Notes: Spring Nat'ls take McIntosh to familiar ovals
By Chris TilleyOld Man’s Garage Spring Nationals
The Old Man’s Garage Spring Nationals points chase wraps up with a Memorial Day weekend tripleheader, and one of the title contenders will be running in his home state and at two tracks where he’s a former champion.
Donald McIntosh, 22, of Dawsonville, Ga., will be among competitors on the Ray Cook-promoted tour’s Georgia swing with events Friday at Boyd’s Speedway in Ringgold, Saturday at Dixie Speedway in Woodstock and Sunday at Rome Speedway.
McIntosh, who drives for Maryville, Tenn.-based Blount Motorsports, is 32 points behind series leader Chris Madden and 18 behind reigning champ Billy Ogle Jr. heading into the three-race weekend.
McIntosh was the 2013 Dixie-Rome combined track champion as a rookie in the Super Late Model division, putting his name among the likes of Georgia standouts Bill Ingram, Wade Knowles, Stan Massey, Tony Reaid and others.
“It was very surreal to be able to come into the Super Late Model (division) and come out ahead. It was really awesome,” McIntosh said of his title at the Swims' family-promoted ovals. “We went out at every race, we learned, just doing the best we could and came out on top.”
McIntosh likes Rome and Dixie, but the weekend-opening Boyd’s Speedway is a favorite for him.
“It’s the first place I raced on dirt. It’s definitely my favorite track and you can always run top to bottom, it’s not lane dominant,” said McIntosh, who formerly raced on asphalt. “I always enjoy running at Dixie Speedway. It has such a great atmosphere. I started there and learned the dirt and the cars there. I really do enjoy racing there.”
While McIntosh hasn’t won on the Spring Nationals circuit, he’s got two special event victories in 2015 while continuing to learn under crew chief David Bryant.
“We come from different sides of the spectrum,” McIntosh said. “David has so much experience and I don’t have that kind of background since I came from the asphalt stuff. He’s great to work with and we’ve made some good changes.”
Hickman’s variety pack
Riley Hickman of Ooltewah, Tenn., is expected to be among Friday’s competitors at Boyd’s Speedway, and he’ll call on one of his Super Late Models — probably a Club 29 Race Car provided by sponsor Rickey Tucker — for the Spring Nationals event.
While the 36-year-old Hickman, January’s Cabin Fever 40 winner at Boyd’s, competes in Super Late Model events regionally, he also frequently fields cars utilizing steel-head and crate engines at nearby tracks. The two-time and reigning Southern All Star Series champ has five victories this season: one in Super Late Models and two apiece in steel-head and crate competition.
Hickman’s variety of engine packages allows him to race more. It’s a big help for Hickman and crew chief Brad “Urkel” Carvin, the driver said.
“There’s not much Super Late Model racing around home on a weekly basis anymore,” Hickman said. “It’s smart for us to run the steel-head Late Model a lot or the crate when we can. It helps us try different things and we use that as a testing ground for our Super Late Model program. We may struggle a bit, but we come out to the good.”
Extra seat time is worth it for Hickman, who said the steel-head package is the most cost-effective.
“The steel head is cheaper than the Super Late Model. The Crate, or steel head and spec (engine) is more feasible for us and allows us to race as much as we do when we’re not running the Super. But you can’t put a price on track time.”
In a sport where drivers keep an eye on rising costs, the bigger-purse races — like the Boyd’s Spring Nationals event — make the most sense.
“You can’t afford to race a Super Late Model for under a $3,000-to-win purse. It just costs so much. But anything more than that is an added bonus. I’m not trying to keep up with the Jones’ here,” Hickman said. “but we run all the races as hard and economically smart as possible.”
Odds and ends
Points leader Chris Madden is trying to become the tour’s third champion in three years. Steve Casebolt of Richmond, Ind., won the inaugural 2013 title and Billy Ogle Jr. was 2014’s champ. … Boyd’s and Dixie will host 40-lap features paying $4,000-to-win while Rome’s 50-lapper pays $6,000-to-win. … While the Spring Nationals points chase wraps up, two rained out series events have been rescheduled for summer. Swainsboro (Ga.) Raceway hosts a $6,000-to-win event on July 5 and 201 Speedway in Sitka, Ky., hosts its $4,000-to-win event on Sept. 3.