Looney tops in Late Model Twin-bill
By JW Martin
Mike Looney has raced his way into Victory Lane ten times this season at Motor Mile Speedway, and now, he’s racing his way into the track’s record books.
Looney became the third Motor Mile Speedway-era racer to tally double-digit Late Model wins in a single season following a sweep of Saturday night’s CMC Supply TWIN 50s presented by WFXR News.
Nine double-digit winning seasons have been recorded in the Late Model division since the track ownership change in 2004. Eight-time Late Model track champion Philip Morris logged four consecutive double-digit winning seasons from 2005 to 2008. Lee Pulliam, a five-time Late Model track champion, also has tallied four double-digit winning seasons. Pulliam established the ‘track’s NASCAR-sanctioned era (1988-present) record for most wins in a single season with 16 Late Model triumphs in 2011. Pulliam accrued an 80% winning percentage that season.
Looney boasts a 71% winning percentage through 14 races. ‘Looney’s ten wins in 14 starts ranks second only to Pulliam, who compiled 11 wins in 14 starts in 2011 and ”15.
“This season has surpassed our goals and expectations. ‘We’ve always just picked up the scraps from what Philip and Lee ‘didn’t win,” Looney stated. “This is a dream come true — Twenty-Five years of hard work and experience, coupled with good equipment…. We always wondered what we could do, and now we know. This is unbelievable.”
Looney rallied from 10th on the 15-car grid to win the 50-lap opener by .966 seconds over Morris. Looney capitalized on the ‘event’s lone caution on lap 18, overtaking Morris for the top spot eight laps after the restart. Kres Vandyke rounded out the podium, with Kyle Dudley and Bryan Reedy placing fourth and fifth, respectively.
Looney and the no. 87 Billy Martin Racing team saved their best for last.
Relegated to last place on the 13-car grid per Motor Mile ‘Speedway’s Consecutive Wins Policy, Looney swiftly knifed his way through the field and surged into the lead on lap 15. Looney led the remainder of the nightcap uncontested, besting Morris by a substantial 2.897 seconds at the finish. Dudley placed third. Reedy and Vandyke rounded out the top five in a caution-free race that featured four different leaders.
It was a pivotal night for Looney and Morris at Motor Mile Speedway; both drivers are in contention for the 2019 NASCAR Whelen All-American Series national championship. Morris, who entered the night second in the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series national standings, was succinct following the pair of runner-up finishes.
“We just missed it bad,” Morris acknowledged. “That’s what happens when you get behind and ‘you’re struggling: you make big swings, and either ‘you’re a hero or a zero. We came up short tonight.”
Looney entered the twinbill trailing national points leader Peyton Sellers by 18 points. The pair of victories will bolster ‘Looney’s points total significantly; in addition to the points accrued from the wins, NASCAR awards bonus points to winners who start worse than fourth on the grid. Looney collected eight bonus points under his starting positions Saturday night.
This season, Looney has started seventh or worse in nine of his ten Motor Mile Speedway victories.
“‘It’s huge,” said Looney when asked about the magnitude of the twin-bill sweep. “It ‘doesn’t matter whether we win this national championship or not. Obviously, ‘we’re going to try. But after this year, we already feel like champions.”
In Other Divisions:
Cory Dunn notched his third Collision Plus Limited Sportsman division victory of the season Saturday night. The division points leader authored a dominating performance, leading a race-high 27 circuits en route to a sizeable 3.905-second margin of victory over Karl Budzevski. Daryn Cockram placed third.
Motor Mile Speedway mainstay Dennis Holdren enjoyed a career night at the .416-mile oval, collecting wins in the Super Street division feature and the MOD-4 division contest. Holdren outdueled Kyle Barnes for the victory in the 25-lap Super Street race and later coasted to the 25-lap MOD-4 win over Tanner Young.
Scott Howell took top honors in the 20-lap UCAR division race after forestalling a pass from brother Ricky Howell, Jr. in the closing circuits. Mike Reed completed the podium.