Henderson Shines In Volusia 604 Late Model Run


Matt Henderson in victory lane at Volusia Speedway Park. (Jim DenHamer photo)

BARBERVILLE, Fla. – Lining up second at Volusia Speedway Park 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 four and raced down Volusia’s long front-stretch with a burst of speed into turn one. When leader Caleb Gay slipped off the bottom through the corner, Henderson shot the gap, took the lead out of turn two and drove off for his first Sunshine Nationals win Saturday night.

The triumph was worth $10,000 in the DIRTcar Pro/Crate Racin’ USA 604 Late Model division.

With the way he surged into the lead at exactly the right moment, it looked as if Henderson had been a Volusia regular for years and knew exactly when and where to pounce.

However, 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 Gay from behind him, and soon gave up the lead in turns one and two.

“[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 well 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, but 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 positions in his drive from 27th to sixth.

The finish:

604 Late Model 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 [Alt.]; 30. 42-Steven Stratton Sr. [30].

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