Dispatches: Herrington completes Cochran cycle
The latest notes and quotes from Dirt Late Model special and sanctioned events the first weekend in June, including World of Outlaws Case Late Model Series action at Farmer City (Ill.) Raceway, Hunt the Front Super Series action in Cochran, Ga., Comp Cams Super Dirt Series competition near Jackson, Miss., and other events (look elsewhere for Lucas Oil Series coverage at WVMS and WoO's Tri-City and Paducah races):
Herrington's home run
Wil Herrington had Saturday’s Hunt the Front Super Dirt Series event at Cochran (Ga.) Motor Speedway circled on the calendar for months, really since the race was unveiled last December on the tour’s inaugural schedule.
There are obvious reasons for that, like the Hawkinsville, Ga., driver relishing the opportunity to race in front of his hometown. Then there’s the motivational aspect, like Herrington wanted to right one of his supposed wrongs from a Crate Racing’ USA event gone sour April 1 at the Georgia oval.
“We came home and ran a Crate race earlier this year and got our butt handed to us,” said Herrington, who was relegated to a consolation race at that event more than two months ago.
Herrington left Cochran’s racing facility Saturday with no self-pity. Instead the $10,000 victory provided the exact opposite, that being fulfillment, emotional relief, and some bragging rights. The victory gives Herrington checkered flags in every division he’s competed in at Cochran: street stocks, bombers, modifieds, 604 Late Models, 602 Late Models, and now Super Late Models.
“Not trying to toot my own horn or anything, but I’ve finally won every class at Cochran Motor Speedway now,” Herrington said. “Appreciate all y’all fans for supporting me all these years. Got a win on Tony (Floyd’s) birthday. … We’ve gotten a win on his birthday before.”
Herrington overflowed with emotion in his victory lane interview because Floyd, a tireless crewman who Herrington says is “at the shop everyday,” was recently diagnosed with cancer, the Georgia driver later told DirtonDirt.com.
“Just glad we could get a win for him,” said Herrington, who seemingly struggled to string together the words that conveyed the deeper meaning behind the emotional victory.
Herrington raced as hard as he apparently could to break back into the Cochran winner’s circle on Saturday. He needed a daring slider on a lap-nine restart to get the job done over runner-up Josh Putnam, who led laps three through eight before Herrington met him with the bold but clean move.
“I left the door open on the restart there, and Wil put it in there,” Putnam said. “I know he has a million laps around this place. I never thought that center would be good enough for him to do that yet, but it was. It was my mistake that cost us the race.”
Putnam kept Herrington’s within a second for much of the race — all but lap 18 from circuits nine through 42 — but couldn’t keep pace with the eventual winner when it mattered most. Herrington led the opening two laps to give him a total of 44 laps led on Saturday in the 2.865-second victory.
“I didn’t even care (if Putnam was close). I was trying to get away,” Herrington said. “When I lost the lead, I was trying not to get in no hurry. I thought the racetrack was going to come back to me on the bottom, but it never really did. Just had to go to work a little bit. Maybe I cleared Josh and slid him, but I had no choice at that time. I had to go and tried to set the pace at the end. I guess it was meant to be for us to win tonight. The tire blew coming to the checkered. This is awesome.”
“I thank the good Lord above for blessing us and putting us in this situation, and we’ll go on and try to get some more.” — Series and staff reports
Derrick Stewart of Ainsworth, Iowa, is accustomed to winning at C.J. Speedway in Columbus Junction, Iowa, racking up nine modified division victories between 2017-21. But the 29-year-old racer broke through for his first career Late Model victory Friday at the 4/10-mile oval.
"It's cool, this is my first Late Model win, and to do it at our home race track," said Stewart, who led all 30 laps of the Hoker Trucking Series feature that paid $3,000. "I've got a lot of laps around here in the last handful of years."
The driver who moved into the Late Model ranks in 2022 has made 28 starts on the Hoker Trucking tour (or its sister Malvern Bank series) without a single top-five finish in a full-field event. While he finished fourth in the season's split-field opener at Crawford County Speedway in Denison, Iowa, his best previous finish in a tour event was his sixth-place performance May 5 at Lakeside Speedway in Kansas City, Kan.
"Our year has actually been pretty good since we switched to the Capital Race and we've just been struggling late in the night," Stewart said. "I think tonight we really, we really figured out that we don't have to do a whole lot of this race car to keep it balanced."
Stewart started on the pole and led comfortably most of the way, taking the checkers 1.529 seconds ahead of Chad Holladay.
"Lapped traffic, it was a little touchy there sometimes," Stewart said. "But we just got fortunate that the lapped cars kind of left the lane where I could actually get the nose out in front of them and let them know I was there and it all worked out." — Mike Ruefer and Jeff Broeg
Pierce's smooth move
There are better feelings in Dirt Late Model racing than having Bobby Pierce hot on your heels at an Illinois bullring. That's where Illinois native Nick Hoffman, now of Mooresville, N.C., found himself Thursday night at Farmer City Raceway as Oakwood, Ill.'s Pierce stalked his every move in the World of Outlaws Case Late Model Series 40-lapper at the quarter-mile oval.
Following a lap-19 caution, the third-running Pierce took second from WoO-points leading polesitter Chris Madden and began lurking behind Hoffman, who'd led all the way after starting outside the front row. Amid track on lap 27, Pierce saw his opportunity. Hoffman picked the outside lane in turn while trying to get by the slower car of Dustin Walker. Pierce dove to the bottom, sliding in front of Hoffman exiting turn four for a lead he'd never give up.
“We caught that lapped car, and we caught him at the right time because I made up a lot of ground on Nick,” Pierce said. “Nick kind of got bottled up and even pushed a little bit, and I had that bottom, and I just swung it in there, and I felt him get me a little bit in the rear when I slid in front of him.
“That was probably going to be the only time I was going to pass him. He made a couple of bobbles, but he was pretty fast. Out front by himself, it would’ve been hard to pass him.”
From there, not even a caution with three laps remaining could stop Pierce as he held on for his sixth career WoO victory and a $10,000 payday.
“I just screwed up one time behind lap cars,” said Hoffman, who settled for second. “I wasn’t sure which one to pick, and I chose the wrong one, obviously. He was pretty good on the bottom to be able to get underneath me and slide me into (turn) three. I knew he was close. I could kind of hear him back there.
“Biggest thing is I made one little mistake and opened the door a little bit, and he capitalized.” — Mike Warren
Shawano Hall of Famer
Much of Gordon Seegert Jr.'s racing career was spent at the legendary Hales Corners Speedway near Milwaukee, Wis., but he decided to try Shawano Speedway on a whim in 1994 and eventually became a regular at the half-mile fairgrounds.
The Oostburg, Wis., driver's success at Shawano during a 40-year racing career that ended in 2013 has landed him a spot in the track's Hall of Fame. He'll be inducted Saturday on Hall of Fame Night along with modified racer Eddie Muenster.
Seegert, the 2007 Shawano Late Model champion, faced Shawano hotshoes Pete Parker, Terry Anvelink and M.J. McBride when he became a regular at the track, "but what really drew my interest was the size of the track at Shawano," he said. "It was later in my career, and here, if your car is good, you have time to make some moves and get to the front.”
He also appreciated the spectators at Shawano, many who would come down for autographs from Seegert, the longtime driver of the No. 4s.
“The fans here are true racing fans,” said Seegert, whose last Shawano victory came on July 12, 2012. “When you made a good move or ran a good race, you could hear the fans screaming. And when a guy made a bonehead move, they let them hear it, too. There is no other place like it.”
Seegert primarily competed at Hales Corners early in his career while racing occasionally at Wisconsin tracks in Cedarburg, Wilmoth and Oshkosh.
“In 1994, we just weren’t having fun and things weren’t going well,” Seegert recalled, “so my son says, 'Why don’t we take the drive to Shawano (on) Saturday instead.” The rest is history. “I recall the announcer saying that Hales Corners must have rained out seeing Seegert is in the pits.” Seegert added with a laugh.
Seegert's career included victories at many Wisconsin tracks and, along with his Shawano title, he won three championships in Antigo, one in Luxemburg and miniseries titles at Beaver Dam and Wilmot.
“I could have had one more in Antigo," Seegert recalled, “but on the final night I couldn’t get from work to the track in time to run my heat race, so I lost any heat races points. I ended up losing the championship by five points that year.”
Why was he late? “I was pouring concrete in Milwaukee for Potawatomi, who also happened to be a sponsor on my car," he added with a laugh. “So my own sponsor cost me a championship.” — Brad Luepke