into Saturday.  What is also shared is respect amongst the two championship racers.

“Kris is a fierce competitor,” Sanders commented.  “I’m enjoying a close points battle with him.”

Sanders and Hetu will both look to take sole possession of the points lead in twin races as part of Saturday night’s Summer Sizzler at Bobby Watson’s Carteret County Speedway.  Street Stocks will also compete in twin races, while U-CARs, Legends, Champ Karts and Mini Cups will also be in action.

Tickets for Saturday’s race are $15 for adults while kids 10 and under are admitted free.

For more information about Bobby Watson’s Carteret County Speedway, visit the track’s official website at“like” Carteret County Speedway on Facebook or follow @carteretcoswy on Twitter.