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HORNET CHAMPIONS: Windham, Kelly Sweep Weekend; Hopper Claims First Win

Night Two of the Drydene World Short Track Championship saw the VP Racing Fuels Hornets continue to thrill

by Nick Graziano

All 54 VP Racing Fuels Hornet drivers knew what was on the line Saturday night.

Not just a victory. A victory on the biggest stage of the year for the grass-roots racing series at the Drydene World Short Track Champion.

Divided into three Features for the second night in a row, the drivers picked up where they left off on Friday by testing the limits of their four-cylinder chariots every lap around the 4/10-mile Dirt Track at Charlotte.

TURN OF FORTUNES – John Windham was close; always so close to a World Short Track Championship win. Last year seemed like it would finally be his year as he had a car capable of winning each night. But each night, misfortune continued to plague his winning quest.

Windham, of Lake City, FL, finally broke that curse Friday night with a dominating win and then backed it up Saturday night to claim back to back victories.

Like déjà vu, Windham set Quick Time in Qualifying for the second night in a row and put himself on the pole for the first Feature. Then, he continued his reign out front by launching ahead of the field on the initial start, gaining seconds on them every lap.

The main battle became for second and saw Johnathan Sarratt and Ryan Owens as the prime two contenders for it. Owens snuck underneath Sarratt on Lap 9 and moved himself into the runner-up spot just in time for a shot at Windham. A caution came out on Lap 10, putting Owens on Windham’s bumper for the restart.

However, Windham was in a different league. He, again, rocketed ahead of the field and won by 2.5 seconds over Owens. Sarratt had to settle for third.

“It’s nice,” Windham said about ending the weekend with two victories. “I mean, we’ve had a lot of bad luck for about five years in a row and this year we’ve had a lot of good runs and didn’t tear anything up. Usually we run good and break. This year, we’ve had a damn good year.”

MAKE IT THREE – Joey Kelly, a defending World Short Track winner, of Salem, SC, didn’t even know if he would be competing this year. His father was diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s disease this and Kelly decided to cut back on racing and sold all of this race cars to spend more time with his dad. But when his father told him to go racing, Kelly couldn’t say no.

About a week before the Drydene World Short Track Championship, Kelly bought a car and prepared it to compete. When he arrived at the Charlotte track, he picked up where he left off last year.

Kelly led every lap Friday night to pick up his second consecutive World Short Track win and then did the same on Saturday night.

However, on Saturday, he had to hold off Walker Windham, who also picked up a win Friday night. Windham was strong around the top, able to keep pace with Kelly. But Kelly could power his #88 car into the corners, barely lifting, and get it to stick all the way through. The more he perfected his line, the further he began to pull ahead of Windham.

“It felt awesome, man,” Kelly said about his car. “Jason Waters tuned, and Kelly built. You can’t beat it. You either race one or chase one.”

By the end of the Feature, Kelly had a 1.6 second gap on Windham as he took the checkered flag for his third consecutive World Short Track win.

“It makes it great, man, I’m not going to lie,” Kelly said about outrunning (Walker) Windham. Walker is always one of the top runners everywhere we go. Look, he has really got a bright future ahead of him.

“This is for my dad. ALS sucks. This is for you.”

FIRST TIME CHAMP –
Tears, heartbreak and joy were the remnants of the third and final VP Racing Fuels Hornet Feature of the night.

Chase Hopper, of Stokesdale, NC, left with the trophy – his first Drydene World Short Track Championship win – but getting to that point seemed unlikely for a majority of the Feature.

Alan Carter led the first eight laps from the pole. Eddie McGraw, who won at World Short Track last year, was on his tail the entire time, though. With seven laps to go, McGraw closed to Carter’s bumper in the first corner and was able to get a run underneath him down the backstretch. He then threw his #4M car to the bottom of Turn 3 to try and slid Carter for the lead.

However, his aggressive move was unneeded. An issue arose with Carter’s car as McGraw made the pass and Carter was forced to retire from the race.

McGraw was handed the lead and Hopper moved into second. The race looked to be in McGraw’s hands as he led to the white flag. But then he too had an issue. His car slowed on track, allowing Hopper to drive by and see the checkered flags as a winner for the first time.

“I really hate it for Eddie (McGraw), man,” Hopper said in Victory Lane. “He’s really got a fast piece. He deserved that one. But I’d rather be lucky than good any day. I crossed that finish line in first and, man, I’ll tell you, I’m almost in tears.

“I couldn’t imagine. We came up here just to have fun. I’d never raced this place. Never raced with these boys. We finished third last night and won tonight. I can’t be more happy.”

The heartbreak came for Carter and McGraw, while the tears and joy highlighted an exuberant victory lane for Hopper and his family.

VP RACING FUELS HORNETS RESULTS

Feature #1 (15 Laps) – 1. 65-John Windham [1]; 2. 16-Ryan Owens [3]; 3. 311-Jonanthan Sarratt [2]; 4. O5-Payne Pickles [18]; 5. 26-Trevor Battoia [6]; 6. D5-Willie Fowler [4]; 7. F1-Travis Lankford [9]; 8. C11-Cody Paige [5]; 9. 4X-Blake Hedrick [12]; 10. 2D-Daniel Tate [13]; 11. 38-Rodney Grant [14]; 12. 74-Bruce Denman [7]; 13. 18E-William Estep [17]; 14. 13B-Brandon Collins [11]; 15. X-Shannon Barnhill [8]; 16. 777C-Blaze Coggins [16]; 17. 7L-Marcus Locklear [10]; 18. 80-Doug Winebarger [15]

Feature #2 (15 Laps) – 1. 88-Joey Kelly [1]; 2. 72-Walker Windham [2]; 3. 21C-Dan Benson [3]; 4. 3B-Brad McManus [4]; 5. 21X-Marc White [6]; 6. 95-Jacob Bright [5]; 7. 91Z-Zack Slone [15]; 8. 2-Tyler Capps [7]; 9. 42X-Michael Selig [9]; 10. 888-Chris Martin [12]; 11. 221-Donavan Beacham [18]; 12. D2-Danny Tate [13]; 13. 24-Tyler Fister [14]; 14. B59-Billy Whitfield [16]; 15. 27X-Mitchell Rex [19]; 16. 801-Doug Morris [10]; 17. 1X-Hunter Wallace [8]; 18. 41K-Kevin Saam [11]; 19. 66-Ryan Waller [17]

Feature #3 (15 Laps) – 1. 21H-Chase Hopper [3]; 2. O4-Daniel Moody [5]; 3. AOO-Andrew Rich [8]; 4. 79-Brian Tate [7]; 5. 4W-Daniel Wright [4]; 6. O-Clayton Seling [9]; 7. T3-T.J. Hill [10]; 8. 15-Kenneth Colf [11]; 9. 25J-Josh Whitfield [13]; 10. 4M-Eddie McGraw [2]; 11. 91G-Michael Slone [16]; 12. 49-Tim Justice [12]; 13. 777-Alan Carter [1]; 14. 35-Kyle LeDoux [15]; 15. 27X-Mitchell Rex [18]; 16. 117-Clay Shumake [6]; 17. 41-Parker Griffin [17]; 18. 1H-Justin Harris [14]

Qualifying – 1. 65-John Windham, 19.58; 2. 88-Joey Kelly, 19.853; 3. 777-Alan Carter, 19.879; 4. 311-Jonanthan Sarratt, 19.929; 5. 72-Walker Windham, 19.997; 6. 4M-Eddie McGraw, 20.1; 7. 16-Ryan Owens, 20.104; 8. 21C-Dan Benson, 20.136; 9. 21H-Chase Hopper, 20.218; 10. D5-Willie Fowler, 20.269; 11. 3B-Brad McManus, 20.291; 12. 4W-Daniel Wright, 20.35; 13. C11-Cody Paige, 20.358; 14. 95-Jacob Bright, 20.389; 15. O4-Daniel Moody, 20.415; 16. 26-Trevor Battoia, 20.517; 17. 21X-Marc White, 20.538; 18. 117-Clay Shumake, 20.614; 19. 74-Bruce Denman, 20.645; 20. 2-Tyler Capps, 20.657; 21. 79-Brian Tate, 20.789; 22. X-Shannon Barnhill, 20.806; 23. 1X-Hunter Wallace, 20.898; 24. AOO-Andrew Rich, 20.942; 25. F1-Travis Lankford, 20.945; 26. 42X-Michael Selig, 21.071; 27. O-Clayton Seling, 21.095; 28. 7L-Marcus Locklear, 21.172; 29. 801-Doug Morris, 21.184; 30. T3-T.J. Hill, 21.283; 31. 13B-Brandon Collins, 21.287; 32. 41K-Kevin Saam, 21.486; 33. 15-Kenneth Colf, 21.538; 34. 4X-Blake Hedrick, 21.556; 35. 888-Chris Martin, 21.585; 36. 49-Tim Justice, 21.71; 37. 2D-Daniel Tate, 21.801; 38. D2-Danny Tate, 21.859; 39. 25J-Josh Whitfield, 21.882; 40. 38-Rodney Grant, 21.888; 41. 24-Tyler Fister, 21.958; 42. 1H-Justin Harris, 22.001; 43. 80-Doug Winebarger, 22.22; 44. 91Z-Zack Slone, 22.561; 45. 35-Kyle LeDoux, 22.6; 46. 777C-Blaze Coggins, 22.844; 47. B59-Billy Whitfield, 22.951; 48. 91G-Michael Slone, 23.087; 49. 18E-William Estep, 23.584; 50. 66-Ryan Waller, 25.879; 51. 41-Parker Griffin, NT; 52. O5-Payne Pickles, NT; 53. 221-Donavan Beacham, NT; DQ. 27X-Mitchell Rex, 20.728