August 11, 2017 11:13:48 AM
Jamie Pickard ran one season of 602 Late Models in 2014 before he had enough.
Pickard was in favor of an even field of sealed 602 motors, but from 2014 through 2016, tracks that ran the division allowed sealed motors and motors privately built to spec.
"I told some guys before that if NeSmith would take it over and make it a 602 sealed motor class only, I'd get back in it," Pickard said.
Pickard spent two seasons running NeSmith Late Models before returning to what now is the Sportsman division, a NeSmith Late Model division that only allows sealed 602 motors. He has won 10 races, including five of seven appearances at Magnolia Motor Speedway and a doubleheader at the Battle of the States at Whynot Motorsports Park.
"It's a slower pace and cheaper to run," Pickard said. "I've had a blast racing this year. My son goes with me, and that's our weekend deal. He runs the lights for me, and we have a good time with it."
Pickard said his switch from a Bob Pierce car to a Capital "fits" him better. He has been able to find a winning base setup, especially at Magnolia Motor Speedway, where, despite missing two races, he is 18 points out of first place in track points.
"We didn't plan to run for points," Pickard said. "I told Tony Shelton I'd been there and done that before. You can get down to the wire where you have to make every race so that it counts. But usually, when you say you won't do something, that's what you end up doing."
Pickard will race Saturday night at Magnolia Motor Speedway, which will hold "fan appreciation night" with $5 admission. Shelton plans to run tonight at Columbus Speedway, where he has won eight features this year.
Shelton won nearly all of the 602 races at Magnolia last year, but he is still searching for his first win there. Still, it has been a banner year for Shelton, who overcame a nasty wreck at Magnolia earlier this year that knocked out the front and rear ends of his car.
"I hit a hole and it almost rolled over," Shelton said. "Kind of surprised it didn't."
Shelton, who took a couple weeks off to repair his car, said the work to his car has helped more than it's hurt.
"It makes you look over your car even more," Shelton said. "You put new parts on and make sure more bolts are tight."
While Shelton and Pickard have enjoyed success in the division this year, only Pickard has been protested by fellow drivers thus far. Three times someone has questioned the shocks Pickard has used in feature races. Under NeSmith rules, which are designed to keep costs down and increase parity, the "shock claim rule" allows competitors finishing on the lead lap and in the top five to claim the winner's shocks for $200 per shock. Drivers can only protest once a year.
On the first protest, Pickard said he declined because he didn't have a backup set to bolt on.
"I had to sell twice at Magnolia," Pickard said. "It's just to keep people from spending big money on shocks, which helps."
Pickard said a regular set of shocks can run between $1,100 and $1,200, and the set he uses runs about $1,500. He said the difference in price is minimal considering the high end sets can cost as much as $6,000.
"They're perfectly legal and not astronomical in price," Pickard said. "Some of the other drivers have to consider the car is a 2015 -- it's secondhand, but it's a good car. And you also have to consider the amount of seat-time guys like me and Tony Shelton have compared to others."
NeSmith suspended Pickard for two weeks because he didn't sell his first batch of shocks. He said it was frustrating initially, but it has become a "game" he has to play. In anticipation of being protested, he has begun changing his shocks to cheaper ones for feature races.
"It's a used shock, but I have it valved the way I want it," Pickard said. "I have maybe $50 in it, so if someone protests, that's the shock they're getting."