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.: May 25, 2019 :.

Robbie Emory was the I-95 Challenge Late Model Series champion in 2015, and three consecutive wins in three states in 2018 helped propel him to the title in the FUEL Series.

Until Saturday night, the 23-year-old driver from Milford, Del., hadn’t won an I-95 event or any of his starts at Fayetteville Motor Speedway.

He checked both of those off his to-do list on Saturday night, May 25, with a wire-to-wire win in The Memorial to pocket $5,100. Ethan Wilson of Fayetteville made a late charge at Emory to make the gap at the finish line .628 seconds, and polesitter Willie Milliken of Roanoke Rapids came home a close third.

Emory’s performance came a night after he suffered front-end damage in a FUEL race at The Dirt Track at Charlotte. His team stayed there overnight to repair the nosepiece and do some set-up work before heading east to Fayetteville.

“I talked to my shock guy and we came together on some stuff,” Emory said. “It was definitely a lot better. That’s the best the car has felt all year.”

Emory ran a lap of 16.693 seconds in qualifying, which put him behind Milliken, Michael Batten, Wilson and Shaun Harrell on the speed chart. He darted around the outside of Batten at the start of second of three heat races and went on to win that eight-lap dash, which earned him a spot on the front row beside Milliken for the  feature.

On the initial start of the 51-lap main event, Milliken beat Emory into the corner for the lead, but a four-car pile-up behind them at the flagstand restacked the field. The damage sent Kenny Collins, Derek Rogers and Roger Lucas to the pits for the night.

When the field got the green again, Emory made the move that would prove to be the race winner when he used the outside lane to whip past the driver on his left.

“The initial start, I got behind Willie and I was like, ‘Man, this is going to be a long race trying to get by him’ because Willie’s hard to pass,” Emory said. “Then they had the restart and I was, ‘Alright, here’s my second chance.’

“When we got to the flagstand and I was halfway by him, I said, ‘Alright, we’re going to have to make this work.’ You get to the end of the straightaway and you have to take a shot and hope it works. Willie’s a good guy to race with - I’m sure he could’ve driven me in the left rear and run me up the hill - but he raced me clean and that was kind of it.”

It didn’t hurt Emory that Milliken’s car stumbled momentarily as they came off the fourth corner to the green flag for the restart.

“The problem was we’ve got an ignition problem,” said Milliken, a three-time career winner in I-95 events. “The first start it done good, but the second one it started misfiring. I had a miss for about 15 laps, then it kind of cleared up, then it would come back. We’ve got to go through the wiring harness on this piece.”

On lap 33, Steve Banal and Trevor Peoples tangled coming off the second turn, and the red flag was displayed to give the track crew time and space to clear the scene.

“My dad was giving me (hand) signals. Every one of the guys in the top 10 could’ve won this race and who knows who’s coming?” Emory said. “You’re focusing forward and making sure you’re hitting your marks, but in the back of your mind, you’re like, ‘There are still guys behind me,’ so it’s a mind game.

“I’ve always had a problem with ‘heavy’ tracks, and usually the slicker the track gets, the better I do because I can keep the car as straight as possible. … I was able to conserve the tires until dad started closing up the gap (with hand signals), so I was able to pull away if I needed to.”

On the restart following the red flag, Wilson was able to get under Milliken for the second spot, but could never reel in Emory.

“Whoever was out front, they had control of the pace,” Wilson said. “All three of us, I bet if you looked at the lap times at the end, I bet they’re all right on top of each other. But Robbie could go as hard as he wanted, and Willie and me had to save what we had for those last couple of laps.

“I ran it about as hard as I could at the end. I don’t know if I could’ve done anything with (Robbie) when I got there. … He’d have had to mess up for me to pass him.”

The Memorial was the main attraction of a two-night program.

In other action Saturday: Donnie Odom held off Benji Thompson by 8/10ths of a second to win the 20-lap King of the Sportsman Series feature; Case Daniels put on a clinic in Renegades with a 3.1-second triumph over runner-up Rick Razillard; Jason Horne notched a win in the 20-lap Super Stock 4 main event; and John Marshall held off Andy Boahn by half a second in the Diet Mountain Dew Open Wheel Modified ranks.

In Friday night’s feature events, Stephen Ford nipped Mason Ford in Mod Lites, Robert Fouts nipped Jerry Johnson Jr. by just 3/10ths of a second for the Stingerz victory, and Eddie Daniels was first to the checkered flag the 15-car Legends contest.

RESULTS

SATURDAY, MAY 25

I-95 LATE MODEL CHALLENGE

  1. Robbie Emory, 2. Ethan Wilson, 3. Willie Milliken, 4. Michael Batten, 5. Matthew Bissette, 6. Shaun Harrell, 7. Shaun Sewell, 8. Michael Rouse, 9. John Eller, 10. Brian Strickland, 11. Steve Banal, 12. Chris Radford, 13. Austin Holcombe, 14. Trevor Peoples, 15. Daniel Tucker, 16. Kenny Collins, 17. Derek Rogers, 18. Roger Lucas

DIET MOUNTAIN DEW OPEN WHEEL MODIFIED

  1. John Marshall, 2. Andy Boahn, 3. Will Long, 4, Ryan Toole, 5. Dennis Brewer, 6. Randy Lucas, 7. Mike Manes, 8. Roger Lucas, 9. Robbie Turner, 10. Jerry Dove

KING OF SPORTSMAN

  1. Donnie Odom, 2. Benji Thompson, 3. Chris Powers, 4. Greg Cain, 5. Luke Owens, 6. Danny Yarborough, 7. Michael Freeman, 8. Jerry Johnson, 9. Brad Cox, 10. Scott Patterson, 11. Lane Proctor, 12. Tony Bunnell, 13. Brandon Marshall, 14. Jamie Barnes

RENEGADES

  1. Case Daniels, 2. Rick Razillard, 3. Joey Wilkes, 4. Brandon Carter, 5. Derek Dudney, 6. Terry Sharp, 7. Bobby Edge, 8. Ricky Bledsoe, 9. Steve Loori, 10. Martin Sweatt

SUPER STOCK 4

  1. Jason Horne, 2. Damien Bryant, 3. Kevin Weatherford, 4. Chris Weatherford, 5. Cameron Maynard, 6. Charles Hansen, 7. Chris Tyndall, 8. John Carroll, 9. Patrick Arch, 10. Greg Brew, 11. James Manning, 12. Skip Whisnant, 13. Pete Brew

FRIDAY, MAY 24

MOD LITES

  1. Stephen Ford, 2. Mason Ford, 3. Morghan Johnson, 4. Jerry Johnson, 5. Joe Riffle, 6. Steven Dunn, 7. Chuck Jackson, 8. Donovan Jackson, 9. Bladen Core, 10. Randy McLamb

STINGERZ

  1. Robert Pfouts, 2. Jerry Johnson Jr., 3. Kyle Jenks, 4. Abe Woodard, 5. Julio Cifuentes Sr.

LEGENDS

  1. Eddie Daniels, 2. Scott Neighbors, 3. Mason Ford, 4. Joshua Sanoske, 5. Tyler Kussman, 6. Ryan Shabram, 7. Tristen Stephenson, 8. Stephen Ford, 9. Daniel Adam, 10. Joseph Sanoske, 11. Tim Neighbors, 12. Ronnie Long, 13. Daniel Ridenhour, 14. Joe Adam, 15. Clint Spell