This past winter may not have been quite as brutal as we've become used to around these parts, but it seemed to be just as long. Especially when we're all itching to get back to a race track. Lucky for us, Hilltop Speedway has always been just as eager to get back to action as early as they think it may be possible. Each year I have my doubts about the weather being decent enough, or that the fans are willing to brave the cooler temps for their first racing fix of the year. Then I get to Hilltop and those doubts are all gone. They've been fortunate to draw pretty decent crowds for each of their opening nights, but last night topped them all. Loyal fans packed the place and they were treated to one hell of a night of racing. Other than the truck class, each division brought a full field of competitors that came to play hard and keep the fans on their feet. The Late Model Dash looked like they were racing for a million bucks, or at least braggin' rights for winning the first dash of the season.
Tyler Carpenter picked up the feature win on Friday night at Legendary Hilltop Speedway in Marietta, and I'm sure he planned on being crowned "king of both hills" before the weekend was over. I'll admit that I kinda expected him to pull it off with his smooth driving style and kickass Kryptonite car. However, a few others in the field had plans of their own. Shane McLoughlin may have brought a plain looking ride to the show, but he battled the best of them to pick up the Dash win in fine fashion. When the feature lined up it was clear that there would be plenty of action to keep your eyes on throughout the field. It would be another West Virginia native, Corey Conley, that would slide his way into the lead early on. Corey seemed to have found some magic since the Dash race and pulled away a bit before battling lapped traffic. Meanwhile there was some serious racing going on behind him fighting for second through fifth. Slowly and patiently Carpenter worked his way to second and started to reel in Conley. The laps were winding down fast but a late caution would put Carpenter on the rear bumper of the leader for a restart. He was able to get under Conley a few times to threaten for the lead, but that only seemed like a wakeup call for Conley. He must have had his right foot through the firewall that last lap as he pulled away for a hard earned win. Carpenter would settle for second, Greg Oaks brought home a damn strong third, moving McLoughlin to fourth. Mike Lonas rounded out the top five.
The Modifieds put on a great show of their own with Wisecarver picking up the win. Bringing home a top five finish in his new ride was previous Hilltop owner, Jesse Wardell. It's damn good to see him back in action on the very same track that he helped make so popular. One fella that didn't get to see much action last night was Rory Reed. He had a strong run going in the heat race locking up second place until the final laps when the "magic smoke" rolled out of his engine and onto the track. Anybody out there have a spare engine laying around??