For a brief period of time during the second half of the Myrtle Beach 400, it appeared that Late Model veteran Jamie Weatherford had accomplished the impossible by unlapping himself and taking the lead away from Jeff Fultz all in the same green flag run.
A scoring discrepancy would negate Weatherford’s charge to the front of the pack, and he would ultimately find himself behind the wall with a 29th-place finish after being involved in late-race accident with Justin Milliken and Matt Leicht.
“We had a great car,” Weatherford said. “With everyone riding around and slamming on brakes in the middle of the straightaway, you never knew where they were going to lift or what was going to happen in general, which causes them to bunch up. When that happens, you usually get wrecks.”
After starting at the back of the pack, Weatherford’s evening got off to a poor start following contact between him and Brenden Queen, which knocked the tow out of his #94 Late Model and forced him to ride around and wait for the halfway break.
Weatherford believed that he had only lost one lap to leader Corey Heim by the 125th lap of the race, but his crew went to work on repairing the damage he sustained from the contact with Queen to ensure that he had a raceable car for the second half of the Myrtle Beach 400.
With the rest of the field in tire conservation mode, Weatherford elected to make his charge toward the front and passed every single lead lap car, before catching the tail end of the pack and repeating the same process to overtake Fultz and pull away from the rest of the pack.
A debris caution appeared to put Weatherford at the front of the field for the ensuing restart with Fultz to his outside, but race control determined that Weatherford was two laps down at the halfway break and had simply gotten back on the lead lap with his second pass on Fultz, which Weatherford disputed after the race had ended.
“We had gotten lapped on the front straightaway and the caution had come out on the back straightaway,” Weatherford said. “With the way we’ve always raced, when the caution comes out, you go back to the last completed lap. So we should have gotten our lap back right there, but it is what it is.”
Although Weatherford had been scored as the leader on RaceMonitor, Myrtle Beach Speedway general manager Steve Zacharias affirmed that Weatherford was indeed two laps down through the track’s official timing and scoring, and that his position on RaceMonitor was erroneous.
“The [RaceMonitor] app is always unofficial,” Zacharias said. “The computer upstairs had him two laps down, so when he made that final pass [on Fultz], he got on the lead lap. What the app registered was beyond my control, but once I hit caution, [Weatherford] was now on the lead lap at the back of the field.
Weatherford attempted to get back up front, but was not able to maneuver his way through traffic after using up his tires earlier, which eventually culminated into his race-ending accident after Milliken was turned in the middle of the field in Turn 4, leaving Weatherford with nowhere to go on the high side.
Although he had used up his equipment trying to get his laps back, Weatherford was confident that his car would have still be capable of challenging Fultz, Heim, Josh Berry and eventual race-winner Will Burns for a victory in the Myrtle Beach 400 during the closing laps.
“I don’t know if we would have been able to hold everyone off, but I guess we’ll never know,” Weatherford said. “We still would have had a good car, but with the way everyone was backing the corner up during the second time we were in the back, there was nowhere to go without moving somebody.”
Weatherford concludes his 2019 season at Myrtle Beach 13th in the track’s Late Model standings, but he plans to return to the facility in 2020 with the hopes of finally adding his name to the list of Myrtle Beach 400 winners at the end of the year.
Cover photo by Corey Latham.