HICKORY, N.C. — Prior to Saturday night, Coleman Pressley had not raced in seven years.
If rust was a factor, Pressley didn‘t show it at Hickory Motor Speedway.
With his best friend and reigning NASCAR Cup Series champion Joey Logano calling the race from the spotter stand, Pressley won the 25th anniversary edition of Hickory’s Fall Brawl in his return to late model stock car racing.
“I don‘t even know how to do restarts anymore or any of that stuff,” an elated Pressley said after climbing from his race car in Victory Lane. “It‘s pretty freaking cool.”
Pressley, who works as Logano’s spotter at Team Penske in the NASCAR Cup Series, is just the second driver in Fall Brawl history to win the race more than once. The other is NASCAR Xfinity Series driver Josh Berry, who has won the Fall Brawl four times.
“It‘s so cool to see how good Coleman is,” Logano said as he watched the Victory Lane celebration. “I know he is a great spotter, but how much he‘s watched what we do and the studying what we do together and how it‘s transformed him into a better driver even though he hasn‘t driven in seven years.
“It‘s pretty cool.”
While he hadn‘t driven a race car in seven years, Pressley did not forgot how to race at Hickory. He spent several years racing at the NASCAR-sanctioned, 0.363-mile oval during his youth, and knew that if he was going to drive a race car again, it was going to happen at Hickory.
That opportunity arrived when Hickory officials opted to postpone the Fall Brawl from its traditional October date to Saturday night. Pressley said he was standing on the spotter stand at Talladega Superspeedway when he saw the news on Twitter.
He instantly knew he wanted to compete.
“If there is a place I feel like I can get comfortable quick, it‘s Hickory,” said Pressley, who won the Fall Brawl in 2009. “It made sense. Can‘t say I had the bug to be a professional race car driver again. More than anything, I just wanted my kids to see me drive a race car one time, and I figured Hickory was the right place to do it.”
Pressley had his work cut out for him during Saturday‘s 200-lap late model stock car main event. He qualified deep in the 23-car field in a car prepared by Byrd Brothers Racing, but he spent the first portion of the race cruising and saving his tires.
It was during the second half when Pressley found his groove, and it wasn‘t long before he was racing inside the top five.
However, as the laps clicked away, it appeared the battle for the win was going to be between polesitter Doug Barnes Jr. and Connor Hall.
Things took a drastic turn when Barnes and Hall made contact while battling for the lead. Both cars were severely damaged and fell out of contention, a development that elevated Pressley to second behind new leader Charlie Watson
Pressley spent nearly 20 laps chasing Watson, but with five laps to go, he made the pass for lead. A caution just as the field took the white flag forced a green-white-checkered restart, but Pressley held on to win.
The victory put a bow on an incredible week for Pressley and Logano. One week prior, Pressley helped guide Logano to the NASCAR Cup Series championship with a victory at Phoenix Raceway. Saturday at Hickory, Logano returned the favor.
“Coleman and I have been best friends for a long, long time,” Logano said. “To see him jump back in and start 16th and just kind of chill out and save his tires and methodically pass a couple here and there and then run down the six (Watson) and pass him clean and dealt with the pressure afterwards during the green-white-checkered … it was pretty awesome.”
Amidst the jubilation in Victory Lane, Pressley scooped his children up and gave each of them a bear hug. For him, Saturday wasn‘t about winning a race; it was about giving his children a memory that will last a lifetime. He said as much before the event.
“The best thing would be if I could win a race and get a picture with them,” Pressley said a few hours before the green flag waved Saturday. “That would be a story told, and I could just retire on the spot and not have to do it anymore. It‘s going to be special no matter what.”