By Jacob Seelman
NEWTON, N.C. – For the second season running, Must See Racing Sprint Car Series kingpin Jimmy McCune completed a sweep of the Southern Shootout, winning Saturday night’s 50-lap finale at Hickory Motor Speedway in dominating fashion.
After qualifying fourth, the two-time series champion was shuffled to the pole position thanks to a four invert, and he used the prime starting position to jump out to the lead immediately after the green flag.
From there, McCune survived two early restarts to lead every lap of the main event behind the wheel of his No. 88 B&B Machinery Movers/Abe’s Auto Parts & Sales sprinter, pulling out to a 3.578-second victory over two-time Little 500 champion Jacob Wilson.
The win was the 18th of McCune’s Must See Racing career, second in a row and second at Hickory.
“Wow, I don’t even know what to say,” McCune said in victory lane. “I’ve loved coming south (to race) for as long as I can remember. It didn’t matter what we were racing … midgets, quarter midgets … when we came south good things always seemed to happen, and they did again tonight. Hats off to these guys though (Wilson and Johnny Bridges), because I drove my tail off for 50 … so I know they did!”
“This was a tough track tonight; it was a handful for us all the way through the race. We never really got a great handle on it … so I would just have to run the wing back until the tires came off of it, and then run it back some more. We just chased (the track) for 50 (laps) tonight. During the middle stint, I swear I could hear somebody (behind me), but maybe it was just my own echo off the wall; I don’t know.”
Coming down to the Carolinas for the first time in his Must See Racing career, Wilson came home as the runner-up in his No. 07 Jet Star/Mitch Smith Auto Services machine.
“There off the start, I actually feel like our car was a little better than Jimmy’s over the course of the run, to be honest with you,” Wilson said. “I just burnt my stuff up trying to chase him. When you’re in front, you can set the pace and everyone else has to drive around your dirty air, so good job to him for getting out front early and leading the whole way. We had a really good car; just not quite enough.”
After slight contact in turns three and four while racing for second with 12 laps to go, North Carolina native and hometown favorite Johnny Bridges completed the podium with a third-place finish.
“He (Wilson) slowed up a little bit and gave me the inside, but I just got out of the throttle a little bit to gather it up in the center of the corner and he was able to pull back away from me,” Bridges said. “I’ve got the qualifying thing down, just need to work on the winning part now. I really thought we had something for these guys tonight, but they’re really good drivers and just didn’t make any mistakes.”
Former NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour champion Bobby Santos was fourth, the final car on the lead lap as a result of McCune’s torrid pace in the feature, with 2015 Hickory winner Jeff Bloom completing the top five.
Light sprinkles at lap six drew the first caution of the night at the same time as Bronzie Lawson IV also slowed in turn four, while a stalled Jay Dunham at the bottom of Turns 3 and 4 slowed the pace for the final time on lap 11.
In qualifying, Johnny Petrozelle III nearly reset Brian Gerster’s Hickory track record set last April, coming eight one-hundredths of a second short after a lap of 12.159 seconds (107.476 mph).
The effort was the first Must See Racing fast time of Petrozelle’s career, netting him $100 in bonus money.
Lawson, Bloom and Bridges won their respective heat races, also picking up $100 apiece for their efforts.
The Must See Racing Sprint Car Series continues their 2017 season on May 13 at Michigan’s Berlin Raceway.
RESULTS: Must See Racing Sprint Car Series; Southern Shootout II; Hickory Motor Speedway; April 22, 2017
Engine Pro A-Feature (50 laps): 1. #88 – Jimmy McCune ; 2. #07W – Jacob Wilson ; 3. #07 – Johnny Bridges ; 4. #22A – Bobby Santos ; 5. #26 – Jeff Bloom ; 6. Johnny Petrozelle III ; 7. #9S – Charlie Schultz ; 8. #8 – Anthony McCune ; 9. #7 – Tom Jewell ; 10. #4L – Anthony Linkenhoker ; 11. #33 – Joe Larkin ; 12. #4B – Bronzie Lawson IV ; 13. #51 – Jay Dunham ; 14. #4X – Bronzie Lawson III ; 15. #72S – Joe Speakman  (DNS); 16. #75C – Jerry Caryer  (DNS).
Lap Leaders: J. McCune (1-50)
Hard Charger: Anthony Linkenhoker (+4)
Time Trials: 1. #59III – Johnny Petrozelle, 12.159; 2. #07 – Johnny Bridges, 12.235; 3. #07W – Jacob Wilson, 12.645; 4. #88 – Jimmy McCune, 12.661; 5. #22A – Bobby Santos III, 12.731; 6. #26 – Jeff Bloom, 12.955; 7. #75C – Jerry Caryer, 13.170; 8. #9S – Charlie Schultz, 13.213; 9. #7 – Tom Jewell, 13.640; 10. #8 – Anthony McCune, 13.665; 11. #72S – Joe Speakman, 13.827; 12. #4B – Bronzie Lawson IV, 13.857; 13. #4X – Bronzie Lawson III, 14.431; 14. #4L – Anthony Linkenhoker, 14.889; 15. #33 – Joe Larkin, 15.000; 16. #51 – Jay Dunham, 16.000
Mahle Heat #1 (10 laps): 1. Bronzie Lawson IV ; 2. Joe Speakman ; 3. Anthony Linkenhoker ; 4. Bronzie Lawson III ; 5. Joe Larkin ; 6. Jay Dunham  (DNS)
Clevite Heat #2 (10 laps): 1. Jeff Bloom ; 2. Charlie Schultz ; 3. Tom Jewell ; 4. Anthony McCune ; 5. Jerry Caryer 
Rev-X Oil Heat #3 (10 laps): 1. Johnny Bridges ; 2. Jimmy McCune ; 3. Jacob Wilson ; 4. Bobby Santos ; 5. Johnny Petrozelle III