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Thunder Bomber Drivers Face Busy Memorial Day Weekend

5/25/2021
Thunder Bomber Drivers Face Busy Memorial Day Weekend

ADAIRSVILLE, Ga. — A two-race holiday weekend awaits competitors on the 2021 Crate Racin’ USA Thunder Bomber Shootout Series, as the highly-competitive touring circuit heads to Harris (N.C.) Speedway on Saturday, May 29, and Cherokee Speedway in Gaffney, S.C., on Sunday, May 30, for a pair of events that will each pay $1,000 to the winner.

The first night will represent the circuit’s first of two visits to the 3/8-mile layout near Rutherfordton, N.C., and the Charlie Blanton Memorial is expected to draw a strong field to the former asphalt facility. The touring series will return to the facility on Saturday, July 10.

Blanton was a short track standout from the Carolinas who raced successfully at Cherokee and other short tracks across the region, and also participated infrequently during a six-year stretch on the NASCAR Cup Series starting in 1973, back when the nation’s top stock car circuit was known as the NASCAR Grand National Series. He was also known for his victory in the Daytona ARCA 300 in 1973 at 2.5-mile Daytona International Speedway.

The next day at Cherokee, that 3/8-mile facility’s annual Mike Butler Memorial, named in honor of a popular track photographer who passed away several years ago, will cap off the weekend celebration with the series’ first of three visits to the historic track. This event will be held in conjunction with a $7,500-to-win Ultimate Super Late Model Series event at the Scott Childress-promoted oval. The Thunder Bomber Shootout Series will return to Cherokee on Sept. 5 and Oct. 2.

Four races on a 12-event schedule have been held, and victories have been claimed by four different drivers: Blake Bentley [Feb. 27 at Carolina Speedway], Jonathan Hinson [March 13 at Lancaster Motor Speedway], Grant Parr [March 26 at Travelers Rest Speedway] and Casey Lawson [April 17 at Laurens County Speedway].

Hinson is the current series points leader on the Thunder Bomber Shootout Series, and holds a six-point edge (172-166) over Mattison Hoots of Tryon, N.C. Completing the top five in the standings are Preston Dimsdale (145), Luke Doggett (138) and Grant Parr (120).

Rounding out the current top 10 in the championship chase are Dylan Montgomery (108), Shane McDaniel (104), Blake Bentley (99), Hank Taylor (97) and Casey Lawson (96).

Casey Lawson’s First Shootout Win is a Wild One
If you wanted to judge the Crate Racin’ Thunder Bomber Shootout Series event held Saturday night, April 17, 2021, at Laurens County Speedway by crowd noise, it was a sensational, thrilling, action-packed event because the place was going crazy with excitement. While many drivers weren’t too happy except the winner, most admitted it was a helluva race.

It was the touring circuit’s fourth event of the season, and Casey Lawson of Kinards, N.C., became the fourth different winner of the season. Twenty laps. Eight caution flags. Three-wide racing for the lead on multiple occasions. Angry drivers weaving and dodging at each other under caution. Loud and expressive pit area disagreements between drivers and race officials.

Four sheriff’s deputies escorted Tryon, N.C., driver Mattison Hoots out of the place in his initial visit to the facility, although he left peacefully after expressing his anger with fellow driver Jonathan Hinson for an early-race incident in which Hoots was sent to the pits for pulling up next to Hinson during the resultant caution period, taking off his helmet and rubbing his car against Hinson’s machine.

All of the craziness was topped off by a two-lap final dash to the wire in which Hinson took the lead from Benji Knight, but was banished to the pits for rough driving after the race leader and reigning series champion’s machine rode the outside wall between turns one and two after contact from Hinson, earning Hinson the penalty for deliberate rough driving, and handing the point to Lawson.

Oh yeah, don’t forget him.

Lawson claimed his first-ever victory on the touring series over Dan Lawson,
Chris Patterson, Billy Rushton and Porkchop Pulley, but let’s deal with that a little later. A lot happened before Lawson rolled his car into the winner’s circle for the first time ever on the series, and most of it bordered on mind-boggling.

The 3/8-mile facility is known to be a relatively-narrow racetrack, but that didn’t seem to matter to the top drivers in the field, who raced for the lead on several occasions on a three-wide basis for a lap or two before collisions and crashes affected the top competitors, and resulted in some frayed tempers.

The early stages featured a huge, multicar incident that was triggered when Hoots and Hinson made contact in turn one and practically everyone behind piled into the mess, turning Hoots’ car sideways and knocking the back end sheet metal mostly off Hinson’s machine, which is how he raced the badly-damaged car the rest of the 20-lap feature.

Eventual winner Lawson squeaked through the incident without a scratch, and picked up a few spots. Remember that fact.

“That was wild, wasn’t it?” Lawson said after the race. “They were a little rough all night up there, but if you’re a fan that was probably a great race to watch.”

Lawson mostly watched it from a few spots behind, but kept his nose clean and was positioned third when the race’s final incident boosted him into the top spot.

“We missed that first wreck, and that got us up there pretty decent and closer to the front,” Lawson said. “I’d rather be lucky than good any day. We picked up a few spots and ended up sixth on the restart, I think. We started from the fifth row, so missing that early incident helped us a lot.”

There were other close calls for the eventual winner before the victory could be secured.

“Grant Parr spun in front of us, and I thought he was gonna take me out,” Lawson said. “It looked to me like he might have had suspension troubles that caused it, but he spun around directly in front of me. Then of course we had the deal with Jonathan Hinson and Benji Knight late in the race. That one put us in the lead with a couple laps to go, so we won the race. We had a bunch of lucky breaks.”

Lawson, who won the venerable track’s Thunder Bomber divisional championship in 2016, started traveling with the Thunder Bomber Shootout Series the next season, making infrequent appearances but never cracking the winner’s circle on the touring series, which is now sanctioned by Crate Racin’ USA after the purchase of the successful Carolinas-based SECA organization two seasons ago.

So how does it feel to finally accomplish the victory?

“I love it!” Lawson said. “That’s the first cardboard check we’ve ever gotten. We’ve won some races, but never received one of those big checks. It’s going on the wall at the shop, for sure. We’ve finished third and fourth a lot, but never won and this one means a lot to us because it’s the Red Eubanks Memorial.
Lawson gives credit for his early development as a driver to Eubanks, a local standout driver who was a fixture at the track for more than three decades.

“He’s a guy who raced here for 30 years or more, and he helped me a lot every week when I first started, and actually was the guy who taught me how to get around this place,” Lawson said. “We kept getting faster and doing a little better, and I always tried so hard to focus on whatever he was telling me. I feel very fortunate that he helped us and felt we were worth teaching what he already knew, but one day he came over and said, “Hey grasshopper…you doin’ okay, so that’s going to be about all I can tell you how to do. He was still always there for us until he passed away a couple years ago, and we all miss having him around. He was a big part of this ole’ racetrack.”

Red Eubanks Memorial: 1. Casey Lawson, 2. Dan Lawson, 3. Chris Patterson, 4. Billy Rushton, 5. Scott Pulley, 6. Benji Knight, 7. Josh Wilson, 8. Keith Eaton, 9. Jeff Lemmons, 10. Troy Bagwell, 11. Travis Mabe, 12. Marvin “Lil’ Man” Trammell, 13. Grant Parr, 14. Jonathan Hinson, 15. Preston Dimsdale, 16. Shane McDaniel, 17. Reid Neiderhiser, 18. Mart Patterson, 19. Caston Gilbert, 20. Carl Overstreet, 21. Mattison Hoots.
Did not start: James Hudson, Luke Doggett.

Thunder Bomber Shootout Series (current points)
1. Jonathan Hinson, 172; 2. Mattison Hoots, 166; 3. Preston Dimsdale, 145; 4. Luke Doggett, 138; 5. Grant Parr, 120; 6. Dylan Montgomery 108; 7. Shane McDaniel, 104; 8. Blake Bentley, 99; 9. Hank Taylor, 97; 10. Casey Lawson, 96.

MORE THUNDER BOMBER NEWS:

Juston Truitt Awaits New Cars
China Grove, N.C., driver Juston Truitt, who has won twice this season in Crate Racin’ USA Thunder Bomber Weekly Racing Series action at Carolina Speedway in Gastonia, N.C., has also experienced the bad luck end of the scale at the historic facility when he flipped his car in early April. That has had him on the sidelines, but he’s taking the opportunity to build cars for an expected return to action on July 2.

“We’ve got Knox Bailey Race Cars [Lancaster, S.C.] building one of ‘em, and Truitt Race Cars [Stanley, N.C.] is building the other one,” Truitt said. “We’re hoping to return to the Thunder Bomber Shootout Series at Carolina Speedway [July 2], and we’ll hope to run whatever events remain on the schedule after that one if we don’t crash again.”

The one he rolled over was a James Dedmon-owned No. 7 machine that the second-year team had available from last year. The idea behind having two available cars will serve a dual purpose in the future, and a third car is being put together from parts and pieces.

“Then if we flip one, we can jump over to the other one and not miss events like we have this time,” Truitt said, laughing. “My younger brother Kyle will also be racing in this division soon. He’s 22 years old, and we’re figuring he’s going to start at some point in July. It’s a good series, and we really like running with all these guys.”

Prestone Dimsdale Gives “Apollo” a Revamp
Earlier this season, Preston Dimsdale of Inman, S.C., wasn’t happy with the speed that was coming from his No 66 machine that his team has affectionately dubbed “Apollo.” Solution: He parked it for a couple weeks to go over the car’s mechanical aspects, and returned to action with a victory May 7 at Travelers Rest (S.C.) Speedway.

“We tore up the car at Laurens County (S.C.) Speedway, but it really ain’t been running right all season,” Dimsdale said. “We decided to give it a rest for a couple weeks to go over the car, won a [Weekly Racing Series] race our first night back, and it’s been getting faster ever since we worked on it.”

Dimsdale pulled a unique doubleheader appearance May 22 at both Cherokee Speedway and Harris Speedway, competing at both tracks on the same night! He placed fourth at Cherokee, and came from the rear to fifth at Harris before an incident dropped him to a 10th-place showing, but gained some extra laps to prepare for Memorial Day weekend’s big doubleheader at the two tracks.

“We finished about 10:30 p.m. at Cherokee, and figured we’d try to catch the tail of the field at Harris Speedway on the way home,” Dimsdale said. “It’s kinda on the way for us, so we got there in time for the Thunder Bomber feature, and started at the back of the pack. The car was really fast and we got into the top five, but then we had a deal that sent me up on the wall a little bit, and now we’ve got some work to do before the Memorial Day weekend events.”

Hinson Gets First Late Model Victories
One man’s vacation becomes another man’s opportunity, as substitute driver Jonathan Hinson filled in for veteran campaigner Timbo Mangum in the veteran competitor’s Late Model, and racked up a pair of victories during the May 7-8, 2021, weekend at both Carolina Speedway in Gastonia, N.C., and Lancaster (S.C.) Motor Speedway.

It was a career milestone for Hinson, who is a standout in the Thunder Bomber division, and the successful weekend marked his first foray into the higher-powered class, and an important step in the Lancaster, S.C., driver’s ongoing development as a driver.

“Timbo [Mangum] is actually my cousin, and he’s always told me the ride would be mine one day,” Hinson said. “We actually tested the car for two weeks before they put me in the seat, and everything seemed to go well. We won at Carolina on a Friday night, and then went to Lancaster and won the next night. Tim was on vacation in Florida, and they turned the driving duties over to me. I can’t thank those guys enough for what they did to help me. They’re smart, and it wouldn’t have happened if it wasn’t for them.”

Hinson’s victory at Lancaster happened on Mangum’s birthday, giving him a long-distance gift sent from the Carolinas. The two victories opened some eyes among the sport’s railbirds, many of whom are keenly aware of Hinson’s potential behind a steering wheel.

“Now I think I’d rather drive his car than my own,” Hinson said, smiling. “It gave me a pretty good taste of Late Model racing and what it’s like to drive them, and I loved it. He wins a lot of races, and we just kinda picked up where he left off. Maybe we’ll get to drive it a little more in the future, and hopefully soon.”

Hoots Heads to Harris Riding Momentum
After a frustrating early season that resulted in more than its share of second and third-place finishes and what he felt wasn’t enough victories, Mattison Hoots of Tryon, N.C., will enter a May 29, 2021, Thunder Bomber Shootout Series event at Harris (N.C.) Speedway riding with a pair of victories at the track stuffed in his pocket. The wins were nabbed in Weekly Racing Series competition held May 8 and May 22.

Hoots is just six points behind current series points leader Jonathan Hinson in the chase for the touring circuit’s $1,000 championship, despite a less-than-desirable, 21st-place finish April 15 at Laurens County (S.C.) Speedway after series officials sent him to the pits for unsportsmanlike conduct after an early multiple-car incident.

Article Credit: Brian McLeod
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