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September 14, 2021

Lucas Oil Speedway Spotlight: With eye on the ASCS big prize, Covington seeks first Hockett/McMillin Memorial win

Matt Covington, second in ASCS National Tour points, will be aiming for his first Hockett/McMillin Memorial win at Lucas Oil Speedway. (GS Stanek Racing Photography)
WHEATLAND, MO. (Sept. 14, 2021) - As one of the veterans on the Lucas Oil American Sprint Car Series Presented by MAVTV Motorsports Network, Matt Covington is qualified to rank this week’s 11th annual Jesse Hockett/Daniel McMillin Memorial at Lucas Oil Speedway as one of the biggest events of the season.
“For the national tour as a whole, the Hockett/McMillin race is definitely in the top three,” Covington said. “The Knoxville Nationals, The Dirt Cup and the Hockett/McMillin are probably the three majors we would consider our biggest races.
“A lot of it is just the names that are associated with it,” he added, pointing to a three-day racing extravaganza that honors the legacy of Jesse Hockett, from Warsaw, Missouri, who was a star in both the winged and non-wing sprint divisions when he lost his life in a shop accident in 2010. His cousin and crew chief, Daniel McMillin, was killed in an automobile accident in 2006.
“You take that and combine it with what is the best facility that we race at all year and the big car count,” Covington said. “You get 60-something winged sprint cars there, quality cars, so you get stiff competition racing for a good memorial race. And it pays $10,000 to win.”
That’s the big prize in the Saturday-night finale for the ASCS winged competitors. Drivers in both the ASCS winged and POWRi WAR wingless divisions compete both Thursday and Friday with combined points from heat races, qualifiers, B-mains and A-mains helping to set the lineup for Saturday night’s ASCS main event and $3,077-to-win WAR feature.
Covington, from Glenpool, Oklahoma, also sees three nights of action as an opportunity to shake up the points battle. Entering a Tuesday night race in Spencer, Iowa, fellow Oklahoman Blake Hahn held a 63-point lead over Covington with J.J. Hickle 76 behind.
“As a national tour driver you also look at it as a race you can make up some real ground on somebody because of the stiffer competition and car count,” he said. “A lot of the races we go to, there’s only 24 cars there and a lot of times you take your top three or four points on the national tour and we all run first, second, third and fourth. Or run third, fourth, fifth and sixth. It always seems we’re right there next to one another.
“So when we get to a race where there is more quality cars, it has a tendency to shake things up.”
Covington, a member of the Quarter-Midget Hall of Fame, said it’s impossible - with only a handful of events remaining on the 2021 schedule - not to think about winning the championship.
“You think about it a lot, but at the same time … I’ve traveled around with the tour for a long time and you have to take it one race at a time,” he said. “I try to drive the same way every single week with the same mentality. It would be too easy to get worked up. Say you’re in the points lead, it would be too easy to get conservative. Or say you’re behind a little bit and you feel you have to push the issue to make up ground and you end up making a mistake.
“If you can approach every race the same way, with the same mind-set, that’s the way I try to be.”
Covington, 31, would love to win his first Hockett/McMillin on Saturday for more than the points and prestige. While he raced against Hockett only a few times before Jesse’s tragic death, Covington knows what “The Rocket” meant to the open-wheel racing world. Winning this race would be an ultimate tribute.
“I didn’t know Jesse very well personally, but he was one of the fastest guys and most-popular guys,” Covington said. “It didn’t surprise me that they had a Hockett race because everybody liked Jesse. He was a real likable guy and was just starting to prove himself in a winged car, on his way to being one of the top winged guys there was.”
Covington said he’s hopeful that this is the year, on a Wheatland oval he enjoys, that he finally is able to pay tribute to Hockett from victory lane.
“I had a rough go there last year, but that’s not the norm,” he said. “Normally, we’re on the podium and in contention for the win. I haven’t won a race there yet, but I’ve run second and third a crap-ton and I feel like I’m due to win one there.”
Schedule and Ticket Prices
Thursday and Friday
Pits open: All day
Grandstands open: 4 p.m.
Hot Laps: 6 p.m.
Racing: 7:05 p.m.
Adults (16 and up) - $20
Seniors (62 and up)/Military - $17
Youth (6 to 15) - $5
Kids (5 and under) - FREE
Family pass (2 adults, up to 3 kids or youth) - $45
Pit Pass - $35
Pits open: All day
Grandstands open: 3 p.m.
Hot laps: 5:30 p.m.
Racing: 6:35 p.m.
Adults (16 and up) $30
Seniors (62 and up)/Military $27
Youth (6 to 15) $10
Kids (5 and under) FREE
Family pass (2 adults, up to 3 kids or youth) - $70
Pit Pass $40
For ticket information for any event during the 2021 Lucas Oil Speedway season, contact admissions director Nichole McMillan at (417) 282-5984 or via email at Fans also can use the online ticketing system.
Danny Lorton
Lucas Oil Speedway General Manager
Office: (417) 282-5984 
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Lucas Oil Speedway is considered by fans, drivers and industry insiders to be one of the top five racing facilities in the nation. Located in Wheatland, Missouri, approximately an hour from Springfield, Missouri, and just an hour and a half from the Kansas City metro area, the "Diamond of Dirt Tracks" lives up to its title.
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