O’Reilly Races draw big crowds at Union County and Cherokee Race Tracks

                                           June 2009                         Dale Wilkerson

A standing room only crowd was not disappointed last Friday night, as the O’Reilly Southern All Stars East Division ran its first ever event at the Union County Speedway.

                Casey Roberts, the defending series champion turn the fastest lap in qualifying, backing up a win at the Toccoa Speedway on Memorial Day, in an unsanctioned race.

                The crowd was treated to a fireworks display, while the cars formed into a four-wide formation for the parade laps. With the tops being taken off the cars for this event, the fans could see the drivers waving to them before the green flag.

                The event was slowed several times due to on track incidents. Most of the problems took place in turns three and four, but most of the cars were able to continue, just with a little body damage and a few wheel marks.

                Roberts was able to hold the lead on every re-start, while Big John Pursley, Dennis ‘Rambo’ Franklin, Ross Bailes, and Larry Blankenship were in a fierce battle for the runner-up spot. All four of these drivers were trading paint while Roberts was able to pull out to a 12 car length lead.

                Roberts claimed the victory and hoped to carry the momentum from the Union County win to the Cherokee Speedway. Gaffney's Jeff Cooke won the pole for the Gaffney event. Chris Madden, who won the last O'Reilly race at the Cherokee Speedway, had a bobble in qualifying and started the race from 16th on grid.  

                Cooke jumped to the lead with Johnnie Pursley giving chase. Madden was skillfully slicing his way through the field, and several cautions helped him cut down the space between him and the top three cars.

                Madden pulled up to second after driving the car deep into turn one to get around Pursley and Furman Parton. Cooke drifted high and Madden pulled to his inside of turn two to snag the lead. Cooke reclaimed the lead off turn four just before a caution flag waved.

                Cooke fought hard but Madden pulled past him to claim the lead. Madden also held off Cooke’s advances on the final two restarts in the 40-lap event.

                For Madden, this win was his sixth of the year. Madden and many other Super Late stars will travel to the Eldora Speedway for the race known as The Dream. Even the stars of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series will be on hand as they compete in The Prelude to the Dream, to raise money for Military Families.  

               Last year, Tony Stewart who owns the Eldora Speedway, won the prelude before a sellout crowd and a pay-per-view television audience.  The sad thing, we as race fans and the Sprint Cup drivers that were looking forward to this race, will have to wait until September 9th, due to the rain out.

                As for the O’Reilly Southern All Stars east Division, they will be back on track next Tuesday at the Laurens County Speedway.

                The track known as ‘The Darlington of Dirt’ will host the annual Laurens County Shrine Race. If you have never been to this fine track, next Tuesday is a great night to make your first trip. Not only will you see some great racing, but you will be helping some great kids as proceeds from this event will go to The Shriner’s Hospitals for Crippled and Burned Children.

                As the drivers make laps, you will be helping children take their first steps toward making laps.