JACKSONVILLE, N.C. — Reigning legend car champion Aiden McConnaughey began the New Year with a statement victory in a thriller at New River All American Speedway on Monday afternoon.
The 17-year-old spent much of the 30-lap race mired in a thrilling duel with Charlie Beals. The two drivers raced each other side-by-side for the majority of the race’s first half, swapping the lead eight times between them. On the race’s 17th lap, McConnaughey would finally take sole possession of the top spot for good from Beals to score his sixth career New River All American Speedway victory.
“From the very first corner, [Beals] gave me everything he had,” McConnaughey said in victory lane. “I think that’s the first time I’ve ever had to race three-wide here. It caught me a little off guard coming out of turn two. The back-and-forth between us was awesome.
“I just can’t thank him enough for racing me clean and I raced him as clean as I could.”
Despite leading 13 of the race’s 30 laps, Beals would fade in the closing laps, being relegated to a third-place finish after surrendering the runner-up spot to Adam Brickley – who was a teammate to McConnaughey.
“Always fun racing like that, being able to race clean with other guys,” Beals said after the race. “Congratulations to Aiden and his team, Three Sixteen Motorsports, for taking the top two spots. They’ve definitely got this track figured out.”
Levi Canup finished in fourth while longtime Eastern North Carolina legends standout Brenton Irving rounded out the top five in the 12-car field.
Reigning Bandolero champion Landon Burbage dominated the 15-lap Bandolero feature to score the win over Jay Hemenway and Landon Strickland.
“I was praying earlier for the win and we got it,” Burbage stated. “I just found my line [on the last restart] that we had been running. In the beginning, we just didn’t have the speed that we wanted, but we pulled it off.”
Local racer Robert Drum, who originally came from a drag racing background, was finally able to score his first career Bomber division victory, holding off Richard Smith and Stormy Butts.
“I knew it was coming sooner or later,” Drum stated. “It’s awesome to finally pull it off. Great feeling. Oval racing is different. I really enjoy it. I wanted to do circle track racing all my life. Started last year and it’s about time I get here.”
Robert’s wife, Kristin, picked up the win in the Powder Puff exhibition race over his daughter, Lainey Drum. Defending Rumbler (U-CAR) champion Curtis Lanier picked up the victory in the division’s feature over Logan McCallister and Hunter Brown.