THE LITTLE TEAM THAT COULD
He sold two loads of wood just to make it to the track.
And when he left, Mike Looney took the trophy with him.
Winless in Late Model competition at Motor Mile Speedway since 2009 and sidelined for over a year because of depleted financial support, Looney’s rag-tag Black Cloud Motorsports team entered 2012 facing the same steep odds: No sponsorship and no financial safety net.
But on Saturday, the little team that could beat the odds…and a 21-car Late Model field brimming with talent.
“Sitting out last year was really hard on me. And I’m as hungry to win as anybody I know. It’s been so long,” Looney said from victory lane. “It’s just a wonderful evening.”
The pitch-black No. 47 was unbeatable from the outset of the Old Dominion Auto Salvage 150. Looney captured the Price’s Body Shop pole award with a blistering 15.90-second hot lap, and proceeded to dominate the 150-lap marquee through a plethora of caution periods.
And early on, Looney’s top competition was collected in the calamity.
The second of six yellows throughout the afternoon unfurled after frontrunners Josh Berry and Frank Deiny, Jr. tangled on the front straightaway while battling for second. Deiny’s No. 5 was retired following a vicious impact with the outside wall in turn one merely eight laps into the feature.
The dustup warranted the event’s only red flag period.
“I got by him, the spotter called me clear, but…apparently I wasn’t clear,” Deiny explained. “Josh isn’t gonna wreck me on purpose. It’s just one of those things.”
Berry echoed Deiny’s sentiments.
“I hate that deal with Frank. I held it straight. I would have lifted for him, but I thought he was clear, too,” Berry lamented. “I fought hard with [Lemons]— I definitely had to earn [third]. For me to go wheel-to-wheel with him, it means I’ve come a long way.”
Tommy Lemons, Jr. was one of six drivers making their debut in the Saturday feature, and as Looney distanced himself from the field, the race was for second place.
A spirited battle with Berry for the position became physical just shy of the lap 100 mark, as the two wheelmen exchanged barbs over a three-to-four circuit stretch. After keeping Lemons at bay through the majority of the contest, Berry would surrender the position on lap 137. It was a showcase of the best racing action of the day.
Having eclipsed Berry, Lemons failed to mount a challenge on Looney in the remaining circuits, falling by a margin of .789-seconds at the checkers to finish second.
“Me and Josh had a pretty good battle going on. I think if I’d got around him a little bit sooner, I might have gotten closer to Mike and made it a little more interesting,” Lemons said. “All-in-all, it was a good day.”
Derrick Lancaster and Adam Long rounded out the top five.
By virtue of the win, Looney edges Berry out for the top spot in the standings two races into the 2012 Bull & Bones Late Model Stock Car division championship race.
“This reminds us why we work our guts out. All the long hours and the hard work—this feeling right now is why,” Looney exclaimed afterward. “We’re just really fortunate –more than anybody knows – to be standing here.”
This season, Looney has been racing on his winnings. This time, Looney’s team can celebrate winning.
IN OTHER DIVISIONS
Collision Plus Limited Sportsman
Karl Budzevski notched the first Collision Plus Limited Sportsman win of his career Saturday after outlasting a late-race surge from Preston McGhee to win the 50-lap heat.
“It means a lot. That was the longest 45 laps of my life,” Budzevski said. “I grew up watching racing, and I never would have dreamed I’d be in a race car today. I’m just so excited.”
The third and final caution flag of the day staged a dramatic, green-white-checkered, double-file restart on lap 49. The top three positions were occupied by first-time hopefuls, winless in their careers at Motor Mile Speedway. On the restart, McGhee made a fleeting attempt at a pass before quickly settling in for second.
Kyle Barnes rebounded from an eighth place finish in the season opener to place third.
Two- time track titlist and points leader Matt Taylor was a casualty of the first caution period of the race; the accident plummeted Taylor to seventh in the standings. Budzevski, bolstered by the win, is the points leader entering the third week of competition.
Carpet Factory Outlet Street Stock
After a promising effort in the 30-lap Carpet Factory Outlet Street Stock sprint, winner Gary Ledbetter was disqualified for a carburetor infraction in post-race technical inspection.
It marks the second consecutive week Ledbetter has experienced setbacks in the inspection process.
Brent Bell, a three-time Street Stock division champion, was declared the winner.
Scooter Hollandsworth and Dr. Sheryl Carls completed the top three.
Doug Lawrence snared the checkers in the first UCAR event of the 2012 season Saturday.
Patrick Janney and Charles Seagraves finished second and third, respectively.