Austin McCarl Gets Redemption In Volusia Thriller


Austin McCarl celebrates in victory lane Friday night at Volusia Speedway Park. (Kelly Poole photo)

BARBERVILLE, Fla. – One night after he lost the lead late to Sam Hafertepe Jr., Austin McCarl found redemption during the second act of the Germfree Southern Sprint Car Shootout.

McCarl held off Hafertepe during a three-lap dash to the checkered flag at Volusia Speedway Park, crossing the finish line in front by a scant .072 seconds in his No. 88 Country Builders Racing sprint car.

The photo finish came as Hafertepe attempted to wind up momentum on the high side of the half-mile dirt oval, nearly sneaking alongside McCarl coming to the flagstand, but coming up just short.

Friday marked the first United Sprint Car Series victory of McCarl’s career, and he joined his father Terry – a three-time USCS winner, most recently in 2015 – on the longtime sprint car tour’s win list.

“The first couple laps I kind of moved around,” explained McCarl, who earned $2,500 for the win and led all 25 laps of the feature. “I felt like I got a really good start on Cameron [Martin]. He did a really good job, and I feel like we kind of took off together. I kind of just wanted to take the air off him. Once I got to the lead I just wanted to move around early. I used to get mad at my dad [Terry] for moving around early, and he said, ‘I’ve got to know where I’m good when I get to traffic,” so I just kept thinking of that.

“A couple times I could roll down [on the bottom] really, really well, and really, really hard. And I thought if I could run it that hard, I had to take the shortest way around. I feel like Sam kind of taught me that last night, too,” McCarl added. “You get kind of complacent up there [the top] ringing around the rosie and feeling really comfortable like you’re making speed. But sometimes the shortest way is the fastest way.”

McCarl kicked off the feature by driving around fellow Iowan and polesitter Cameron Martin on the initial start, rolling the top groove to take command from the outside of the front row.

Two laps in, he already had nearly a second’s lead on the field, but further back Hafertepe was on the move.

Hafertepe methodically sliced his way from eighth to second in 11 laps, but by the time he slid Christopher Thram in traffic to take the runner-up spot, McCarl was out in front by a comfortable 2.224-second margin.

That gap held through the halfway point of the race, but the deeper the lap count got, the more lap traffic came into play. Several times, McCarl was forced to contend three-wide against slower cars, allowing Hafertepe to methodically cut the gap in half by the time the 10-to-go signal was displayed.

McCarl’s lead fluctuated as the laps continued to wind down, but with three to go he had a second in hand and appeared to be well on his way to victory before the lone caution of the race waved for a two-car crash on the frontstretch.

Sterling Cling got loose exiting the fourth corner and slowed dramatically, leaving B-main transfer Davie Franek with nowhere to go in a battle for 15th. The pair collided on the frontstretch, forcing the yellow.

McCarl held serve on the final restart, staying true to the extreme inside of the racetrack while Hafertepe did everything he could to wrest the point away, to no avail.

“I felt like I was really cruising through traffic [before the yellow], and a couple of times a guy would get squirrely down [on the bottom] and I’d have to move around,” McCarl noted. “It’s just so easy to get rolled up behind somebody. Air plays such a big part of these cars.”

“I feel like we’re moving around about as good as anybody,” Hafertepe said. “[McCarl] got through traffic way better tonight and made me work for it. I thought, ‘Well, we’re going to get lucky and catch this caution,’ but it wasn’t quite enough. Clean air is pretty important, and he did exactly what he needed to do.”

In Sean Michael’s No. 20, Justin Peck charged forward late to steal third place on the final lap, followed by Martin and Pennsylvania veteran Danny Dietrich.

Thram, Ryan Timms, Tyler Clem, Danny Sams III, and Wayne Johnson closed out the top 10.

Sams was the night’s hard charger, advancing from 17th to his ninth-place finish.

In his first race weekend at Volusia since 2016, McCarl has led 44 of 50 combined laps over the first two nights of the Germfree Southern Sprint Car Shootout.

He’ll chase a $10,000 prize during Saturday’s finale, the largest winner’s check of the three-day event.

“Hopefully we can keep this speed up,” McCarl said. “Tomorrow is the big day. The big money. We’ve started on the front row two days in a row. Hopefully we can lay down another qualifying lap and put ourselves in position. That’s where it starts.”

Friday’s heat races were won by Timms, Eric Riggins Jr., Clem, and Liam Martin. Sams and Josh Weller topped the twin B-mains to lead the transfers into the main event.

Saturday’s Germfree Southern Sprint Car Shootout finale can be streamed through DIRTvision for those unable to take in the action in person at the racetrack.

The finish:

Germfree A-Feature (25 laps): 1. 88-Austin McCarl [2]; 2. 15H-Sam Hafertepe Jr. [8]; 3. 20-Justin Peck [10]; 4. 4-Cameron Martin [1]; 5. 48-Danny Dietrich [12]; 6. 24T-Christopher Thram [4]; 7. 5T-Ryan Timms [7]; 8. 6-Tyler Clem [5]; 9. 24D-Danny Sams III [17]; 10. 2C-Wayne Johnson [16]; 11. 47-Eric Riggins Jr. [3]; 12. 11M-Brendan Mullen [11]; 13. 9-Liam Martin [6]; 14. 44-Chris Martin [9]; 15. 7S-Landon Crawley [21]; 16. 63-Josh Weller [18]; 17. 15-Ryan Turner [19]; 18. 13-Elijah Gile [22]; 19. 10-Terry Gray [15]; 20. 34-Sterling Cling [14]; 21. 23-Lance Moss [24]; 22. 28-Jeff Willingham [25]; 23. 28F-Davie Franek [20]; 24. 24-Danny Martin Jr. [13]; 25. 17JR-Ricky Stenhouse Jr. [23][DNS].

About Jacob Seelman

Jacob Seelman is Motorsports Hotspot’s News Editor and Race Face Digital’s Director of Content, as well as a veteran of more than a decade in the racing industry as a professional, though he’s spent his entire life in the garage and pit area.