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Caleb Heady Holds off Bobby Labonte for First SMART Win at Florence

Rookie driver stuns veteran field in second SMART Modified Tour start

Andy Marquis/STS

Rookie Caleb Heady, driving for Tommy Baldwin, held off Bobby Labonte to pick up his first win in the series in only his second start in the SMART Modified Tour at Florence Motor Speedway on Saturday afternoon.

After recording the fastest lap in qualifying, setting a new track record with a time of 16.806, Heady ended up starting the race in seventh after a redraw.  Heady raced his way to the lead on lap 27 after restarting in third.  Throughout the duration of the midway stages of the race, Heady had dropped back to fourth as he saved tires but was able to march back to the lead in the final 20 laps of the race and survived multiple restarts to score the win.

“Man, this is unbelievable,” Heady said in victory lane.  “I wanted to win this season but I thought it was going to come later.  I can’t believe it came in the second race.  Huge thanks to Tommy Baldwin Racing and everybody there.  This is crazy.”

Heady, who has numerous wins in Legends racing, was as surprised as anyone else when he took the checkered flag.

“To win in my second race is unbelievable,” Heady told Short Track Scene.  “I’m really looking forward to the rest of the year.”

A hard charging Bobby Labonte had the fastest car in the closing laps of the race but came up a car-length short of the victory, settling for second.

“[Caleb] did really good,” Labonte said.  “He paced himself really well and saved tires until time to go and he was pretty fast.  I think we might’ve been a tick quicker.  Obviously, we were too equal and too short of laps.  Caleb, he did a great job, to manage tires with these things are a beast, so it was good.”

Heady changed only one tire in the race, a right-rear tire.

Brian Loftin finished in third while Gary Putnam and Burt Myers rounded out the top-five.

SMART Modified Tour at Florence – Results

  1. Caleb Heady
  2. Bobby Labonte
  3. Brian Loftin
  4. Gary Putnam
  5. Burt Myers
  6. John Smith
  7. Brandon Ward
  8. Jason Myers
  9. Dennis Holdren
  10. Tim Brown
  11. Jeremy Gerstner
  12. Brian Dauzat
  13. Mike Norman
  14. Daniel Yates
  15. Brody Jones
  16. Brian Weber

Caleb Heady on track at Florence Motor Speedway. (Andy Marquis photo)

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Marquis comes from St. Charles, Maryland and has a widespread background in journalism, having covered politics in Washington and Maryland as well as nearly every form of auto racing, including NASCAR, IndyCar, AMA Motocross and IHRA Drag Racing. Now living near Emerald Isle, North Carolina, Marquis covers Late Model Stock Cars and Super Late Models in the Carolinas and Virginia.

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