Matt Henderson, Pierce McCarter Win Sunshine Nationals Crate-Division Finales at Volusia

Lining up second on a restart with six laps to go, Matt Henderson knew he had one chance left for the lead and a big win at a historic venue.

He mashed the throttle out of Turn 4 and raced down Volusia Speedway Park’s long front-stretch with a burst of speed into Turn 1. When leader Caleb Gay slipped off the bottom through the corner, Henderson shot the gap, took the lead out of Turn 2 and drove off with his first career Sunshine Nationals Feature win Saturday night – worth $10,000 in the DIRTcar Pro / Crate Racin’ USA (CRUSA) 604 Late Model division.

With the way he surged into the lead at exactly the right moment, it looked as if he’d been a Volusia regular for years and knew exactly when and where to pounce. But it was only one day earlier that he’d taken his first-ever laps around the half-mile oval.

“I’ve watched this place for years and always wanted to come,” Henderson said. “I just like big tracks, making air and good moves count. It’s always seemed like a place I’d really like, and so far, I have.

“Coming to a place, it’s my first weekend here, and winning – that, to me, when I see other guys do it – that’s more impressive to me that they’re able to adapt to something they don’t know.”

Henderson started from sixth on the grid and stayed patient through the first half of the 30-lap main event, gradually moving up through the top-five while the lead changed hands out front.

Outside polesitter Dustin Carter led the first eight laps but couldn’t avoid the wrath of polesitter Caleb Gay from behind him and soon gave up the lead in Turns 1-2.

“[Carter] was pushing across the corner and I knew I’d probably get him pretty quick,” Gay said.

Gay showed the way around through the next caution-littered 16 laps, while Henderson kept advancing his position, finally getting by Will Roland to take second right before the final caution flag flew with 24 laps complete.

In the pits before the field was called to staging, Henderson and his crew made the call to put on a harder compound of tire, intended to give him an advantage in the later stages of the race. Several caution periods through the middle of the race made it difficult for him to heat-up the harder tires, but once they got to optimal temperature, Henderson was able to fire-off on restarts like the one that gave him the lead on Lap 25.

“I just needed some consistent, green-flag laps and I wasn’t getting it,” Henderson said. “We had a short caution there at the end, so I was able to keep more heat in [my tires]. And then, the leader just pushed out and I was able to get by him, and then I had clean air and it was over.”

Gay indicated that he had chosen to go with a softer compound of tire than Henderson, which may have contributed to him being unable to hold the lead on the final restart.

“I thought I had it; it was close, I really thought I had it,” Gay said. “If the caution wouldn’t have come out, I think we would’ve got it, but I was just so tight on the restart. I couldn’t get turned down there; I was using the brakes. I just got pushed up in the crumbs and made a mistake.

“I thought I was okay, and then I had to turn it so hard with the brakes and then I got up in the slick. I really just made a mistake. I probably could’ve done a bit better.”

Trynt Lloyd came from eighth on the starting grid to round-out the podium while Clay Harris crossed in fourth and Will Roland completed the top-five. Tyler Millwood earned the Hard Charger honors, gaining 21 spots of position in his drive from 27th to finish sixth.


Sunshine Nationals Feature (30 Laps): 1. 22-Matt Henderson[6]; 2. 16-Caleb Gay[1]; 3. 2L-Trynt Lloyd[8]; 4. 18I-Clay Harris[10]; 5. 22R-Will Roland[4]; 6. 31M-Tyler Millwood[27]; 7. 555-Brock Pinkerous[12]; 8. 07B-Baily Cardwell[26]; 9. 86-Cole Exum[14]; 10. 18B-Mark Fleischer[13]; 11. 20-Owen Osteen[15]; 12. 54T-Tuck Trentham[29]; 13. 6-Dillon Brown[9]; 14. 39W-Brandon Wells[18]; 15. 721-Ivedent Lloyd[16]; 16. 21-Mario Gresham[24]; 17. 7-Corey Neil Jr[23]; 18. 31-Lincoln Smith[22]; 19. 127-Austin Yarbrough[19]; 20. 131-Matt Herlong[20]; 21. 66-Jody Knowles[28]; 22. 4-Rye Faulk[5]; 23. 74-Jason Garver[25]; 24. 00-Richie Stephens[21]; 25. 17G-Nevin Gainey[11]; 26. 5-Dustin Carter[2]; 27. 111-Demetrios Drellos[3]; 28. 08-Joey Love[7]; 29. 23-Cory Hedgecock; 30. 42-Steven Stratton Sr[30]

Pierce McCarter Scores Thrilling Sunshine Nationals Win in 602 Late Models

The Pigeon Forge, TN driver passed Bubba Roling on a Lap 19 restart for the win

With two laps to go in Saturday’s 602 Late Model Feature, Pierce McCarter hoped he made the right decision putting on a harder right rear tire.

The decision paid off for him, going from third to first on a final restart to win the Sunshine Nationals Finale at Volusia Speedway Park.

Roling, the pole sitter, led the field to the green in the 20-lap Feature, distancing himself from the rest of the field. But just as the Clay Hill, FL driver looked destined to earn a home-state triumph, a caution with two laps to go changed his fortune.

When the race resumed, Roling went to the bottom of the track, hoping to take the checkered flag. But he left the top open for McCarter, who thundered past Mario Gresham for second in Turn 2 and carried his momentum around Roling in Turns 3 and 4, taking the lead as the white flag flew over his #71.

From there, McCarter separated himself from the #515, holding on to win the 602 Late Model Feature and the overall Sunshine Nationals championship.

The Pigeon Forge, TN driver said he had a harder tire than everyone else up front and knew it would be the difference in scoring the $3,000 prize.

“I watched Michael Courtney run the top a couple of times, and I had a harder right rear tire than everybody else,” McCarter said. “I knew once that got heated, I knew I could stick right there in the middle of that black. And I said, hell, might as well try it. Then it stuck right through there, and it was great.”

Along with the tire, McCarter said he felt the yellow flags finally broke his way after losing the lead in Friday’s Qualifying Feature in a similar fashion.

“I feel like cautions cost me [Friday],” McCarter said. “And earlier on in my Heat Race, they cost me. But we’ll take it tonight.”

Roling settled for second after leading the first 18 laps of the Feature. However, unlike McCarter, Roling said his tire started fading toward the end of the race.

“I felt like my right rear tire was going away,” Roling said. “Restarts really killed me. I felt like if it had stayed green, it would’ve been alright. We had a pretty big gap. But yeah, my right rear tire. I felt it sliding, and I couldn’t get through the corner as straight as I wanted to.”

Gresham crossed the line third, Chase Blackwell finished fourth, and Chaz Haskins rounded out the top five.

UP NEXT: Volusia Speedway Park is back in action next weekend for the Germfree Southern Sprint Car Shootout, Jan. 25-27, including the $10,000-to-win finale for the 360 Sprint Cars on Saturday. 3/4 Modifieds will also be in action throughout the weekend. For Tickets, CLICK HERE.

If you can’t make it to the track, watch all our events live on DIRTVision – available either online or through the DIRTVision App.

602 Late Model Feature (20 Laps): 1. 71-Pierce McCarter[7]; 2. 515-Bubba Roling[2]; 3. 21-Mario Gresham[1]; 4. 6-Chase Blackwell[8]; 5. 107Z-Chaz Haskins[13]; 6. 28L-Austin Leamon[12]; 7. 53-Brandon Yates[5]; 8. 131-Matt Herlong[11]; 9. 5-Curtis Thomas[10]; 10. 8-Zack Owens[23]; 11. 27-Tim Ryan[9]; 12. 109-Nick Johnson[3]; 13. 31-Donnie Birdwell[24]; 14. C4-Devin Whatley[21]; 15. 1J-Jason Papp[22]; 16. 11S-Quentin Steedley[27]; 17. 71C-Davy Cline[25]; 18. 17SR-Brody Smith[17]; 19. 12C-Chase Giddens[26]; 20. 9-Dalton Peavy[16]; 21. 2B-Robert Brynteson[28]; 22. 19-Michael Courtney[4]; 23. 3K-Kale VanSickle[18]; 24. 14S-Brian Scott[19]; 25. 66-Taylor Cole[14]; 26. 15-Nevin Gainey[6]; 27. 611-Koulten Herbert[15]; 28. 27G-Matt Grable[20]

DIRTcar Series PR