The temperatures were red hot on Saturday at Beech Ridge Motor Speedway, but 16 Wildcats drivers still showed up to compete in the 40-lap kickoff to the 2021 points season.
The Wildcats race was originally slated for 50 laps, but much like other tracks across the country that are struggling with the national tire shortage, the situation at Beech Ridge is no different in regards to availability for tires used in the division. Drivers voted for a reduced lap race (in addition to 10-lap heat races) in an effort to conserve tires until more become readily available.
Chaz Briggs and Lewis Anderson went head to head for the early lead in the first heat until Briggs pulled ahead with a slight advantage on lap 4. Anderson was back at his door the following lap and the two drivers fought to the finish, where Briggs beat Anderson to the line by a nose. Jason Gammon rounded out the top 3.
Jared Kimball and Mark Grantham battled it out for the early lead in the second and final qualifying heat. Mark Grantham pulled ahead with the advantage as Joe Morse followed in his footsteps. Dave Cameron was also on the move early, at Jared Kimball’s door challenging for third on lap 4 and advancing position the following lap.
Joe Morse was hungry for the top spot in the closing laps, at Mark Grantham’s door challenging for the lead on lap 8. Morse pulled ahead with the advantage on lap 9. Dan McKeage, Jr. was also on the charge late, advancing to third on the final lap as Joe Morse captured the heat victory.
Joe Morse pulled ahead with the early lead in the 40-lap feature. Jacob Vaughn came to a slow on lap 5 and headed down to the pits. Luck (but others’ misfortune) was on his side as Dave Cameron and Jared Kimball tangled in turn 2 on the very same lap, resulting in a caution. This allowed Vaughn to return to the track for the restart without losing any laps.
Joe Morse pulled ahead with the advantage on the restart. Jason Gammon was also on the move, quickly advancing into the runner-up spot over Chaz Briggs. Mark Grantham took a spin on lap 10 in turn 2, but the field remained green.
Dan McKeage, Jr. was coming through the field mid-race, on Chaz Briggs’ heels for third on lap 14. He made his way to Briggs’ door just two laps later, taking over the spot. Jason Gammon was also tracking down Joe Morse at the front of the pack, all over his back bumper for the lead on lap 22.
Jacob Vaughn and Lewis Anderson made contact while battling for position on lap 24, resulting in Lewis Anderson taking a a spin in turn 4. The incident resulted in a mid-race caution.
Joe Morse and Jason Gammon went door-to-door for the lead on the restart before Joe Morse captured sole possession of the lead shortly thereafter. After a strong showing all day, Gammon’s #5 machine blew up on lap 28, leaving Jordan Kimball and Kaleb Bean spinning in his wake. The incident led to yet another caution.
Joe Morse elected the outside line on the restart and began pulling away from his competitors once again. Jacob Vaughn was on the recovery in the closing laps of the race, battling it out with Dan McKeage, Jr. for the runner-up spot. McKeage won the battle and kept digging until he found his way to Joe Morse’s door, challenging him for the lead with just 5 laps to go.
Lewis Anderson’s troubles continued as he took another spin on lap 37 in turn 2. The incident led to a late-race caution and brought the leaders together once again for a 3-lap shootout.
Joe Morse chose to restart on the outside line again and pulled ahead with the slight edge over Dan McKeage, Jr. Dave Cameron took a spin on the restart, but pulled to the infield in attempt to avoid the caution.
Joe Morse maintained his edge to the finish, scoring another feature victory. Morse’s one wish was to be interviewed by announcing legend, Bruce Elder, in victory lane. The track made that happen, helping Morse knock another item off of his racing bucket list.
Morse’s win was also special because Jackson Corbeau, a local boy battling Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia, was in attendance and got the opportunity to join Joe in celebrating his victory. Morse has been “Racing for Jackson” and Waddles for a Cause for a few seasons now and he finally got to celebrate a big win with his little buddy in attendance.
Dan McKeage, Jr. came home in the runner-up spot, capturing his career-best finish. Chaz Briggs, Jacob Vaughn and Wade Kennedy rounded out the top five.
Joe Morse continues to dominate the Wildcats division in 2021 while young drivers like Dan McKeage, Jr. and Jacob Vaughn continue to impress, holding their own against drivers that have been racing longer than both drivers combined have been alive. It’s impressive to watch both drivers achieve as much success as they have had in such little time and I’ll be interested to see who picks up the first checkered flag of the season between the two drivers.
You can catch the next Super Saturday race this coming Saturday, June 12th. The racing action kicks off at 4:00 pm and kids of ALL AGES are now allowed into the pits. As always, grandstand admission is just $12 for adults and FREE for kids 12 & under.
Continue chasing the checkered and support your local short tracks. I hope to see you soon!
Photo credit for featured photo: Jamie Johnson