Screven Motor Speedway
Hubbard anxious for return to site of first Outlaws victory
By Kevin KovacWorld of Outlaws Late Model Series
With a milestone victory and a wild-and-crazy post-race celebration, Austin Hubbard made last year’s World of Outlaws Late Model Series event at Screven Motor Speedway unforgettable for every fan in attendance.
Can the teenage sensation from Seaford, Del., produce an encore when the national tour returns to the 3/8-mile oval in Slyvania, Ga., Saturday night for a 50-lap, $10,000-to-win event? He’s sure going to try.
Hubbard, 19, has a deep affinity for the track where he earned his first career Outlaws triumph – and performed a Ricky Bobby-in- Talladega-Nights run down the homestretch after climbing out of his race car and firesuit – almost exactly one year ago, so he’s as confident about his chances for success there as anywhere he’ll visit this season.
“I’m definitely ready to go to Screven,” said Hubbard, who rolled to the 2010 World of Outlaws Rookie of the Year award driving veteran Maryland car owner Dale Beitler’s familiar blue-and-white Reliable Painting Rocket No. 19. “It’s one of my favorite tracks for sure. I liked it the first time we were there in our own car (for the 2009 Outlaws event), and I loved it when we went back last year with Dale’s car.”
Last year’s event at Screven was a magical evening for Hubbard – and those watching from the packed grandstands. He added his name to the tour’s all-time win list in impressive fashion, sweeping the program by setting fast time, winning a heat race and capturing the feature race after passing 2007 series champion Steve Francis of Ashland, Ky. – the veteran driver Hubbard replaced in Beitler’s equipment – for the lead on lap 30.
With World of Outlaws announcer Rick Eshelman informing the fans that Hubbard might do something spectacular in victory lane if he were to win, the crowd rose and cheered the energetic kid to the checkered flag. Hubbard commented later that he could literally feel how much the fans were on his side.
“I heard the crowd when I took the lead,” said Hubbard, who held off reigning series champion Josh Richards of Shinnston, W.Va., in the final laps of the race. “I could hear everybody clapping and see everybody standing. I waved out the window to ‘em when I saw them all standing.”
Hubbard paid homage to the patrons again with his entirely unique celebration. Overjoyed after breaking through for his first win in just the fourth event of the national tour’s 2010 schedule, he scrambled out of his cockpit after stopping on the frontstretch, removed his fireproof uniform, long-sleeve shirt and shoes and – harkening Will Ferrell’s Ricky Bobby character in Talladega Nights – ran down the homestretch wearing only his long underwear, helmet and socks.
Screven’s fans roared as Hubbard rolled in the mud on the inside of the track and then jogged along the frontstretch wall to high-five them through the catch fence. Dozens of fans then headed to the souvenir area and waited patiently for Hubbard to pay a visit to the ASI Racewear trailer for an impromptu autograph session.
“The fans were just awesome,” Hubbard said. “I couldn’t have asked for a better crowd that night. They were so supportive and everybody was so nice, and everybody loved the Ricky Bobby thing and had a lot of fun. It was just an awesome night.”
Screven’s owner and promoter, Redd Griffin, was one of the spectators swept up in the memorable moment.
“That was cool,” Griffin said of Hubbard’s uninhibited antics. “I remember congratulating him after he did his little celebration and he told me, ‘Man, I didn’t know that Georgia red clay is that hard!’ He said he about knocked the wind out of himself when he rolled around on the track.
“That kid got everybody around here talking about Screven Motor Speedway. Everybody’s gonna want to see if he can win and do it again – and I think he can. He can wheel around Screven.”
Indeed, Hubbard has a sterling performance record at Screven. In addition to his victory, he finished sixth in the 2009 Outlaws event as a 17-year-old driving his father Mike’s car and last month he won a heat race during the oval’s Winter Freeze program before it was postponed by rain.
“It’s a challenging place and I like that,” Hubbard said. “(Turns) one and two are different from three and four. In one and two, you gotta get this nice angle getting in and you can gas right across the whole turn. It’s cool trying to figure out which angle is right; you’re going so fast down the straightaway and then you gotta completely shut it down for that turn. Three and four are like a big, sweeping turn where you can run through it pretty wide open; I like being in the gas, so it kind of fits me.”
Hubbard enters this weekend’s action as a driver who appears to be taking a step forward in his development. He has two top-five finishes in three series races – including a solid fifth-place run in last Saturday night’s Cash Cow 100 at Columbus (Miss.) Speedway – and is the highest ranked tour regular in the current points standings, sitting third overall.
While Hubbard won a second series race last year en route to a seventh-place finish in the points standings, that triumph, in July at North Dakota’s River Cities Speedway, came in a rain-shortened race that had no victory lane ceremony. He didn’t have a chance to provide fans a Ricky Bobby display that evening, so he’s more than ready to show some skin again.
“After that (first win) last year everybody asked every night what I’d do if we won, so I’m sure I’ll get that all night at Screven when we go back,” Hubbard said. “I’d love to do something again for the fans, but first we gotta worry about trying to win a race. Hopefully (a Ricky Bobby celebration) is overdue.”
Hubbard will battle a star-studded field at Screven that includes former World of Outlaws champions Richards, Francis, Darrell Lanigan of Union, Ky., and Tim McCreadie of Watertown, N.Y. The roster of Outlaw travelers will also include Georgians Shane Clanton of Fayetteville and Clint Smith of Senoia, Ga., Rick Eckert of York, Pa., Chub Frank of Bear Lake, Pa., Tim Fuller of Watertown, N.Y., Vic Coffey of Caledonia, N.Y., Jill George of Cedar Falls, Iowa, Brent Robinson of Smithfield, Va., and 2011 Rookie of the Year contenders Ron Davies of Warren, Pa., Pat Doar of New Richmond, Wis., John Lobb of Frewsburg, N.Y., and Brian Reese of Sharpsburg, Ga.
Other drivers with the event on their schedules are 2010 DIRTcar Summer Nationals champion Jason Feger of Bloomington, Ill., Tony Knowles of Tyrone, Ga., Ivedent Lloyd Jr. of Ocala, Fla., and area standouts such as Chesley Dixon of Swainsboro, Ga., Casey Roberts of Toccoa, Ga., and brothers Ben and Jeremy Faircloth of Swainsboro, Ga.