With an amazing showing the previous week, Sam and the Triple R Racing crew made their way to Hickory Motor Speedway (NC) for twin 40 lap features to see if they could keep their streak of finishing races and top 10 finishes going strong. The team had decided to bring their car with the golden numbers out to play. This car has been really good for Sam and has shown speed. During practice, the team struggled to find the speed they wanted. Constantly fighting a changing track and keeping up with its conditions and what the conditions will become race time can be quite difficult. They would find what they were looking for after trying a few different combinations.
When qualifying time came, a small shower had passed over the track and track drying was taking place. The skies cleared to allow the sun to speed up this process, but not enough to eliminate all of the falling rain. The first ten cars went out while it was still raining. Sam was instructed by his crew chief to not go out when it was his turn, but to sit and wait for the drizzle to cease. Times had been falling off the typical pace and cars that were usually really good were starting in the rear. The rains passed and Sam took the track to submit his time. With a time of 14.981, he immediately shot to the top of the chart. He was ecstatic. Three cars behind him would submit a faster time leaving Sam to roll off in the 4th spot for the first 40 lap feature.
The car was pushed to the grid and Sam awaited to command to fire the engine. His spotter went through the normal pre-race checks and pep talk. He was starting upfront and the team wanted to make sure his head was where it needed to be. Sam took the green flag and tucked in behind the 3rd place machine coming out of turn 2. He knew that the race was going to be 40 laps, so there is no sense in burning up his equipment early. By lap 3, Sam was looking to the inside of the p3 machine but didn’t make the pass. With the driver of that car being new to the track, Sam wanted to see where his weaknesses were and know how to exploit them to make the pass as easy as possible. The leaders had checked out to a half straightaway lead and Sam was glued to the p3 bumper. On lap 20, a mistake was made by the car in p3, and Sam was there to capitalize. He ducked down underneath the competitor and passed him on the inside. At this point, Sam had set his eyes on the second-place car and wanted to track him down. The leaders were coming up on the tail of the field which meant they would lose some speed. Sam was gaining on the leaders and reeled them in, but there weren’t enough laps left on the board for him to get up to them to make a pass. Sam would finish with his second consecutive top 3 finish. In the post-race interview, the track announcer mentioned that NASCAR has had their big 3 and it looks like Sam was pleading his case to be included in Hickory’s big 3 with fellow competitors Ryan Millington and Josh Berry. The invert number was drawn and nine positions would invert. Sam would start the second 40 lap feature in p7.
Sam wasn’t thrilled to be starting from the 7th position, but he knew he had a car that would charge to contend for the win. A strategy was concocted between Sam and his crew to get him to the front. He was ready to race. The cars took their parade laps to put heat in the tires and were doubled up to take the green. Sam got a great start, leaving no room for an outside competitor to get in front of him. Coming out of turn 2 however, things went south. Sam was falling in position quickly. Cars behind him scattered to dodge Sam’s car that appeared to be lifeless. One competitor shot to the inside grass and back up the track tagging Sam in the left rear bumper that sent Sam spinning toward the wall. With minimal damage, he limped the car back to the pit area. The team feverishly went to work to assess what went amiss. After some discussion, a mechanical failure in the car's driveline would be what brought Sam and the team’s streak to an end. Sam was in good spirits and was happy to see the consistent progression that he and his team have made as of late. Next, Sam will run at Hickory Motor Speedway as he makes his second appearance in the CARS Tour.
Story Provided by Zack Wyatt 3 Aces Media