In a thrilling, yet controversial finish to Thursday night's ASA STARS National Tour Tar Heel 250 at Hickory Motor Speedway, Gio Ruggiero made plenty of contact with NASCAR Cup Series star William Byron over the closing laps of the race.
And in the end, Ruggiero sailed his car into the final set of turns, used up Byron's No. 24 car one last time, and the 16-year-old racer came out the other end with a narrow victory.
RELATED: ASA STARS Tar Heel 250 Race Results
"Not the finish -- not how I wanted to win the race," Ruggiero said after climbing from his No. 22 car. "But I didn't come here to finish second. We were good on that long run there, I think I had something for them, but I think I just burned it up a little bit too much. But I got it done. That's all that matters."
While Ruggiero did whatever it took to take home his first ASA STARS victory, he raised the ire of Byron in the process.
"I didn't see much. I just saw the whole right side of his car in the left side of mine, about 20 times on the restart," Byron explained. "I got clear -- I mean, the left side is destroyed. I don't know man, I guess that's how a kid like that races. But look at his right front. It's destroyed. We had a good car, they were definitely strong too, but just bad racing."
While Byron was miffed, that's racin'. But the 25-year-old will file away the "IOU" for Ruggiero for another time.
Behind the sparks that were flying for the race win was Cole Butcher, who came home in the third position. It was a solid race for Butcher, who at points looked like a true contender for the race win.
While he came up a little short of the win, Butcher, who entered the night fourth in the ASA STARS National Tour point standings, it was a solid points night.
Ty Majeski and Caden Kvapil rounded out the top-five finishers in the race.
For Kvapil, the impressive top-five finish was made even more impressive by the rally he made to come back from a penalty for removing equipment from the pit box near the mid-point of the race.
Chase Elliott finished sixth, and he was followed by Stephen Nasse, Austin Nason, Jett Noland, and Michael Hinde, who capped off the top-10 finishers.
Thursday's race was a tame one early on, as the race didn't see a natural caution develop until 79 laps remaining in the 250-lap contest.
However, over the final 80 laps, things got a bit busier as seven caution flags flew.
Bubba Pollard, who won last week's event at North Wilkesboro Speedway and found himself third in points, had a car capable of winning the race, but he had a hole punched into his radiator, and with 57 laps to go, his car shot straight up the track, where he would park it.
Pollard's night was over and after climbing from his No. 26 machine, Pollard lamented the track conditions at Hickory Motor Speedway for his radiator issues.
"That's what happens when you go to places like this, I guess," Pollard fumed.
While Pollard found troubles and was credited with a 23rd-place finish, so too did the series point leader Casey Roderick.
With 49 laps remaining, Roderick received massive contact from the rear from Jackson Boone. As the two drivers made contact, Boone's car launched on the rear of Roderick's car, which obliterated the rear end of Roderick's No. 18 car.
Roderick's team would be able to make repairs, but he would finish the race in 12th place one lap off the pace.
The ASA STARS National Tour heads to the Milwaukee Mile for its next event, the Father's Day 100, which is set for Sunday, June 18th.
Photo Credit: Will Bellamy, Racing America
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