Eckert Has Sights Set On Raye Vest Memorial
WINCHESTER, Va. – There are many races that Rick Eckert wants to win, but there’s one in particular that he’d love to win.
The event Eckert craves so badly isn’t the richest or longest or most prestigious show in dirt Late Model racing. But in his world, nothing can top it.
For Eckert, the fourth annual Raye Vest Memorial – a 50-lap, $10,000-to-win World of Outlaws Late Model Series A-Main presented by Ernie D’s Enterprises that will be contested this Saturday night at Winchester Speedway – holds deeply personal significance. It was Vest, after all, who served as Eckert’s car owner/second father for 14 years before passing away in November 2009 at the age of 76.
“I’ve never won Raye’s race yet so that makes me a little bitter,” said Eckert, a 47-year-old WoO LMS regular and former champion from York, Pa. “Actually, I haven’t even been close to winning it, which is pretty disappointing because of how much Raye meant to me.”
Perhaps Eckert’s fortunes in his late car owner’s tribute race will change with the event becoming part of the WoO LMS for the first time this season. He has competed in all three previous Raye Vest Memorials, which were run in the fall on weekends that the WoO LMS was silent, but he managed only quiet finishes of fifth in 2010 (winner: current WoO LMS points leader Josh Richards of Shinnston, W.Va.), sixth in ’11 (Jonathan Davenport of Blairsville, Ga.) and ninth in ’12 (Mark Pettyjohn of Milton, Del.).
“We just weren’t very good (at Winchester) the last three years in my own stuff,” said Eckert, who became an owner/operator following Vest’s death. “But I’ve been better there this year. That makes me feel pretty good about my chances.”
Eckert has been almost perfect this season in a handful of appearances at Winchester. He’s made four starts at the one-third-mile oval and scored two wins and a pair of runner-up finishes – all behind the wheel of the Paul Crowl-owned Rocket No. 7 that he drives in selected non-Outlaw events near his Keystone State home. Eckert said the Crowl machine has performed so well at Winchester that he’s contemplating entering it in Saturday night’s action under his Rick Eckert Racing banner.
“It’s hard for me not to take that car there,” reasoned Eckert, who ranks fourth in the 2013 WoO LMS points standings with one win to his credit. “It’s been that good.”
Whatever increases Eckert’s odds of capturing the Raye Vest Memorial, he’s all for. He wants so badly to win in Vest’s honor, to stand in Victory Lane and have all his fond memories of the universally respected man from White Plains, Md., come rushing back to him in a flood of emotion.