Story By: JORDAN DELUCIA / DIRTCAR – BARBERVILLE, FL – Deep in a field of 67 DIRTcar Pro Late Model drivers, four emerged victorious for the first time in their careers at Volusia Speedway Park Friday night.
Austin Yarbrough, Freddie Carpenter, Donald McIntosh and Randy Weaver were the victors of their respective Qualifying Features, each scoring a $1,500 paycheck and 75 points in the Sunshine Nationals event standings. Each of them are all in great shape to lock into the championship Feature Saturday night, following solid runs on Thursday.
The top-20 in the division points standings will now automatically advance to Saturday’s main event, where all starters will battle for a $10,000 grand prize.
Qualifying Feature #1 – Austin Yarbrough
There’s nothing quite like the jubilation and adrenaline rush that stems from a first career Feature win. Austin Yarbrough earned himself a big helping of that feeling Friday night, leading the first Qualifying Feature wire-to-wire to score his first-ever Feature win on dirt.
Yarbrough, the 24-year-old part-time racer from Little River, SC, turned the fastest of all 67 competitors in Qualifying, setting him on the pole for the 20-lap event. He took off in a hurry at the drop of the green, running away from a stacked field that included Super Late Model talents Ross Bailes, Kyle Bronson and Michael Page – all winners in the division on Thursday night.
A quick caution restacked the field with seven laps remaining and gave Bailes and Bronson their best chance to make a move. But Yarbrough kept it cool under the pressure, hammered the throttle on the restart and drove away from the competition to the $1,500 big check in Victory Lane.
“It’s pretty awesome to be able to do it at Sunshine Nationals and beat guys like Ross Bailes, Kyle Bronson, Michael Page – a lot of heavy hitters,” Yarbrough said. “It just shows that if we can get the right people around us to help get it dialed-in, I can do my best on the track.”
While Bailes and Bronson made up the rest of the podium, Thursday Feature winner Page was not as fortunate. Page was on a charge from 13th, running seventh when he retired to the infield with presumed mechanical issues.
Feature 1 (20 Laps): 1. 127-Austin Yarbrough; 2. 114-Ross Bailes; 3. 40B-Kyle Bronson; 4. 66J-Jake Knowles; 5. 86-Chase Collins; 6. 28P-Jeff Provinzino; 7. 72-Trevor Collins; 8. 17-Zach Blackwell; 9. 18B-Mark Fleischer; 10. 131-Matt Herlong; 11. 721-Joe Kump; 12. 24-Mason Diaz; 13. 18X-Michael Page; 14. 42T-Jake Traylor; 15. 10-Dalton Hood; 16. (DNS) 29S-Cameron Saunders; 17. (DNS) 50-David Markham Jr
Qualifying Feature #2 – Freddie Carpenter
A Super Late Model veteran of several years, Freddie Carpenter now has a DIRTcar Pro Late Model Feature win at Volusia Speedway Park.
The native West Virginian had a slower start Thursday night but turned things around immediately on Friday, turning in a second-quick lap overall in Qualifying to claim the pole for the Feature.
Carpenter took off at the drop of the green, stretching his lead out to over 1.5 seconds at its height before second-running Mark Whitener began rapidly closing the gap. The caution flag was thrown with six laps left on the board, resetting the field and putting Whitener and a hungry Nevin Gainey right on Carpenter’s rear bumper for the restart.
Though Gainey made quick work of Whitener for second on the restart, he was unable to make up the distance to the leader as Carpenter crossed the stripe to collect the victory.
“The cars started getting tight in the middle of the race and I had to start braking a little bit getting [into the corner],” Carpenter said. “The car felt good. It’s one of the new Vision Chassis we’ve been promoting, trying to make racing more affordable, and it was just on a rail.”
Feature 2 (20 Laps): 1. C4-Freddie Carpenter; 2. 15-Nevin Gainey; 3. 17F-Richard Ferry; 4. 5-Mark Whitener; 5. 67F-Jadon Frame; 6. 54-Tuck Trentham; 7. 87-Walker Arthur; 8. 66-Jody Knowles; 9. 555-Brock Pinkerous; 10. 80-Ben Scott; 11. 20-Owen Osteen; 12. KB-Kerry King; 13. 08-Ray Love Jr; 14. 38-Nick Love; 15. 515-Bubba Roling; 16. 30-Steven Stratton JR; 17. (DNS) 73-Trevor Sise
Qualifying Feature #3 – Donald McIntosh
It’s been a long time since the Late Model world saw Donald McIntosh in a Crate-engine car. Friday night, he took one to Volusia Victory Lane for the first time in his career.
The Super Late Model veteran of Dawsonville, GA, linked up with Tennessee driver/owner Joe Denby last fall, and fitted Denby’s #27 with a Chevy Performance 604 Crate engine for their Sunshine Nationals debut together. The combo proved to be a lethal combination Friday, as McIntosh turned the fastest Qualifying lap in his group early in the evening to earn the pole for the third Feature.
In short, McIntosh dominated, leading all 20 laps unchallenged for the $1,500 check and 75 points toward the division standings in the event. The team’s efforts to turn things around from a dull Qualifying effort on Thursday proved fruitful, which McIntosh acknowledged.
“Yesterday, I got us behind in Qualifying a little bit – it’s so easy to do,” McIntosh said. “I haven’t Crate raced that much, and I feel like if you miss it just a little bit, you miss it a lot. But I was lucky enough to have a really good car in Qualifying today, and the car really carried me through.”
2021 Sunshine Nationals champion Mack McCarter soared from fifth to finish second, while Thursday winner Rye Faulk rounded out the podium and reigning Crate Racin’ USA champion Jason Welshan crossed in fourth from a P7 starting spot.
Feature 3 (20 Laps): 1. 27M-Donald McIntosh; 2. 51-Mack McCarter; 3. 4-Rye Faulk; 4. 29-Jason Welshan; 5. 20G-Chub Gunter; 6. 6H-Clay Harris; 7. B8-Tyler Bare; 8. 7A-Corey Almond; 9. 18-Joshua Bishop; 10. 25-Donnie Chappell; 11. 26JR-Jimmy Sharpe Jr; 12. 67-Garret Stewart; 13. 32-Curtis Glover; 14. 42-Steven Stratton Sr; 15. T2-Tanner Hauger; 16. 89-Jeff Choquette; 17. 314-Michael Daugherty
Qualifying Feature #4 – Randy Weaver
Three years ago, Randy Weaver stepped foot on the hallowed grounds of Volusia for the first time in his renown Late Model career and ran second – twice, to inaugural Sunshine Nationals champion Kyle Bronson. Friday night, he found redemption and took the Hatchers Auto Sales #6 Longhorn to Victory Lane.
Leading every lap from the pole, Weaver dominated the entire distance, crossing the stripe over two-and-a-half seconds ahead of runner-up Cory Hedgecock. But the Tennessee veteran’s run was nearly blemished when the caution was thrown for a spinning car directly in his path.
Leading by a wide gap with eight laps remaining, Weaver came up on the rear decklid of Tim Ryan in Turns 3-4, when Ryan lost the handle on his #27 and looped it right in front of the leader. Weaver took evasive action and narrowly squeaked by without contact.
The ensuing restart was no challenge for the multi-time regional Super Late Model champion from Crossville, TN, leaving Hedgecock and third-place Demetrios Drellos in his wake as he crossed the stripe for the $1,500 payday.
It was a big turnaround for Weaver and the Hatchers team, who Qualified 31st fastest of 33 cars in Group B on Thursday.
“We had fuel problems the last two days, Qualified terrible last night, got it a little better and got up to fifth,” Weaver said. “Today, they finally got it to where it Qualified good and put us in a good position. We just hit our marks and got it done.”
Feature 4 (20 Laps): 1. 6-Randy Weaver; 2. 23-Cory Hedgecock; 3. 111-Demetrios Drellos; 4. 14JR-Trey Mills; 5. 388-Jackson Hise; 6. 18E-Ethan Wilson; 7. 117-Phillip Anderson; 8. 74-Jason Garver; 9. 40-Kaden Honeycutt; 10. 11-Cody Overton; 11. 118-David Showers Jr; 12. 27-Derrick Shaw; 13. 05-David Whitener; 14. 16-Brandon Dewitt; 15. 57-Keaton Smith; 16. 28-Tyler Dettor
The DIRTcar Pro Late Model action continues at Volusia Saturday night with Last Chance Showdowns for non-qualified cars, in addition to a redraw for the frontmost starters and the 30-lap, $10,000-to-win DIRTcar Sunshine Nationals finale.