Saturday, March 8, was the first race of the season at Hickory Motor Speedway in Hickory, North Carolina and was also Justin’s debut in the Lee Faulk Racing #15 Late Model. Lots of changes this season — moving from Limited Late Model to stronger horse power in the Late Model stock car and working with a new crew chief and spotter. Justin had very limited practice during the off season and then practice on Friday, 3/7, before the race was rained out. But Saturday Justin was ready to get back on the track. It had been too long since his last win in the Hickory Fall Classic 100 back in September.
There were 24 Late Models at Hickory on Saturday. The track was fast and once qualifying started you needed to come in under 15 seconds to be up front. Justin qualified with a time of 14.977 putting him in p. 9 for the start of the race.
There were only 2 cautions in this 100-lap race — lap 4 and lap 45. Justin did some excellent driving at the beginning in the pack until the cars were able to separate a little. Justin ran p. 9 and p. 8 for most of the race trying to save tires for the end. Unfortunately, with the race going green after lap 45, there wasn’t enough time to get to the front. With 25 laps to go, Justin ran strong to take over the 7th spot and was closing in on position 6 at the checkered flag.
It was a very solid run for the first Late Model race finishing p. 7 to bring home a top 10 finish. It was great to have the opportunity to race in front of such a huge crowd for opening night. The next race will be on March 29.