Championship racing concluded Saturday night at Friendship Motor Speedway, and the storylines across all seven series that raced were picture perfect. Tight racing, close point battles, and a first-time winner were just some of the many highlights throughout the night.
Elkin’s George Anen Jr. fights for championship win
The Renegade series kicked off the night with the tightest point margin to settle. Elkin’s George Anen Jr. went on a hot streak during the summer, winning nine straight races. However, in the closing weeks of the season, Anen ran into some mechanical problems and found himself not in control of his own destiny. Anen entered Saturday night only one point behind Shaun Robinson, the speedway’s three-time defending champion. Anen looked like he was going to start near the front, but things changed quickly, as his fuel cap fell out during qualifying, meaning if he was to beat Robinson, he’d have to come from the rear of the field.
That didn’t stop Anen from doing just that, and with four laps to go, Anen was right behind Robinson in fourth place as the caution flew. On the ensuing restart, Anen knew what he had to do.
“I just focused and drove the wheels off of it,” Anen said.
Anen passed Robinson on the restart, giving him the points lead. Anen was able to hold off Robinson while up front, Jeff “Mr. Excitement” Parsons drove away with the win. During Anen’s winning streak, he insisted that he wasn’t going for points, but as it continued on, something changed.
“The car owner (Otey Roberts) said, ‘Well let’s just go for it, we’ve clawed our way back up from a big deficit,’” Anen said. “I’d like to thank my wife, who’s put up with me during late nights in the garage and she’s supported me the whole way, and I appreciate that so much.”
Mocksville’s Mickalowski gets long-awaited win
It was a storybook ending for Mockville’s Brad Mickalowski, who at 15 years old, won the Xtreme Stock 4 race in dramatic fashion.
Mickalowski started on the pole for the feature event, but slipped back a little bit. Jonesville’s Kayla Harrell assumed the lead midway through, but a caution set up one of the greatest moments that Friendship Motor Speedway has ever seen.
“I knew I wanted to win, I got under [Kayla] and made it stick,” Mickalowski said. “Once I saw open track in front of me, it was like, ‘Cya.’”
However, just as it looked like he was pulling away, along came Larry Martin, a seasoned veteran who already had visited Victory Lane many times throughout the season. In the final five laps, Mickalowski and Martin raced side-by-side, but Mickalowski was able to hold him off. It’s his first career feature win in any series, and was a perfect way to close out his season. Mickalowski told The Tribune back in June (http://www.elkintribune.com/sports/auto-racing/484/door-to-door-with-young-gun-brad-mickalowski) that his goal was to win a feature race, and that’s exactly what he did.
“It’s hard to explain, it was mind-blowing,” Mickalowski said. “It was a heckuva way to finish off a season.”
Clinching the points championship was Mickalowski’s good friend Austin Caudle, also from Mocksville.
Limited Sportsman feature has local winner
Ronda’s Bryan Nance won the Limited Sportsman feature, his fourth win of the season. Although for the most part, he was dominant in the races he entered, as a part-time racer at Friendship Motor Speedway, it meant two other drivers were competing for the championship.
Jay Foley and Matt Johnson battled behind Nance for the championship win, and in the end, it was Foley who came out on top. Foley controlled his own destiny, doing what he needed to do for the series win.
Back-to-back championships for Chris Cheek
Pea Ridge’s Chris Cheek closed out his season in familiar fashion, winning his sixth race of the season. With Cheek’s closest competition in points opting not to race Saturday, it meant all Cheek had to do was start the race.
Cheek did that, and so much more, almost as if the pressure was completely off.
Last lap pass determines Super Stock champion
With the top three separated by only single digits entering Saturday night’s event, all eyes were on Roger Nance, Billy Robbins and Chase Atwell.
Although Roger Nance won the race, he did not control his own destiny. On the final lap, points leader Robbins was looking for one spot, and was able to pass Travis Chatham. Nance still cracked a smile during the post-race, but to come one point from closing out the year with a feature win to win the championship should only leave him hungrier to win it all next season.
Robbins, called Wild Bill from Hamptonville, emerged from his car a happy man in Victory Lane, and he had every right to. It was the second championship of the night decided by only one point, the other being Anen in the Renegade series.
Disqualification in Modifieds gives Durham win
Mount Airy’s Bobby Jones dominated the late stages of the Open Wheel Modified feature, but perhaps there was a reason.
Jones’ tires were found to be too low, and as a result, Jones was disqualified. This gave the win to East Wilkes’ Andrew Durham, who ran near the front all night and led some laps. For Jones, he was able to experience the taste of victory twice this season, but unfortunately, his last taste of racing this year was bitter.
Meanwhile, Mocksville’s Richard Clew had the points championship essentially locked up weeks ago. Throughout the year, he competed against NASCAR drivers like Spencer Gallagher and Joey Coulter, and showed them how it’s done. Clew won 10 races on the season en route to his 10th career championship.
Mocksville’s Superwoman earns another championship
Wilkesboro’s Kenneth Miller drove away for the win in the UCAR series, but it was Mocksville’s Stephanie Caudle who won the war.
Caudle could be counted on to be near the front all season long. If she wasn’t winning the races, she was consistently near the front of the field each week.
The weeks ahead
Just because points racing is over, that doesn’t mean that Friendship Motor Speedway is done for the season. They’ll host a Fan Appreciation Day all day Saturday with non-points races once night falls. More details on that event are coming.
Ryan DeCosta can be reached at 336-258-4052 or via Twitter @rsdecosta.