Riley Hickman has come storming out of the starting gate in the 2014 season. The defending Southern All Stars champion has already collected two Super Late Model wins and will be going for more this weekend in the rain interrupted ‘Toilet Bowl’ at the Clarksville Speedway in middle Tennessee and then in the Ultimate Super Late Model Series season opener in Lavonia, Georgia.
As part of Clarksville’s two-day event this past weekend, Hickman scored the win in the Friday night preliminary which paid $3,000 to win the 20-lap feature on the tight quarter-mile layout.
“We got over there and there was snow on the ground on Friday night and I was really surprised they got the race in,” Hickman explained. “My hat’s off to those guys.”
Hickman used his CVR Race Car with Vic Hill Race Engines power to set fast time in his qualifying group and then win his heat race to earn an outside front row starting spot.
“We got the jump on the start and took the lead,” the Chattanooga driver explained of the feature race. “We kind of drove off from them through the middle stage of the race, but that place is pretty small so you start lapping cars quick.
“I slowed down there when we got into lapped traffic and I almost slowed down too much and let (Brian)Shirley get by us, but a caution came out with three to go. When we took back off we were able to pick up the pace and drive away from those guys. It was a good night for us.”
Shirley, who pilots a car for NASCAR driver Scott Riggs, is a former Summer Nationals champion and a threat to win any race he enters. Hickman felt good about beating such tough competition. “It’s definitely a confidence booster for us going into these next few weeks.”
But the weather that threatened to interfere with Friday night’s action returned with a vengeance on Saturday night and put the track promoter and the MARS Series in a difficult situation. Ultimately, the decision was made to call the race after nine laps and pay the drivers half of the intended purse for where they ran at that time. The remainder of the event will be contested this coming Saturday with the other half of the purse on the line.
“The Saturday night program was supposed to pay $5,000-to-win but we got rained out nine laps in,” Hickman, who was running 3rd behind Shirley and Ryan Unzicker at the time of the red flag, pointed out. “A lot of the guys didn’t want to come back because it was so far away from them. I think Clarksville is the longest distance away from where that MARS Series is based. Most of those guys were seven or eight hours from home and they didn’t want to make that trip again. The track opted to cut the purse in half and pay everybody for where they were so those guys wouldn’t have to leave with nothing.”
Hickman will return to Clarksville this Saturday. The feature event will restart at lap 9 and run to lap 40 with the returning drivers restarting where they were at the time of the red flag.
“Hopefully we can capitalize on that and have a good night, then we’re going to leave there and go to Lavonia on Sunday to run the Ultimate race,” Hickman declared.
Even though he won the Southern All Stars title last year, Hickman’s plans do not call for him to follow any particular series in 2014. “Really and truly, I’m almost saying we won’t follow any series. If we did, I don’t know what we would follow but I just don’t see us following any one thing. That way we can just race around where we want to and be more selective.”
And that’s a formula which seems to be working well right now.
“Everything’s clicking at the moment and we just hope to keep it going.”