By BOBBY SWEENEY
BRASSTOWN, NC – Richie Pratt scored his first Short Track Super Series win in dramatic fashion, taking the lead at halfway after the top four drivers piled-up before then holding off a high-flying Alex Yankowski for the Tri-County Racetrack trophy in the Hurlock Auto and Speed ‘Return to Racing’ 50-lap feature.
“Last night we were in the wrong place at the wrong time on the second lap, but tonight we were in the right place,” Pratt said. “The top four all had problems and we were there to capitalize on it.”
Stewart Friesen picked up where he left off Thursday night, leading the way at the start of Friday’s 50-lap feature and leaving Richie Pratt and Tyler Dippel to battle for second.
That battle didn’t last as long as hoped, as Dippel went around on lap five. A big pileup on the restart sent Larry Wight’s brand new Teo Pro Car flipping in its first event, but Wight continued on track and Friesen continued to lead.
Billy Pauch Jr. and Matt Sheppard were on the move, with Pauch slotting into second by lap 10 and Sheppard up to fourth before a lap 15 caution.
Friesen continued to be blisteringly quick up top, setting the pace again on the restart. Pauch, Sheppard, and Umbenhauer kept Friesen honest in traffic, but traffic flipped the race on its heels at halfway.
On lap 24, Tyler Dippel ended up sideways in turn three, and the entire top four of Friesen, Pauch, Sheppard, and Umbenhauer all ended up in it.
“Believe it or not, when I was following Friesen, he taught me how to drive the track a little better, and that helped when we got out front again,” commented Pratt. “We ran a good race, and I can’t believe we’re here.”
Pratt was now the leader, with Danny Tyler, Danny Creeden, Erick Rudolph, and Alex Yankowski the new-look top five.
While Tyler and Creeden fought tooth-and-nail for second, Pratt had none of it and drove away. Yankowski, Modified sophomore, held close to the battle for second, but Pratt’s lead continued to grow through lapped traffic.
By the time Jessica Friesen broke and drew a caution on lap 39, Pratt was up by over a straightaway.
Creeden was the big loser on the restart, dropping a couple spots on the green. Yankowski was the big winner, slipping into third and then disposing of Tyler for second on lap 42.
Pratt had jumped out to a two-plus second lead on the initial green, but once in second, Yankowski closed in. By lap 47, Yankowski was within a couple carlengths, but both drivers were wide open around the top.
Wight’s battered car finally gave out with three laps left after a respectable drive back into the top ten, placing Yankowski right on Pratt’s tail. The pair hung status-quo on the single file restart, but a crash involving Creeden, Schilling, and Britten drew the yellow on the final circuit.
Despite an increasing amount of smoke from his car, Pratt was unfazed on the restart, gapping Yankowski to score the $5,00 payday at Tri-County Racetrack.
Heavy afternoon rains made an already fast track even faster, with times barely slowing down throughout the night. The result was a tall physical toll on the drivers and their equipment.
“I’m definitely out of shape, I’m whooped right now,” noted Pratt. “Under those long green flag runs I was having a hard time keeping my head up. My shield was fogging up and everything but we made it, I have to thank my crew because they spent all night putting this thing back together after ending up on our side last night. I was told I was smoking when I got out of the car, but nothing on the gauges. We’ll take a look at that, and see if we have to switch to the other car tomorrow.”
Yankowski is in his sophomore year of Modified racing, and somewhere near his sophomore year of high school. The teenager demonstrated the patience of a veteran in his march towards the front and a runner-up finish.
“Long runs we had a good car,” said Yankowski, “On the restarts I just wasn’t in the right spots and that hurt us. We found a little bit of an issue after last night, got it fixed, and we’re happy with the results. We were good the whole race, we just needed to find a little bit of clean air. This track is different, I’ve only been to Fulton once and this reminds me a little bit of it, but this is really a whole new animal.”
Friesen led the first half of the event, but was caught up in a wreck with the other frontrunners. Unlike last night, Friesen wasn’t able to reach the lead after the incident, but still drove back to a podium.
“Sometimes that how it goes,” Friesen stated. “Big-block Modifieds on this bullring are crazy. It was fun to come down here and check out a new part of the country and get some racing in. We’re looking forward to heading to ‘the place your mama warned you about,’ Cherokee, another new place. Our car is kind of in one piece, we’ll be ready.”
Tyler ended up finishing in fourth while Johnson captured his second top five of the week by finishing in fifth.
HURLOCK AUTO & SPEED RACE SUMMARY – TRI-COUNTY RACETRACK FRIDAY, MAY 22
Bob Hilbert Sportswear Short Track Super Series Fueled By Sunoco Modified Feature Finish (50 laps): RICHIE PRATT JR., Alex Yankowski, Stewart Friesen, Danny Tyler, Danny Johnson, Billy Decker, Brett Tonkin, Erick Rudolph, J.R. Hurlburt, Allison Ricci, Peter Britten, David Schilling, Dillon Groover, Danny Creeden, Larry Wight, Jeff Strunk, Billy Pauch Jr., Jessica Friesen, Michael Maresca, Jared Umbenhauer, Anthony Perrego, Matt Shepard, Andy Bachetti, Tyler Dippel, Josh Delea, Alan Johnson, H.J. Bunting, Tyler Siri, Danny Bouc.
Did Not Start: Billy Van Pelt