Corey Heim has won big Late Model races before, but it was becoming a nuisance that he hadn’t won in a Late Model Stock.
The 17-year-old had been in position to do so for much of the past two years and had been denied every way possible since joining Lee Pulliam Performance in 2018.
That streak ended on Saturday night as Heim dominated the second half of the CARS Tour Race Face Tel-Med 150 at Hickory Motor Speedway and won by 2.1 seconds over rookie Gage Painter.
— Matt Weaver (@MattWeaverAW) June 14, 2020
For much of the race, it appeared as if the Race Face Tel-Med 150 would come down to Heim or championship leader Layne Riggs. Heim led early from the pole but quickly conceded the top spot to Riggs on Lap 20.
Riggs developed a handling issue and Heim retook the lead for good on Lap 80. He led the remaining 70 laps largely unchallenged from behind. It was his first CARS Tour victory in his sixth start and his first overall in the discipline.
“I think the first half was just riding around and feeling everyone out,” Heim said. “A lot of it was seeing what (Riggs) had and what (Ryan Millington) had. The other cars that were up there.
“As soon as I saw what they had on the longer run and what their tires were, I knew I could control the race if I took away their track position.”
Heim broke through in a Super Late Model in winning CRA Speedfest in January at Watermelon Capital Speedway, but the Late Model Stock side has been painfully heartbreaking fashion. He appeared to have won his first two races during a 2018 doubleheader at South Boston Speedway but was disqualified over strange circumstances. He was then the leader at the end of the 2018 Martinsville 300 but lost the race on a technicality as CE Falk was the leader at the time, they crossed the start finish line for the restart of the third and final green-white-checkered.
It was inevitable that Heim would win with Lee Pulliam Performance, and they simply ran out of ways to lose races.
“This car has deserved to win races for a while now,” Heim said. “It’s been good enough to win several big races and we should have. We had the speed to. And to win here, it’s good to do it with this car.”
Meanwhile, once Riggs lost the handling of his No. 99 car, it became a struggle to simply finish in the top-five. In the first half, Riggs said his car was the best it had ever felt here. It required little wheel and he floated it into the corner.
But once it went away, it went away hard.
There was an incident between himself and Race at Ace 125 winner Ryan Millington with 13 laps to go. Millington had just got around Riggs for second when they came together in Turn 4. Millington spun off Riggs’ nose.
“I thought we had a second-place car,” Millington said. “We definitely didn’t have anything for Corey. Congrats to them. Me and Layne, it was just hard racing. He had been running that top side for 60-70 laps and once you start doing that, you have to chop people off. That’s the only way you can do it.
“So, I knew I had to run him up the track a little. I guess he wasn’t happy about it, so I guess he had to do something back. But honestly, that late in the show, everyone is loose and you’re just hanging on. He got into me too hard and I looped it around. It is what it is.”
Millington went to chat with Riggs at his hauler after the race. Riggs said that he appreciated that the two of them were able to ‘handle it like men.’ Millington agreed.
“We just talked it over,” he added. “There are no hard feelings. I ain’t going to go wreck him. We’re going to race hard and clean like we always do. I just wanted to ask him if it were intentional and we agreed that it was just part of short track racing.”
Riggs said he offered the apology no questions asked.
“I told him that I didn’t mean to wreck him,” Riggs said. “It just seemed like he got loose. I got on the brakes, but he came across my nose. I appreciate him coming to me man to man so we could talk it out.”
Riggs now has finishes of fifth, second and fifth to open the season and retained the championship lead over Heim.
He didn’t immediately know what caused him to get so loose.
“We’ve been working on a new set up with the car. It seems like we always get free with this car no matter what we do. We just need to do some more testing. More learning. Be more prepared for when that happens. It’s something new to us and we’re learning along the way.”
He remains the points leader, but Heim is now in the mix after his victory on Saturday night.
“We take it week by week, for sure,” Heim said. “At the same time, you always have points in the back of your head. A win is a big boost. To win, win the pole and lead the most laps. It was a heck of a night and I couldn’t ask for anymore.”
- 78 Corey Heim
- 12 Gage Painter
- 1 Nolan Pope
- 14 Jared Fryar
- 99 Layne Riggs
- 1m Craig Moore
- 22 Bobby McCarty
- 2 Brandon Pierce
- 19 Drew Dollar
- 8 Connor Mosack
- 81b Sam Butler
- 08 Deac McCaskill
- 44 Justin Johnson
- 16 Chad McCumbee
- 77 Trevor Ward
- 41 Adam Lemke
- 63 Tyler Matthews
- 74 Ronald Hill
- 4 Jonathan Findley
- 2s Jonathan Shafer
- 19c Jessica Cann
- 51 Matt Cox
- 15 Ryan Millington
- 11 Dillon Houser
- 81 Mini Tyrrell