Because of continuing restrictions on having fans at race tracks in North Carolina, fans missed out on seeing a significant finish this past Saturday at Hickory Motor Speedway.
Veteran driver Annabeth Barnes Crum, of Taylorsville, N.C., became only the third woman to ever win a Late Model event at the .363-mile North Carolina short track. The other two women were Chrissy Wallace in 2007 and Kate Dallenbach in 2016.
“It was really awesome,” Crum told NBC Sports. “My whole team, we’re all really excited. We’ve been racing at Hickory a long time and have a couple of wins in Limited Late Model.
“Late Model is obviously the higher division. It’s really hard to get a win in Late Model anywhere in this day and time, it’s so competitive. It’s been taken over by the big teams like JR Motorsports. There’s a ton of big teams in Late Model racing now. We’re just a small team, my dad works on the car. We’re a two-car team. To get a win, we’ve really been working hard, so it really means a lot to us.”
After finishing third in the first of two 40-lap races Saturday night, the starting order for the second race was inverted, leaving Crum to start eighth.
The whole (second) race actually, it was kind of a hot mess, there was a lot of beating and banging and took a long time to get it all sorted out.
“The whole (second) race actually, it was kind of a hot mess, there was a lot of beating and banging and took a long time to get it all sorted out,” Crum said. “I think at one point, we had fallen back to 12th (in a 15-car field).
“There were a lot of cautions, just a pretty heavy race with lots of hard racing. But we had a lot of luck on our side, we missed a lot of the bad (wrecks) and stayed patient and we were there at the end.”
The 25-year-old Crum took the lead off a restart on Lap 28 and pulled away in the final 12 laps for the win.
“She is a fierce competitor here at the track, came up through the ranks and won in Limited and has worked real hard to get to the Late Model venue and we’re happy to see her get her first win,” Hickory Motor Speedway general manager Kevin Piercy told NBC Sports.
Known as “the world’s most famous short track,” Hickory is one of the oldest tracks in NASCAR, having opened in 1951. It previously hosted both the Cup and Xfinity series, but for the last two decades has been primarily used by the Whelen All-American Series, the Pro All Stars Series South Super Late Models and the CARS Touring series for late models and super late models.
The venue, about 65 miles northwest of Charlotte, has been a key part of racing careers for numerous luminaries, including NASCAR Hall of Famers Junior Johnson, Ned Jarrett and Jack Ingram, as well as Harry Gant and Ralph Earnhardt.
Crum has one regret about her win: husband Jake, also a racer, wasn’t able to attend because he was babysitting their children at home.
Annabeth has been racing since she was 7 years old, having worked her way up through the ranks of go-karts, Legends, Bandoleros, Limited Late Models and for the last seven years, in Late Models.
With the CARS Series slated to race at Hickory this Saturday, her next race there will be June 20.
Due to ongoing state restrictions on crowds and social distancing, this past Saturday’s twin races were not run under the usual NASCAR Whelen All-American Series sanction.
Still, Annabeth is ready to go for two wins in a row on June 20.
“I’m excited to get back to the track,” she said. “It’s exciting and awesome to get the win and we’re getting a lot of recognition now and it feels great.
“But now I immediately feel the need to back it up.”