The 27-year-old Loudon driver showed what the hype was all about Saturday night at Volunteer Speedway.
Hedgecock set fast time in qualifying in his No. 23 Chevrolet and led every lap of the Schaeffer’s Oil Iron-Man Championship Series Firecracker 40. His victory on the four-tenths-mile dirt track was his fifth major one in East Tennessee this year. He has two wins each at 411 Speedway in Seymour and Smoky Mountain Raceway in Maryville.
A recent visit to Volunteer Speedway gave him the information needed to win at Bulls Gap.
“We were at the World of Outlaws race a couple of weeks ago and felt the racetrack was the same where you had to run the top and the bottom,” Hedgecock said. “Our car has got really good balance right now. We’ve worked hard to get there so we’re happy.”
While Hedgecock was fast out front, the action was intense behind him.
Johnson City’s Jensen Ford qualified on the outside pole in his No. 83 Chevrolet. He was in a three-way battle with Kentucky’s Michael Chilton and Seymour’s Ryan King for the runner-up spot in the early laps.
Ford’s car faded, stalling out when he tried to run the low side of the track. He ended up 10th.
“The car was probably faster on the bottom, but we had a bad stumble when we would go down there,” Ford said. “I don’t know if it was a carburetor issue or what, but it wouldn’t do it up top. This Super Late Model deal, you miss it by a little and you’re behind a lot. We had a good qualifying effort; we just have to have it a little better for the race next time.”
Chilton held on to second after battling with Donald McIntosh and King, who finished third and fourth. Pennsylvania’s Kyle Strickler was fifth.
McIntosh — who hails from Dawsonville, Georgia, also the hometown of NASCAR Hall of Famer Bill Elliott — noted the wild racing all over the track that saw drivers go three- and occasionally four-wide.
“Some of the guys were driving over their heads,” McIntosh said. “I was afraid it was going to be a real bad night.”
CRATE LATE MODEL
It turned out to be a real bad night for the Sise brothers from Knoxville despite the fact they dominated most of the American Crate All-Star Series Star Spangled 40.
Zach Sise set fast time and then won a Quick-Six Dash race to earn the pole. He was leading the A-Main feature when the axle broke on his No. 9 machine, causing him to wreck and trigger a multicar pileup.
After racing resumed, Trevor Sise took over the lead and appeared to be headed to victory until the driveshaft broke on his No. 73. With the Sises sidelined, another Knoxville driver, Ross White, grabbed the lead with two laps to go and rolled to his first win of the season.
White, the grandson of NHRA Top Fuel racer Bob Vandergriff and son of longtime East Tennessee drag racer Ronnie White, felt bad for the Sise boys but was happy for his own crew.
“You hate to win them that way, but the way our season has gone, you take them any way you can get them,” White said. “You have to be in position to win. In my 20 years of racing, I’ve only won one other race by someone else’s misfortune. I’ve lost a few that way, so I will take it.”
Riley Hickman finished second, followed by Greg Martin and Josh Henry. Shannon Emery, driving for Colonial Heights car owner Sam Phillips, rounded out the top five.
Former track champion Tim Maupin of Johnson City finished eighth. He was able to avoid multiple multicar wrecks but felt he could have done a better job in traffic.
“We were probably better than what we showed,” Maupin said. “There were some times I didn’t choose the right line. I could put the car wherever I wanted, but we lacked a little forward traction as it would spin too much coming off the corner.”
Clyde Stanton added to the Knoxville drivers’ bounty after leading flag to flag in the 20-lap Sportsman Late Model feature. Stanton, nicknamed the “Mule Hollow Missile,” was followed to the finish by Warren McMahan and David Bullington.
Lee Merritt, also of Knoxville, captured the 20-lap Classic race ahead of John Stevens and Shaun Sise.
Parrottsville’s Wayne Rader emerged with the lead after an early battle with defending track champion David Clark to win a 20-lap Modified Street feature. Tyler Haynes got around Clark for second.
Blountville’s Zack Walton took the lead before the halfway point of the Front Wheel Drive feature to score the win. Bryan Williams was second, followed by Johnson City’s Marcus Mays, the son of five-time Volunteer champion Bobby Mays.