The X-1R Pro Cup Series 2014 moved from the shortest track of the season, the Hickory Motor Speedway measuring .363 miles, to the longest, the Memphis International Raceway (MIR) spanning .75 miles, during the third race of the season on 26 April 2014. The transition had many of the series’ young guns, like Reid Wilson and Gus Dean, extremely excited about racing on the ‘big tracks’.
Teen phenomenon, Wilson, headed to Memphis for the KOMA Unwind Liquid Relaxation 150 race with his eyes on the lead, tailing by only eight points behind series leader Caleb Holman. The soon to be 18-year-old had then yet to lay eyes on the large MIR track, commenting, “It’s the biggest track for us to compete at, not to mention my biggest track ever, but there’s also a lot of unknowns as far as what to expect. We’ll have plenty of practice to dial in our No. 66 Bojangles’ Famous Chicken ‘n Biscuits Chevrolet, but the key to success I think will be tire conservation and keeping up with the track’s changing conditions.”
Come that Saturday afternoon, it was 19-year-old Dean, who is in his third year of full time competition this season and had stepped onto the second place on the podium countless times, who finally clinched his first victory in the X-1R Pro Cup Series.
Holman started on the pole and quickly claimed the lead with the rest in tow. On lap 43, the suspension of Wilson’s #66 machine let go and he slowed coming off turn two, raising the first yellow flag; the single file field bunched up but Holman managed to retain the lead position.
The halfway point redraw relegated Holman to the third position and Dean to the forth, and placed Jeff Oakley and JP Morgan on the front row. The restart proved to be eventful when the rear end of Morgan’s #23 locked up and ended his race when he lunged into the wall, while damaging Dean’s and Codie Rohrbaugh’s, rookie of the year contender, machines in the commotion. Dean said, “I had actually hit the brake in time but I was pushed from behind into JP causing him to go around and ended their day. I felt sorry for those guys for that, they worked hard.”
A complete restart placed Holman on the front row, which returned him the lead in the field. Dean went to work and moved into second position on lap 89. Holman and Dean met just 17 laps later, for a three-lap side-by-side battle with their machines coming into contact occasionally, before Dean managed to pull in front. He enlarged the gap over Holman, but had a hard time holding off the veteran on the final turn of the final lap who had managed to close a five-car length gap. “Towards the end he had saved enough and made a charge to come back to about two car lengths from us, but he ran out of time I guess, and we ended up pulling off the win,” said Dean.
With his win, Dean is now in second place, tailing behind Holman with 10 points. The next race will take place on 7 June 2014, at the Motor Mile Speedway in Radford, Virginia.