Despite a late strategic charge from Kodie Conner, Matthew Craig emerged victorious once again at his new home track, winning the Cloer Construction 125 at Hickory Motor Speedway on Friday night.
His win was the second over his past three starts at the Birthplace of the NASCAR Stars and strengthened his stronghold in the CARS Tour Super Late Model championship standings with Bubba Pollard opting to race (and win) in Pensacola this weekend instead.
Craig led all but five laps, briefly allowing Jeff Fultz to lead laps 16-18, but generally cruised out front for most of the afternoon.
“To get into Victory Lane (at Hickory) is the best part because this is our home track now that Concord is gone,” Craig said in Victory Lane. “So, we put a lot of extra emphasis on this track.
“So does Kodie, I know. His home track was Concord too, so I know he wanted to win just as bad as we did.
“My car was really good at the beginning, though. A couple of those guys wanted to go a little faster that I was going, which is fine, but a soon as they tried to pass me, I just started to speed up so I could keep the lead and keep control of the race.
“My car was good; it faded the last … about 15 laps. Kodie was better than me. My team told me he rode in the back almost the whole race, and that’s always a good strategy, but being out front is hard to beat, You can build up that buffer when the race goes green and you can somewhat rely on that lead as you go. Sometimes it works; sometimes it doesn’t, but tonight worked out for us.”
Conner knew he had run out of time and was hoping for a late caution to capitalize on his fresher tires.
“I feel like I saved just enough, but I wasn’t expecting the leaders to be as fast as they were, so it just came down to track position,” Conner said. “We started 10th and we dropped to the rear where we just hung out for a little while. We felt out strategy was pretty good. The car was great all day. I just had to tighten my entry a little bit.
“At the end, I was hanging it out a little bit too wide and it was burning it up a little more than I wanted to so I just had to move around a little bit. But all in all, coming from last and almost beating Matt here is a pretty good day. He’s been the man and it was good to run with him.
“Pole sitter Trevor Noles led the first two laps in the Donnie Wilson Motorsports No. 22 before giving way to Craig and Fultz.
Noles ultimately finished third while Carson Kvapil and Tyler Church completed the top-five.
The race only started 13 cars — the byproduct of the Southern Super Series running at Pensacola on Friday and the Midwest Tour’s prestigious Dixieland 250 taking place on Tuesday night at Wisconsin International Raceway.
The complete results can be found below.
- 54 Matt Craig
- 45 Kodie Conner
- 22 Trevor Noles
- 35 Carson Kvapil
- 7c Tyler Church
- 51s Sammy Smith
- 49 Jeff Batten
- 7 Justin Crider
- 28 T.J. Duke
- 21s Dylan Smith
- 21 Kris Wright -1
- 15f Jeff Fultz OUT
- 11 Michael Ritch OUT