Breaking down the chaos at Hickory Motor Speedway

Last weekend saw famed short track Hickory Motor Speedway hosting its second round of weekly racing for the year. However, nothing went as planned and now social media is on fire about a controversy that took place prior to the second Late Model Stock race of the night. 

Hickory’s second week of racing played host to two twin 40 lap feature races for the Late Model Stock series, featuring the drivers at the center of this controversy; Doug Barnes Jr, Kade Brown and defending track champion Landon Huffman. 

The story of it is this: The LMS cars lined up for the first 40 lap event of the night. On lap 2, Huffman, Barnes and Brown were all involved in a backstretch accident which sidelined them for the remainder of the first feature race. However, all three drivers were able to fix their cars in time for the second 40 lap feature. The three lined up in the pits and fired engines.

Now, this is where the controversy comes from. Hickory track officials said that, due to the three of them not completing 20 laps in the first feature race, they were not eligible to compete in the 2nd race.

There is no written evidence of this rules’ existence in the Hickory Motor Speedway rule book and the policy was not brought up in the drivers meeting – nor were any of the teams made aware of the rule whilst fixing their cars.

Hickory track officials said that the drivers had the opportunity to either start and park and collect last place points or withdraw from the 2nd race entirely. Huffman and Barnes elected the latter option and Brown chose the former. 

According to Huffman, track promotor Kevin Piercy stated that, since the rule was mentioned before in previous drivers meetings at the track, the drivers held responsibility for being aware of this rule. 

Huffman maintains that the track must communicate any unwritten rules to the drivers and teams in the drivers meetings.

The track released their official statement on monday, which can be found in full here: 

In a vlog posted to his YouTube channel on Wednesday, Huffman stated that he had a meeting with promoter Kevin Piercy. Despite there still being some disagreements, Huffman says that Piercy apologized for poor communication. Huffman also gave an update on his plans for the future, stating that he is committed to continuing to run at Hickory Motor Speedway into the future for his partners and fans.

Now, in my opinion I do not disagree with the spirit of the rule itself, as a 20 lap tire advantage would allow a driver who started at the back to storm through the field easily, and my opinion is shared by both Huffman and Barnes. However, the complete lack of communication between the track and the drivers is clearly a far bigger issue. It completely destroys the credibility of the track officials by refusing to inform competitors of an unwritten rule. Whether or not the rule had been mentioned in prior drivers meetings is irrelevant because, even though long-time drivers may be aware of this rule, newer teams and drivers would not be informed of it. It is the responsibility of the track promoter and officials to inform the drivers of every rule, whether written or unwritten, that may influence their ability to participate in any way. 

Overall, I don’t think anybody came out of this situation looking worse than the Hickory track staff. Not informing drivers of a rule that directly influences them, and then following that by doubling down in their statement and avoiding responsibility is not acceptable, especially for a NASCAR sanctioned series. 

However, I do hope that this incident results in tracks being more transparent with competitors and ensuring that certain unwritten rules are clearly disclosed to drivers and teams – or maybe even *gasp* written – for the benefit of track officials, drivers and fans alike.

Featured Image Credits: Huffman Racing on Twitter

Published by Joe Sell

Joe is a writer from Poole, UK. He is a fan of anything with four wheels and an engine and his favorite drivers are Ryan Blaney, Bubba Wallace and Daniel Suarez. Outside of racing, he enjoy watching sports and listening to country music.

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