A crash on the third lap of the first Twin 40 Late Model Stock feature on Saturday night at Hickory Motor Speedway prevented both the defending champion and current points leader from racing in the second race.
Both Landon Huffman and Doug Barnes Jr. were involved in an incident on the backstretch with Kade Brown. All three failed to return to the track for the remainder of the race. As a result, they failed to meet the 20-lap threshold to make them eligible to compete in the second 40-lap feature, a policy theoretically designed to promote equal competition based on tire wear.
The issue is that there is no recorded evidence of such a rule in the Hickory Motor Speedway rule book, nor has such a policy been brought up in a drivers meeting over the first two NASCAR Weekly Series events this month.
Both Huffman and Barnes had their cars repaired over the next hour and a half in time for the second feature and were lined-up, engines fired, when the edict came down from the tower that these cars would not be permitted to race.
READ MORE: Recap and Results from Week 2 at Hickory
But again, in the time it took to run the Street Stock, Limited Late Model and Mini Stock feature, the cars had been prepared and were gridded-up without a single mention that they were making repairs in vain. Huffman protested the decision, the debate over their participating delaying the start of the race, his argument based upon the notion that such a rule was not in the rule book nor was it mentioned in the drivers meeting the past two weeks.
For his part, Barnes did not protest as loudly in the moment, thinking that perhaps he had just missed the edict. But he had actually recorded the drivers meeting that day and the 20-lap threshold was indeed not mentioned.
Allegedly, during their meeting in the Hickory Motor Speedway office, track promoter Kevin Piercy said the rule has been mentioned occasionally in the past and that it’s the team’s responsibility to be familiar with the rules.
Huffman maintains it’s the responsibility of the track to clearly state regulations to participants both verbally and in writing.
Ultimately, Piercy said the three cars could essentially start and park the second feature and receive last place points. The car driven by Brown is owned by Matt Piercy, the son of the track operator, and the younger Piercy took the track up on the suggestion.
Huffman and Barnes did not, sitting the race out in protest.
Short Track Scene reached out to the elder Piercy on Sunday morning about the matter with the track operator deferring to a statement that would come out on Monday around lunchtime. The statement can be found below in its entirety:
The response was not what Huffman wanted to see.
“First of all, typical Kevin Piercy, evasive on the issue and not taking responsibility for his actions,” Huffman told Short Track Scene after the release was posted. “It’s 100 percent the track’s fault for not clearly stating the rules and procedures. I understand the concept. I get it. New tires have an advantage, but we were in a crash in the first race. What I’m convinced happened was that they were going to let us race, no one stopped us from lining up, until someone complained over the radio.
“If we were approached with some kind of rule, I would have done whatever it took to race, especially after doing everything we had to do to repair our car. There is no such rule in the rule book and not a word about it was said in the drivers meeting.”
For Huffman, it’s not even so much about not being allowed to race or the lack of transparency, but instead a lack of responsibility from Piercy.
When reached via text, Barnes said he vaguely recalls something like this rule being mentioned in the driver’s meeting for the Fall Brawl, ‘but how are you going to take rules for a 150-lap race and then apply it to a Twin 40 format, but other than than, I don’t remember them ever saying it then or any other time I’ve raced there.’
Both Huffman and Barnes said track officials all agreed that it wasn’t said in the drivers meeting that day, and then changed their story to fit with the edict that was passed down, before collectively landing on the rule being said at some point, at some drivers meeting, and therefore should be known by the competitors.
“I told Kevin,” Huffman said. “It’s your responsibility to convey the rules to us and Doug agrees with that too.”
Huffman and Barnes suggested that they could have tagged the back of the field of the Limited Late Model race and turned 20 laps at speed to scuff their tires in advance of the second 40 lapper. Both drivers said they could have spent six minutes scuffing their tires in the time in took to debate whether or not such a rule existed in the first place.
Both Huffman and Barnes take no exception to the spirit of a hypothetical rule, but instead just want Piercy to take responsibility for the fact that it doesn’t clearly exist, and to express some degree of intent to do better by his racers.
Huffman says Piercy lamented the lack of gratitude by racers for giving them a track to race at over the past 15 years during his tenure with Huffman saying he and his partners are just as invested in his track as the Piercys are.
“We brought High Rock Vodka in as the official spirit of the track,” Huffman said. “I don’t expect special treatment. I just want him to man up and admit that the track screwed up. Yeah, maybe he said it the year before, but it has to be clearer than that. Moving forward, maybe it will be, and it needs to be.
“If he had just admitted that he made a mistake and there should have been a rule, I would have taken that better than this.”
As it stands, Huffman doesn’t think it’s worth going to NASCAR, with Hickory Motor Speedway operating under NASCAR sanctioning. And he’s also committed to racing at Hickory because a majority of his partners are locally bases.
“I just want to see my home track thrive,” Huffman said. “I’m sure High Rock would support us racing where ever but we have a lot of local partners. I just wanted to see some accountability.”
March 13, 2023 at 7:26 pm
The crew that worked to put those cars back together deserve better, the owner deserves better the sponsor deserves better and let’s not forget the people who paid to watch a show. Rules are there to be fair to all and not well you should have known.The track failed to make the rules known, move foward and learn.
March 14, 2023 at 9:21 pm
It’s funny that the track promoter made up a rule that happened to favor his son’s car. I still remember a few years back when he used made up rules to give his son the championship. He is ruining Hickory Motor Speedway.