Winning Dirt Late Model races is nothing new to Cory Hedgecock. The Loudon, Tenn. driver has visited numerous victory lanes all over Tennessee and the southeast in Crate Late Model, Limited Late Model, and Super Late Model competition over the course of his seven year oval track racing career. As a matter of fact, the 25-year-old driver has more than 100 feature wins to his credit and was also crowned as the NeSmith Chevrolet Dirt Late Model Series national champion in both 2016 and 2017.
This past Friday night at 411 Motor Speedway, however, the young racer scored his most impressive win and captured the attention of the entire dirt racing world when he beat out some of the best racers in the business by taking the checkered flag in the World of Outlaws Late Model Series feature at 411 Motor Speedway. The triumph earned Hedgecock and his team $10,000 and a tremendous amount of recognition throughout the Dirt Late Model racing world.
With the success he has had in the past and the fact that the WoO Late Models were coming for the first time to the track on which Hedgecock has likely tallied the most laps in his racing carrer, he felt a degree of measured confidence leading into the event.
“About two weeks ago, knowing the race was going to be here, I had a lot of confidence,” Hedgecock explained in an interview with InsideDirtRacing.com. “I felt like if I was ever going to win one of these, it would be here. Then I got here and saw that there’s a lot of good cars here so I thought I’d be happy with a top-5.”
The young racer, who works alongside his father Chad and his grandfather Mike in not only the family’s Eagle Racing Engines business but also on the crew of their Late Model efforts, knew that the early portion of the night in Friday’s racing program would be the key to success.
“I told dad that if he could just get me on the front row of a heat that I could handle it from there and we qualified fourth,” Hedgecock recalled. “We were lucky enough to start beside Jimmy Owens(in the first heat race of the night) and I knew Jimmy would give me more room than I deserve and we just held on. I tried to make that thing about ten lanes wide so I could start on the pole. Then with my luck I drew a three(in the World of Outlaws redraw) and had to work for it.”
Hedgecock passed World of Outlaws Late Model Series regular and leading Rookie of the Year contender David Breazeale to take the lead on lap 23 as the two combatants made their way through slower traffic on the tight quarters of the Seymour, Tenn. track.
“When we had that first caution, we lined up on the inside, and I wanted to be on the inside,” Hedgecock explained. “Breazeale pulled away a little bit but he started to fade getting in. I knew if my car stayed free for me, and me and dad argued about this all day, I knew if it stayed free for me when that right rear fires I would be able to get up off the corners with a lot of traction. But I was glad that we won it by passing some cars and then staying out front.”
Throughout the second half of the race he was then given the difficult task of holding off two of the sport’s top stars in second running Jimmy Owens and third place Mike Marlar. To make that challenge an even greater one, cautions on laps 41, 44, and 45 provided Hedgecock’s pursuers with numerous opportunities to pounce.
“It was brutal,” Hedgecock admitted of those late race laps. “Those cautions were killing me. I couldn’t figure out what to do. When the 20(Owens) got up on the board for second I knew it was going to be tough. I knew he knows how to get around this joint like we do. I just tried to hit my marks and not screw up.”
After his car cleared post-race inspection, Hedgecock returned to the front stretch for his interview with WoO Late Models announcer Rick Eschelman. Upon emerging from the car, a thunderous roar of approval erupted from the crowd assembled in the grandstand.
“That was the coolest thing in the whole world,” the driver said of the ovation. “I could not be more proud of my team and everything to win it here. I cannot thank all my guys enough.”
But the breakthrough victory was one that almost did not happen. An iffy weather forecast and a piece of property Hedgecock eventually intends to make the home for his family almost kept the husband and father of a baby daughter away from the track for the weekend.
“I had very high intentions of working on my property.” he insisted. “If it rained out here it was not going to hurt my feelings. Like I said, a couple of weeks ago I felt like I could win then I started thinking a top-5 would be good. For the long haul, ten years down the road, I’ve got to get that house and get everything going to make everything smoother for us. All in all, it worked out perfect.”
But the big win did indeed happen. So how does this young and talented driver top this feat?
“It’s absolutely amazing. I’m not sure if you can.”