SALISBURY, N.C. – Tom Hubert led a list of five track champions crowned on Wednesday night at Millbridge Speedway, while Carson Kvapil completed a historic double during the season-ending Speed51 Battle at the Bridge.
Kvapil won both the premier 500cc Open class and the Intermediate class A-mains, becoming the youngest driver in recorded history at the track to complete the feat, while Hubert sealed his record third Open class points championship with an eighth-place finish.
Second-generation dirt late model young gun Hudson O’Neal dominated the early stages of the race, leading the first 14 laps of the 20-lap main event from the outside pole amid three cautions and a hefty challenge from polesitter Kyle Beattie.
Beattie actually stole the lead from O’Neal on a lap six restart with a huge slide job in turns one and two, but was unable to hold the position and fell back into second before the lap was completed.
A caution on lap nine for a spinning Hubert, who was nearly hit by invading World of Outlaws sprint car regular David Gravel in turn one, restacked the deck and allowed for Kvapil to continue his rally through the field after starting third but falling back to sixth on the initial start. Kvapil dispatched Beattie on the next restart and quickly set his sights on O’Neal for the race lead.
But O’Neal’s quest for a stunning breakthrough victory would come to an end six laps short of the finish, as the 16-year-old jumped the cushion in turn four and came grinding to a stop down the frontstretch.
That handed the lead to Kvapil, who had Beattie on his tail when the green flag returned, but Ethan Mitchell had other ideas as he used a massive slider to pick up two spots on the restart – climbing from fourth to second and quickly chasing down Kvapil for the race lead.
After a caution with five to go when Beattie’s motor gave up the ghost, the race was on.
Mitchell made the slide job stick for a moment with three laps to go, taking the lead in turns one and two, but Kvapil drove back underneath him down the backstretch to hold the lead at the stripe and stay side-by-side as the duo raced wheel-to-wheel for the lead and the win.
The next time by, the battle took a sour twist as Kvapil’s right rear tire made contact with Mitchell’s front suspension, sending Mitchell careening hard into the outside wall exiting turn four and causing him to pinwheel violently on the frontstretch before coming to an abrupt stop in a cloud of steam.
With safety workers on the scene immediately, Mitchell was quickly helped from his car before slowly climbing to his feet and walking away from his mangled kart. He was credited with 12th in the final rundown.
From there, Kvapil held four-time season winner Dylan Smith and reigning Open class champion Max McLaughlin at bay on the ensuing green-white-checkered restart, driving away as the pair traded sliders for second behind him.
“I can’t believe it,” Kvapil said after his 22nd win of the season. “What an amazing night. For it to be my first time in an Open and to be standing here … it’s amazing. I was just trying to guard the bottom on that last restart and it let me get away.”
“We tested (the Open) here on Monday and had so many problems, but it all worked out tonight. Thanks to CorvetteParts.net, Keen Parts and all the folks that support me and my brother in our racing. This is so cool!”
Smith eventually came away with second, as McLaughlin settled for third after starting ninth.
NASCAR K&N Pro Series East champion Justin Haley and Buddy Wise completed the top five.
Meanwhile, Hubert rallied from his spin to come home eighth and secure his third-career Millbridge track championship, having now won the crown in three of the last four years (2013-2014, 2016).
“We got in the wall in our heat race and it bent the front end up, so tonight was about just making the A-main and finishing,” said Hubert, who won three races this season. “Everyone’s running so fast nowadays … that it’s not easy to start 12th and make it up through there.”
“I have to thank Jimmy Elledge at QRC for letting me run his kart and his frames. I feel like that’s really let me grow in this class and do what I’ve done to win this championship again. It’s a rough night, but you’ll have those sometimes. We’re just happy to come away with the big prize.”
Earlier in the night, McLaughlin shattered his own all-time track record around the sixth-mile, driving the Millbridge house kart to a blistering lap of 9.5980 seconds in time trials as the top 10 were all under the 10-second bracket.
Mitchell, Wise, Adam Welch and Smith won their respective heat races. Tanner Carrick topped the 12-lap B-main.