Franklin takes 100th title

June 01, 1998|By MIKE SIRBAUGH / Staff Correspondent

Rodney Franklin has probably driven turn 2 at the Hagerstown Speedway hundreds of times.

But his most memorable trips around the corner probably came Saturday night in the 25-lap late model feature when he passed three cars in that spot to take his 100th career victory at the Hagerstown Speedway, becoming the first driver ever to reach that pinnacle.

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"That's something I really wanted, that 100 wins," Franklin said. Other drivers will probably get to 100, but to be the first one to get there, that's special. That's something they can't take away from you."

Franklin was presented with a banner and two bottles of champagne by the Speedway to help him celebrate the milestone.

He was given a standing ovation by the crowd, swelled by a contingent of loyal Franklin fans and friends. In anticipation of the event, they too gave him a banner for the occasion.


The celebration began in victory lane as Franklin thanked all those who had a hand in his success, including car owners Creed and Linda Calton, who never had a victory as owners until Franklin started driving for them.

As the champagne flowed, he dedicated the race to his No. 1 fan, a young man named Bobby who, Franklin says, "knows more about me than I do."

Franklin's eighth win of the year may have been his toughest. The entire field was fast, and determined that, if Franklin was to win, he would have to earn it.

He began 10th and worked his way to fifth by lap 4, but appeared boxed out by Paul Crowl and Frankie Plessinger. However, a yellow flag on lap 7 gave Franklin his opportunity.

On the restart, Franklin shot inside on turn 2 and boldly passed both Plessinger and Crowl to vault into third. Then it looked like vintage Franklin driving.

On the 9th lap, he passed Doug Burkholder on turn 2, again on the inside. Franklin then worked a second yellow flag on lap 10 to his advantage. When the green flag waved, he quickly took the inside and passed leader Rick Workman on turn 2 to go in front to stay.

Since the center of the track had grown slick early during the qualifying heats, his crew made an adjustment.

"We geared the car up for the bottom," Franklin said. "I prefer a muddy track so I can use it all, but we didn't have that. When Gary (Stuhler) rolled in here tonight and the track was slick, I knew we'd have to get there quick."

Franklin acknowledges that Stuhler is probably the best driver around on a slick surface and Stuhler proved him correct.

Stuhler also used a caution to better his position, jumping into third on lap 19 to make the last five laps exciting as he slowly closed in and finished behind Franklin by a car length.

"I'm really glad to get that milestone in my career," Franklin said. "You never know when your luck will change and you won't get to race. I won't retire this year, but I'm seriously thinking about it next year."

"I'll have to sit down and talk to Creed about it and see what he wants to do."

Franklin won't be content to rest on his laurels. He still wants to win the points race and he has some personal goals he'd like to meet.

With such a hot start, he has an excellent chance to pass both his personal high of 14 wins in a season and Nathan Durboraw's track record of 15.

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