It was a story of redemption that couldn’t be written any better.
Brandon Setzer returned to Hickory Motor Speedway four months after an infield brawl got him and his dad, NASCAR veteran Brandon Setzer, suspended and closed the loop with a victory in the biggest Super Late Model race of the CARS Tour season.
But it wouldn’t be a great story without an extra layer of adversity and struggle.
Setzer had the second-best car, but just couldn’t seem to close the gap on a dominant Bubba Pollard, until the superstar from Senoia, Georgia stalled with a mechanical issue on Lap 106 — 32 laps from the finish.
From there, Setzer successfully held-off a charging Chandler Smith and Preston Peltier and won his second-race of the season.
“I think Preston has like 16 wins here,” Setzer said in Victory Lane. “And Bubba Pollard. I hate that it went down that way. Bubba is the man right now so to be right there with him and to beat him, man. This is awesome.”
The race was especially redemptive because both Setzers were suspended following the May race at Hickory. Setzer was leading the final lap when Raphael Lessard punted him in the final corner. Both Brandon and Dennis were involved in a scuffle with the Kyle Busch Motorsports crew members.
Brandon was suspended one race and Dennis was suspended until August 4.
The suspensions generated a swell of support from the grassroots racing community, including a #FreeBrandon movement on Twitter.
The fans were solidly behind the younger Setzer, to the extent they cheered his every pass and booed Lessard during driver intros and during his mid-race mechanical failure.
“That was just, the whole community’s support was awesome,” Setzer explained. “Really appreciate all them and hope we put on a good show for them tonight. We’re old school. I work on the car. We were up until two o’clock Thursday morning overhauling this thing because it wasn’t right. We got here and it still wasn’t right so we wrenched on it and finally got it good. It means a lot to work on your car and do the whole deal.”
Still suspended until the end of the night, Dennis Setzer wasn’t allowed to celebrate with his son in Victory Lane until Tour director Chris Ragle personally came over to retrieve him.
“I guess I’m out of jail,” Setzer said. “Brandon is a pretty daggom good racer car driver. And to do it against this field is even more impressive. He works really hard to do it.”
Pollard actually needed a push to get going after the first caution. It was an issue that persisted throughout his race.
“I guess, just, maintenance and battery and alternator went out,” Pollard said. “Alternator is supposed to keep the battery charged. It ran the battery out, so just not the right maintenance.”
Smith meanwhile was disappointed with a close second-place finish.
“Yeah he’s really good here, this is my fourth time ever being here, third time in a Super Late Model, but there towards the end we started figuring something out and edging our way toward him, he’s got this place figured out though,” Smith said. “I learned a lot tonight and when we come back next time we will be a lot better though.
“We were just trying to keep it clean, I was just trying to keep it clean and soak up all the learning.”
The race was caution-filled, producing nine crashes overall.
The complete results can be found below.
- 6S Brandon Setzer 138
- 26S Chandler Smith 138
- 5 Kodie Conner 138
- 33 Preston Peltier 138
- 48 Jared Fryar 138
- 63 Matt Craig 138
- 34 Nolan Pope 138
- 28 Corey Heim 138
- 8 Tate Fogleman 138
- 7C Tyler Church 138
- 13 Jody Measamer 138
- 7 Molly Helmuth 137
- 2G Darrell Gilchrist 137
- 17 Mike Speeney 137
- 51 Raphael Lessard 136
- 2T Gracie Trotter 133
- 6W Matt Wallace 116
- 57 Austin Theriault 115 Mechanical
- 26P Bubba Pollarrd 105 Battery
- 2B Jeff Batten 84 Accident
- 3J Wayne Jefferson 80 Accident
- 24 Mason Diaz 78 Accident
- 87 Matt Thomas 78 Accident
- 3 Anthony Cataldi 77 Mechanical
- 58 Tyler Ankrum 34 Mechanical
- 9 Chris Dilbeck 23 Mechanical
- 12 Taylor Stricklin 23 Mechanical
- 4B Amber Balcean 19 Accident
32 Harold Crooms DNQ
59 Joe Graf, Jr. DNQ
15 Roy Hayes III DNQ
76 Jerick Johnson DNQ
21 Ryan Mathews DNQ
37 Dan Speeney Withdrew
14 Greg Burgess Withdrew