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ASA STARS

Gio Ruggiero Defeats William Byron in ASA Hickory Slugfest

The fourth race of the ASA National Tour was its best yet

Jason Reasin

Gio Ruggiero really wanted it, went out and took it, scoring his first ever Super Late Model victory on Thursday night in ASA STARS competition at Hickory Motor Speedway.

The win came at the expense of William Byron, making his second appearance for Anthony Campi Racing, who was shoved up the track out of the final corner and lost a door-slamming drag race across the finish line.

It was the culmination of a 25-lap final segment that saw multiple strategies intersect to dramatic effect. Ruggiero was the first driver on new tires at the final stage and drove from eighth to the lead with 10 laps to go.

Byron on his older tires retook the lead and was the control car for the last several restarts and was driving away from Ruggiero until three laps to go. That’s when the Donnie Wilson No. 22 came to life on the new tires and reeled the Cup contender down.

They traded paint, which left Byron initially frustrated, but Ruggiero won the race by a margin of 0.036. It’s cliché but Ruggiero would not be denied.

“It was a little tight firing off, but that win meant a lot to me,” Ruggiero said. “I had to work hard to earn it. I’m sure he wasn’t happy with the way I raced him, but the way he raced me and my teammates, I kind of lost a little bit of respect for him.

“I didn’t wreck him, he finished second, and we got the win and that’s all that matters.”

Byron was a little hot climbing out of the car but says he was starting to mellow after rolling through technical inspection.

I think, as the dust kind of settles, my temperature comes down,” Byron said. “I got doored so many times the last few laps. The whole left side was knocked off it. It was a really good race, between three or four cars, and we lapped a lot of cars that first run.

“When we took rights, we didn’t have what we needed and fell back, and learned I just need to be better explaining what I need on four tires and 50 to go. A little too tight at the end, and just a lot of heat cycles at the end too.”

When pointed out that this was the first win for Ruggiero, Byron says he understands a little better, but that he didn’t win his that way however.

It was just a slugfest in the mid-pack with new tires mixing in with old tires. Jesse Love was running fifth with 10 to go when he spun off the bumper of Chase Elliott, while racing hard with Byron. He was mad at Byron.

“The 24 goes in there and barrel drives us on entry into 3 which is frustrating because I gave him a lane the whole race,” Love said. “I never touched him to get the lead and I raced him with respect. The Cup guys come down here and preach about respect and how much short track drivers don’t race with respect, and then they come here to our level and race us like that.”

Elliott went inside the hauler after the race to smooth things over as that incident had several factors — a car in front of them laying fluid down to be exact.

ASA STARS Tar Heel 250
Hickory Motor Speedway
May 25 2023

  1. Gio Ruggerio
  2. William Byron
  3. Cole Butcher
  4. Ty Majeski
  5. Caden Kvapil
  6. Chase Elliott
  7. Stephen Nasse
  8. Austin Nason
  9. Jett Noland
  10. Michael Hinde
  11. Jesse Love
  12. Casey Roderick
  13. Ross Strmiska
  14. Billy VanMeter
  15. Matthew Craig
  16. Albert Francis
  17. Dustin Smith
  18. Tyler Tanner
  19. Jackson Boone
  20. Blaine Rocha
  21. Carson Hocevar
  22. Kodie Conner
  23. Bubba Pollard
  24. Jake Finch
  25. Tony Elrod

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Matt Weaver is the owner and founder of Short Track Scene. Weaver grew up in the sport, having raced himself before becoming a reporter in college at the University of South Alabama. He also has extensive experience covering NASCAR, IndyCar and Dirt Sprint Cars.

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