Stephen Adams, of Four Oaks, N.C., made another profitable trip to U.S.-13 Kartway in Delmar, Del., on Friday, Aug. 25. This time, he fattened his wallet with $2,200 in purse earnings during a special memorial race for Milton native Cody Hopkins, who died in a June 19 auto accident. Earlier this year, during the first of five ‘Battle at the Beach,” races this season Adams had pocketed $3,000.
Hopkins’ parents and other family members attended the race. Before the features started, his father, Bill, honored his son’s memory by driving Cody Hopkins’ #27 kart five times around the 1/8-mile dirt oval.
“It means a lot to me to have all these people here tonight,” Hopkins said, choking back tears. “We used to race every Friday and Saturday night. We started out in Big Block Modified. We got out of that and started racing karts with the kids. It means a lot to me to come back to this community and the racing aspect of it. My nephew races here, and it’s great — it’s just great to have all these folks here tonight.”
Adams won three of four classes he entered that night, starting with the night’s second feature, Flathead, where his #92 P&P Speed Shop-powered Phantom Recon kart was first under the checkered flag. He earned the pole, breaking the 12-seconds mark with an 11.840-seconds lap. Tyler Reed was second-fastest, at 12.188 seconds. Behind them in Row 2 were Shane Forest and Jordan Cropper, with times of 12.257 and 12.333 seconds, respectively.
Adams nailed the throttle when the green flag was shown and rocketed away from the 10-racer field, leaving Reed and Forrest fighting over second. Forrest won that battle, but while he was doing that, Adams put a lot of real estate between them.
Reed fell further back as Austin Banker, of Emporia, Va., threaded his way forward from a ninth-place start. While Adams pulled ahead in the final laps, Banker challenged Forrest for second. Forrest hung on for a distant second-place finish, 4.353 seconds behind Adams.
Banker crossed third and was followed in the top five by Jordan Croppe and Georgetown pilot Ashley Hayes.
“Yeah, I like it up here in Delaware,” Adams said. “I always have good luck up here. The guy I drive for, Bryan [Bradford], he knows a lot about this place. I’ve been fortunate enough to race up here a lot and I’ve gotten pretty good around here.
“The track’s a little funny tonight,” he noted. “I’ve just got to thank everybody that helps me, Bryan Bradford Racing for everything he does for me, Mr. Mike Bradford; Ryan O’Connor; my brother, Jonathan Cash; P&P Speed Shop; Phantom Racing Chassis; Harrill Wiggins; Jerry Mullis; Tony Belk and them for everything they do for me, and I want to thank Delmar for putting on this special race for Cody Hopkins.”
The top six Pro Flathead qualifiers all turned times under 12 seconds. Banker blasted out an 11.571-second lap for the pole. Adams earned the outside pole with an 11.686-second lap and quickly blew by Banker when the green flag flew. Forrest, who qualified in fourth, with a time of 11.740 seconds, was headed for the front. But by the time he got there, Adams was at the stripe with a 0.666 seconds advantage. Following in the top five were Croppe, Jared Maske and Banker.
Later that night, Adams led a field of 17 Pro Clone Heavy racers for 27 laps, with perfection. Adams turned a 10.979-second lap for the pole. Makayla Johnson earned the outside pole with a 10.983-second qualifying lap — just 0.004 seconds slower than Adams. Greenwood driver Cole Neibert and Ashley Hayes were behind them in Row 2, with lap times of 11.022 and 11.064 seconds, respectively. Starting in Row 3 were Forrest and Banker.
With $1,700 waiting for him at the stripe, Adams never surrendered the lead. Behind him, Banker and Neibert freight-trained Johnson, who dropped to fourth. Banker was closing the gap on Adams in the final laps, crossing just 0.292 seconds late. Farther back, Neibert was a distant 4.428 seconds behind Banker, followed by Johnson, who was 4.580 seconds late. J.P. Gates followed in fifth, 5.744 seconds off the pace.
“This is very special. I’ve won a lot of races, but I’ve never won a memorial race before,” Adams told a cheering crowd. “I’m very, very happy. I wanted to win this race. I told Bradford ‘Dude, I wanted to win this one bad.’ If I can’t win them all, I wanted to win this one, and, luckily, we did. It’s awesome. I’m shaking all over. I want to thank Bryan Bradford. He gives me the opportunity to win all over the country.”
Adams comes up short on 4-for-4
Adams had plans for a 4-for-4 night, but Banker killed those plans, beating Adams to the Clone Heavy finish line by 0.140 seconds. Adams earned the pole with an 11.137-second lap. Neibert, whose fastest qualifying lap was 11.229 seconds, started next to him on the outside pole.
Completing the top five of 13 were Neibert, Brandon Gallo and Makayla Johnson.
Also on hand to celebrate Cody Hopkins’s life and support his karting team was NASCAR Xfinity series driver/announcer/wrestling promoter Hermie Sadler III. Sadler flew up from his home in Emporia, Va., visited with his team and competed in the Animal Super Heavy Heat. Time constraints brought in Zach Bullis to qualify their Pro Animal Super Heavy kart.
Bullis, a Millsboro-based Premier kart pilot/mechanic who works part-time at Sadler Karting in Virginia, came to wrench for his boss and wound up driving that night. He didn’t disappoint his boss. Bullis won both features.
Sadler didn’t make Animal Super Heavy’s win easy for his young apprentice. After the driver change, Bullis was forced to start last in the eight-racer field’s rear. Heat race winner Brandon Morris led the early going. Bullis battled his way to the front and took charge of the field just before mid-race. He’d built a small advantage over second-place James Farmer when, suddenly, caution waved on the white-flag lap.
Now Bullis had to fight off Farmer, who was on Bullis’ bumper for a two-lap shootout. Bullis hit the throttle and held on. Two laps later, he took the final flag with a 0.354-second edge over Farmer. Following Farmer in the top five were Jeremy Ellingsworth, Brandon Watkins and Allen Larson.
“Hermie started out running and had to leave to go to another track in Virginia, to do a show there tomorrow,” Bullis explained. “Hermie said, ‘Why don’t you go out and qualify for the second race? I said, ‘All right,’ and he said, ‘We’ll see where we’ll go from there.’ I ended up qualifying on the pole in that one, so Hermie said, ‘Why don’t you stay in the kart the rest of the night?’ and I said, ‘All right, but I don’t know how good I’ll do starting from last,’ and I said, ‘Well, I’ll lay back and see how it goes and let me figure out this track.
“That was Jonathan Cash’s [P&P Speed Shop’s] motor. The kart was set up for Hermie Sadler. I want to thank Hermie, my mom and dad, the whole Premier crew, Jesus Christ and my girlfriend for always supporting me. It’s been a pretty good night so far.”
Later that night, it got better for Bullis. Earlier, he had set the Pro Animal pole time with an 11.547-second lap, beating out Brandon Morris by 0.166 seconds. Ellingsworth and Farmer started behind them.
Bullis blasted off the pole, while Ellingsworth and Watkins scrapped over a distant second. Ellingsworth tried to close the gap over Bullis, but he was 0.957 seconds behind Bullis at the checkered flag. Watkins was third, followed by Morris and Farmer in the top five.
Locals take four races
Two other locals were double-winners. Milton racer Hunter Heck dominated the Junior 3 offerings from their poles. Piloting a Huffy Racing Engines-powered Phantom Recon kart, Heck clocked an 11.471-second lap for Junior 3’s pole. Heck’s time was 0.047 seconds faster than Denton, Md., driver Trent Reed’s time of 11.518 seconds.
Three laps into the 20-lap feature, the first of four caution flags waved, forcing restarts that kept Heck fighting off challenges from Zach Fields, who qualified third with a lap time of 11.565 seconds. The final caution flag waved with seven laps to go. Heck stretched out a 0.791-second lead over Fields at the finish line. Following Fields in the top five were Jesse Rogers, Reed and Carter Langley.
“It was a crash-fest,” said the 15-year-old winner, a cousin of Cody Hopkins. “The cautions worried me, because the kart got worse each time. It got better as it went on, and we held on. It got worse at the end. It was sliding everywhere. I just tried to hold on.
“Huffy’s motor was pulling down the straights. The kart was good at the beginning, then it started fading away and the track was starting to fall off. I want to thank my mom and dad and Richie Hornsby. I did it for my cousin Cody. I just want to thank all of family and friends who came out here to support me tonight and to remember Cody.”
All 11 entries broke the 12-second barrier. Heck’s pole time for Pro Junior 3 was 11.280 seconds. This time, Reed turned in an 11.396-second lap for the outside pole.
With Reed on his tailpipe, Heck hit the gas and roared ahead of the field. Fifth-fastest qualifier Colin James (11.482 seconds) quickly worked his way past Reed, taking second, and closed in on Heck near the halfway mark for 27 laps. Heck held on, crossing 0.280 seconds ahead of James for a $200 payday. Reed followed James and was trailed in the top five by Langley and Jayden Johnson.
Georgetown’s Racyn Hayes ruled both Junior 1 races from their poles. In Junior 1, he lost the Heat race to Chubbs Shockley of Snow Hill, Md., by just over 3 seconds. Hayes avenged himself in the feature, where he was 2.480 seconds faster to the finish line. Chase Carter and Jason Torlish completed the four-racer field that was interrupted by cautions on Laps 7 and 10.
“The cautions didn’t worry me. I knew I had a fast kart,” said Hayes, who pilots a Higgy’s House of Power-powered Premier Racing Chassis. “The track was good out there tonight. I want to thank the Premier Karts and the whole Premier Karts team, Higgy’s House of Power, my dad, Ashley, Wormy Philpott, Austin Banker, Brad Lane, my tire man, and everybody else who helps me in the pits,” added Hayes, who’s headed to Brookings, S.D., for the Mid-West Junior Maxx Daddy race this weekend.
Hayes earned Pro Junior 1’s pole with an 11.860 seconds run. Shockley was second-fastest, at 12.011 seconds. Hayes fought off Shockley’s early challenges and eventually built a 2.938-second finish-line advantage over Shockley, earning him the $200 purse. Carter and Torlish rounded out the field.
After winning Junior 2’s Heat race by 8.986 seconds over Clay Peters, William McConnell completed his sweep of the class with a full-lap advantage over Peters.
Rebecca Bass, of Pikesville, N.C., out ran local Roscoe Clough in Predator’s Heat and Feature races.
Next up on U.S. 13 Kartway’s schedule is Round 2 of the “Battle at the Beach,” which — weather permitting — will be raced Saturday, Sept. 9.