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Matt McCall raced his way from the rear of the field to the lead in the final half of the Solid Rock Carriers Thanksgiving Classic, passing Deac McCaskill late and holding the four-time champion off to score the victory at Southern National Motorsports Park on Sunday night.
McCaskill, 41, from Raleigh, had spent much of the first half of the race inside the top 5 but was involved in a caution when a few lapped cars tangled in front of him. McCall, 37, from Denver, ended up spinning as well, off the front bumper of Bobby McCarty. Then, because he was involved in the caution, he was sent to the rear.
“They paid money at lap 100 and I got a little greedy trying to get that money and it put me in a bad spot, however you want to call it,” McCall said. “Fortunately, I knew there were enough laps to fight it and get our position, but we were unable to. Just trying to pick them off and save a little bit, but there wasn’t much saving there for that last whole run.”
McCall answered the challenge, roaring back to the front and rocketing past the leaders late — ultimately making the winning pass with three laps to go and edging McCaskill at the line.
“Fortunately, it went green,” McCall said. “The guys giving the outside was a huge advantage to me. Also, I got to practice about six or seven restarts on the outside so that helps too. All in all, a lot of fun. Wendell Davis obviously prepared a car again that sits in the shop and waits for me to drive it and I can’t thank him enough.”
McCall and McCaskill, both veterans in the Late Model Stock Car discipline, raced each other clean in the closing laps. McCall brushed the wall trying to hold off McCaskill on the final lap but was able to hang on for the win.
“That’s how Deac races, you know what I mean, he always does,” McCall said when talking about McCaskill racing him clean. “He even raced me clean when I really pile-drived the fence on the backstretch. I got loose off turn 2 and I’m like there’s no reason to lift because it’s going to get ugly, so I just drove it in the fence and it was enough to get through 3 and 4 and get the checkered (flag).”
McCall’s charge through the field was an inspired drive. At times, he was two-tenths of a second faster than the rest of the field. McCall spoke about driving through the field, stating he had only one goal at the Thanksgiving Classic — winning.
“Win, win, win, win — that’s the mentality,” McCall stated. “It doesn’t matter if I only race once a year, I’m still coming to win. That was the whole objective. It’s fun, especially when you don’t get to race much and I’m trying to keep a streak of winning a race a year for a long time so that’s really when I show back up one time, try to keep that streak going because it’s my only opportunity to do that.”
McCall is a crew chief for Chip Ganassi Racing in the NASCAR Monster Energy Cup Series, currently on the No. 1 car piloted by Jamie McMurray. With various reports from NASCAR media outlets stating that 2004 NASCAR champion Kurt Busch would take over the driving duties in No. 1, McCall said he “doesn’t know anything about that.”
Deac McCaskill had to settle for second, just ahead of his cousin Bradley McCaskill. After the race, Deac McCaskill spoke about his runner-up finish.
“We got the four tires, and we just rode, man,” McCaskill said. “I rode, and I rode, and I rode. These guys are smart racers man. Matt McCall, Bobby McCarty, Philip Morris and Bradley, they know what to do, man. When you’re leading like that, you got to set a pace and you can’t go too fast. So, I just sat there and rode and rode. I know what kind of times I run, and after every caution my car was just flawless.
“We got that big lead, and they kept telling me Matt was up to third, up to second, then it was just time to go. I took off, and he took off, and the lapped cars hurt me a little bit, but that’s just racing, man, and there wasn’t anything I could do. I tried to get around them as quick as I could, and I slipped a few times, and Matt was able to capitalize on it.”
While Deac McCaskill was proud of the effort he and his team put forth in Southern National’s biggest race, he was disappointed to come up just short.
“I just had one little wiggle off 4 and he got his nose underneath me, and there was nothing I could do,” McCaskill explained. “He got by me, and he got into the wall on the backstretch, and I had another great run on him. I was already committed to the high side, and it was just over from then.
“I have to sit on this all winter being that close to $20,000, but it was still a great run man. We got the pole, and we got the halfway (bonus). It was still a great night for us. I’m really proud of my team, but I don’t know what to say, man.”
Deac McCaskill last won the race in 2006. Bradley McCaskill in third while 2018 CARS Response Energy Tour champion Bobby McCarty, from Summerfield, came home fourth and Bahama’s Layne Riggs, son of Southern National legend Scott Riggs, rounded out the top 5.
Wilson’s Adam Murray picked up the win in the Limited Late Model race on Sunday afternoon over 2018 Limited Late Model champion Andrew Grady from Knightdale and 2018 Carteret County Speedway champion Brandon Clements from Swansboro. Goldsboro’s Clay Jones finished fourth while Franklinton’s Brian Obiedzenski finished fifth.
Goldsboro’s Jonathan Kornegay won the Charger feature over Lucama’s Jeremy Bohne and Dudley’s Michael O’Brien.
OTHER THANKSGIVING CLASSIC WINNERS:
Alek Andrecs (Bandolero — Friday and Sunday), Jeremy Bohne (Charger — Friday), Karl Budzevski (Limited Late Model — Friday), Dennis Capps (Mod-4), Gary Ledbetter, Jr. (Street Stock), Jason Stephenson (U-CAR), Zack Miller (Legends), Jimmy Humblet (Modifieds), Ronnie “Buckshot” Jones (Mini-Stock), and EJ Kenny (Any Car).