by Jacob Hord, @HordRaceWatcher

Some things are just meant to be. After 34 years of racing, eight track championships, and 43 wins at Attica Raceway Park, Byron Reed was set to say goodbye to the track where he visited victory lane on a regular basis through his career. Now, it had been since June 6th, 2021, or 826 days since Reed was able to take his all-black No. 5 car to the horsetrack, but as Attica wrapped up their 2023 season, there was just something in the air that said that everyone in attendance would witness something just plain cool. Before racing action got started, Attica officials held a small ceremony for Reed, which involved a plaque that, among other accomplishments, listed his 43 wins at Attica. The joke was that Reed would win his final race, giving him 44 wins, and the track would have to get him a new plaque. Well… 

Naturally, Byron Reed made the redraw, and drew the pole for the 30 lap, $4,000+ to-win feature. That’s when you could really start to feel that something was going to happen. To his outside on row one, Creed Kemenah, and starting fourth was Mike Keegan. Two drivers whose fathers battled plenty of times with Reed. Cale Thomas and Zeth Sabo rounded out the top five starters, starting third and fifth, respectively. 

On the start, Reed got the jump on the 410 rookie Kemenah, who had to fend off Keegan. With one lap complete, newly crowned 410 Track Champion Cap Henry had a huge bike in turns one and two, causing the cars behind him to check up, leading to Tyler Gunn spinning, and leaving Chris Myers nowhere to go. The lone yellow flag came out, and this would give the 15K of Kemenah a shot at Reed. 

No dice for Kemenah as he once again had his hands full with Keegan. Cale Thomas watched the battle for second while lurking in fourth, ready to pounce if a mistake was made. Keegan got by Kemenah with a slider in turns one and two, giving him the second spot on lap four. At this point, Sabo was starting to reel in the second, third and fourth place runners as well, while Reed drove off. 

Thomas got by Kemenah for third on lap five, and was closing in on Keegan fast, taking the second spot on lap seven in turns one and two. Now Thomas just had to run down Reed, who now had a 1.580n second lead, but was getting close to lapped traffic. Sabo claimed the third spot on lap nine, as Reed took a 1.279 second lead into lapped traffic. Reed was making big moves in traffic, saying that he “Wasn’t going to follow them into the corner, I was going to make a move to pass them,” in regards to the lapped traffic. 

This strategy paid off. As Sabo reeled in Thomas for second, Reed was making his way through lapped traffic. As Sabo claimed the second spot, Reed grew his lead from 1.481 seconds on lap 12 to 2.048 seconds on lap 13. Reed’s lead stayed around the two second mark for a few laps, as he kept two lapped cars between himself and Sabo. 

At the halfway point of the race, Reed had a 1.962 second lead over Sabo, Thomas, Kemenah, and Henry. That’s when Reed really started to grow his lead. It ballooned to 2.560 seconds on lap 17, up to 3.459 seconds on lap 20 as Thomas and Sabo once again engaged in battle for second and the right to challenge Reed. Thomas eventually reclaimed the second spot and would try to play spoiler. 

Reed’s lead kept growing, much to the dismay of Thomas. It was up to 3.834 seconds on lap 22, and 4.298 seconds on lap 23. With five laps left, it was over five and a half seconds between Reed and Thomas. That’s when the reality started to set in. No cautions, no lapped cars making mistakes. This was Byron Reed’s race, and there wasn’t anything that was going to stop him from taking his 44th career win at Attica, in his final start at Attica. 

Reed crushed the field, in vintage Byron Reed fashion and won by 5.644 seconds over Cale Thomas. A performance fitting for the legend that is Byron Reed, a performance that showed the field what competitors for the last 34 years have had to compete with. A race that was too good to be scripted. A statement win. The perfect race for Byron Reed to say goodbye to Attica Raceway Park with. 

“I’m feeling really good about it. Just the fact that I still feel like I’m very competitive. I know I’m not as good as I used to be, but I can still obviously get the job done when things are right,” said Reed. 

“That’s kind of the way I wanted to do it. I wanted to go out, one of the guys I used to race with, Frankie Kerr, he won his last race. I still have four more races, so hopefully I win them. But just going out on top really makes me feel good. I didn’t want to be hanging on, where people would be ‘Oh, that guy used to be good, but now he sucks,’” Reed said with a laugh. 

“It’s been an emotional day for me,” Reed said. “I felt normal all week, but once the day hit, I noticed my emotions were getting to me. In my heat race, by the end of the race, I couldn’t catch my breath, my arms felt like they were wore out. I think I was just so worked up about the moment, that it was almost being too much for me. For whatever reason, in the AMain, I just had a calm come over me. I felt very comfortable in the car. I always feel kind of weird, even though a lot of races are won from the pole, I always feel a little bit weird winning a race from the pole. I still feel like this was a good win because we did lap a lot of good cars and I felt like I was attacking them,” said Reed. 

When asked where this race will rank when he reminisces on his final season, Byron said that this race will end up being near the top. 

“This definitely would rank up there, yeah. You can’t script it much better. The only thing I wish I could’ve done was my wheelie after the checkered flag. So I gotta win one at Fremont so I can do my wheelie,” Reed said with another laugh. 

“I love Attica, I love the people, and I love racing. It’s part of my life, it’s been 34 years of my life, it’ll always be a part of my life. I just feel that this is a good way to go, and I’m happy with how everything has gone for me.”

With that, another chapter closes in the career of Byron Reed. He still has four races left on his docket though, all at the Fremont Speedway, where he will try to get four more wins to round out his illustrious career. 

Not to be lost in the moment, Cap Henry did win his second career Attica 410 title Friday night. It was a low-key night for Henry, as all he had to do to claim the title was take to the track for motor heat. Once that was accomplished, Henry could focus on getting win number five of the 2023 season at Attica to put a stamp on an impressive season, his first aboard the Jeff Ward Motorsports 33W. Henry would go on to finish fifth in the feature, which will put him in a very good spot to claim the AFCS 410 title Saturday night without too much drama. 

“Initially we weren’t going to run for a points title other than the AFCS deal. It just worked out that Attica is easy for all of us to get to on a Friday night, so here we are. I’m really happy for everybody involved; Jeff, Gary, Zack, the Wilson brothers. I didn’t imagine that we’d be this good year one, so I’m really proud of everybody,” Henry said.

For a team that Henry and his crew chief Zack Myers joined in the off-season, rattling off nine wins so far, a track championship, and potentially two more championships in the first year is no easy feat. 

“It means a lot. In the offseason, there weren’t a lot of offers. To end up somewhere and just to be as successful as we were just means so much. They [Jeff Ward Motorsports] had a lot of equipment in place. I have to give a lot of credit to Caleb [Griffith, former driver], that they had so much equipment in place. I’m so fortunate to have Zack. He makes me confident no matter what the condition is, and that goes a long way and I think it showed this year.”

Naturally, we had to ask Cap, who has raced with Byron Reed most of his career, his thoughts on Reed’s big win.

“I think that means more than anything else that could have happened tonight. I always looked up to Byron; I’ll never forget early on in my career, me spinning out in front of Byron, him hitting me, and him walking up to me and calling me an idiot,” Henry said with a laugh. “I’ve always thought so much of Byron, he’s just a great guy, a great family. For him to win that thing tonight on his last night here, that’s pretty cool and something that family will never forget that moment; I’m so happy for them,” concluded Henry. 

Byron Reed’s full interview can be found here: Byron Reed Wins His Final Attica Start 9/8/23

Cap Henry’s full interview can be found here: Cap Henry: 2023 Attica Raceway Park Champion