Monday, 11 October 2021 00:22

CARS, TRUCKS AND RIGS, OH MY: 3 drivers win races during East Coast Truck Festival at Rockingham Speedway

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Drivers in three series took the checkered flag in their events Sunday during the East Coast Truck Festival at Rockingham Speedway. See the RO's Facebook page for more photos. Drivers in three series took the checkered flag in their events Sunday during the East Coast Truck Festival at Rockingham Speedway. See the RO's Facebook page for more photos. William R. Toler - Richmond Observer.

ROCKINGHAM — Three drivers took the checkered flag in their respective events Sunday to wrap up the three-day East Coast Truck Festival, becoming the first winners on Rockingham Speedway’s oval track in eight years.

For Rob Hindt of Elkton, Maryland, the win was even more special — it was his first ever.

“It’s been a long time coming,” Hindt said in the Papa Joe Hendrick Garage following the race.

Hindt said he’s loved motorsports his entire life and has been involved for years, crewing for Late Model teams out of Virginia. He started racing in 2013, including in the Super Cup Stock Car Series and said this was the first event for the new FasCarz series.

Making laps around the historic track is a check off of Hindt’s bucket list.

“To race Rockingham is just an awesome experience,” Hindt said. “These are the tracks that have character. They’re not the typical Charlotte race, you know, or the Texas race or the Michigan race … where you’re just driving in a circle.

“The track’s rough,” Hindt continued. “You’ve got to be on your game every single lap … It was just an absolute blast to race here. Thank the Lord he let us race here and brought everybody home safe.”

Hindt said the surface of the track, true to form, “chews up tires” and has a few rough spots in it, causing him to bottom out during the heat race and tearing up his header. But he and the crew were able to lift the front end so he could drive in the feature race.

“I didn’t know exactly how it was going to feel … having a higher front end, but it felt great,” Hindt said. 

Lauren Butler, the only female driver on Sunday, was leading the three-car chase but fell back to third.

Driver Dusty Silvers was better in turns three and four, Hindt said, adding “if I had any shot, I knew I had to close on him in one and two and get by him in the backstretch … He slipped up just a little bit coming off of two and I was able to get by him, so, it was awesome.”

Hindt said the win was “hard to describe” — being both his first and at the Rock.

“It is awesome to have won at Rockingham Speedway,” Hindt said. “I really hope that we can do this again.”

Rob Hindt, of Maryland, celebrates his first-ever win at Rockingham Speedway, a track that has been on his bucket list.

Ryan “Shotgun” Miller, of Sanford, put the fast in the FASTrucks series race — eventually overtaking the driver at the back of the pack.

“I had a really good setup,” Miller said, thanking his crew and Jimmy Simmons “for letting me drive his truck.”

Miller, now 32, has been racing since he was 8 years old, starting with four-wheelers before driving bandoleros. He also has a Late Model at home that he races at Wake County Speedway — “but this is my first time ever in a truck.”

It was also his first time driving at Rockingham, but not his first visit.

“I grew up coming here and watching Cup races with dad and my grandaddy back in the day,” he said. “I’m glad to see something starting to come around, and something come out of this track. There’s a lot of us that would love to see this back in its heyday.”

LIke Hindt, Miller said the surface was “a little rough.”

“It’s not terrible for sitting, what, nine or ten years or so … I’d definitely say it was raceable.”

As for the tires, Miller said they ran two sets of Goodyears.

“They held up great. I don’t think there’s going to be any problems with running a Goodyear tire out here,” Miller said.

Ryan "Shotgun" Miller, of Sanford, pull into pit road after winning the FASTruck Series race at Rockingham Speedway.

The first winner of the afternoon was Justin Ball in the FASS Big Rig Series — the first winner on the oval since 2013.

“That’s awesome to be able to pull that off, in a big rig, nonetheless,” Ball said in the winner’s circle.

The Ohio native now hails from Oklahoma City and has been racing rigs for six years.

“I started out working on them in 2015 and about mid-season I started working kinda as a stand-in driver,” Ball said. The following year, he started driving for Jupiter Motorsports, which had several rigs in the race.

During  his two years with Jupiter, Ball first had the opportunity to drive on a circle track: “If it wasn’t for that, I don’t think we’d be on a circle track, to be honest.”

He now drives for All Ballz Performance.

“Coming to Rockingham was awesome,” Ball said. “We’ve driven on (Pikes Peak International Raceway) up in Colorado and had a blast with that and figured it’d be cool to see a race on a mile track … I’ve just been itching to get us on anything bigger than five-eighths.”

During qualifying, Ball came in second, lapping the oval in 35.55 seconds. Rusty Wallace holds track lap record at 23.167 seconds.

Ball said his truck handled “surprisingly well” on the track.

“Coming out of two gets a little sketchy … it puts you up there pretty close to the wall, but other than that, the track was amazing — super fast.”

The caution flag was waved during that race as the rig from Caesar’s Truck Racing blew a tire coming out of turn four and limped on to pit road, with Bostick Towing out of Hoffman hauling it out.

“I heard it,” Ball said. “Right as he blew his tire is right where there’s a couple of rough spots in the track, so I heard the tire cut loose and I felt the truck kinda bounce. But my spotter wasn’t saying anything … so we just kinda stayed in it till the caution came out.”

Ball thanked his sponsors and family — especially his dad, who “spent tons of time in engineering to make a Peterbilt handle like a racecar.”

Rockingham was the sixth of seven tracks on the series schedule.

The weekend’s events were broadcast by

Justin Ball, of Oklahoma City, holds the checkered flag in the winner's circle in front of his rig.