Despite showcasing efficiency in his first Carolina Pro Late Model Series season, Leland Honeyman had yet to visit victory lane entering Saturday's season finale at Hickory Motor Speedway.
The 16 year-old Mooresville, North Carolina native changed that trend by putting together his most dominant performance of the year with Lee Faulk Racing Development to become just the fifth different winner in 11 Carolina Pro Late Model Series events.
Having raced at Hickory four times with the series, Honeyman garnered valuable experience when it came to properly conserving equipment and used that knowledge to hold off the rest of the field during the second half of the race.
"I just tried holding everyone off," Honeyman said. "I was saving tires the hold race and kind of ran it hard there but it was a great race by [Katie Hettinger], [Jake Crum], [Nick Loden] and everyone else out there tonight."
Throughout the 2021 season, Honeyman has primarily been chasing Nick Loden, who held a 37-point lead over him in the point standings and had tied Gus Dean in victories with four on the year.
Three of Loden's victories came at Hickory and he was determined to add one more victory at the historic track to cap off his championship campaign but a mechanical issue would take him out of contention early on.
With Loden behind the wall, Honeyman would face minimal resistance as he pulled away for that elusive first victory with another fellow rookie in Hettinger following him across the start-finish line in second.
Saturday's finale was Hettinger's third Top 5 in eight Carolina Pro Late Model Series starts. Although she had to battle her car for most of the evening, Hettinger was thrilled with the effort and is hoping to carry over the momentum from 2021 into next season.
"We were back and forth pretty much the whole day," Hettinger said. "We were able to get the car almost perfect for the race but it was loose on entry at the center of the corner, which is why I spun out. Once we came in and fixed that, the car was good on entry and loose on exit. Overall, the car was really good and I can't thank everyone enough."
Hettinger and Honeyman were two key representatives of a young field of competitors that permeated the Carolina Pro Late Model Series this year, the latter of which was one of three drivers to run the whole schedule alongside Loden and William Sawalich.
Honeyman does not know if he will try his luck at the Carolina Pro Late Model Series championship again in 2022 but he enters the offseason with more confidence in his ability to perform at any short track across the southeast.
-Story by: Brandon White - Twitter: @BrandonWhite95
-Photo credit: Andrew Fuller
1. Leland Honeyman
2. Katie Hettinger
3. Jake Crum
4. Erik Nash
5. Landon DeVaughn
6. E.J. Tomayo
7. Jasec Holladay
8. Penn Crim
9. Jacob Perry
10. Nick Loden
11. Toby Grynewicz
12. Caden Kvapil
13. William Sawalich