USA Raceway was alive and kicking, during the first weekend of the Wild West Shootout! After it rained in Tucson for 4 of the last 5 days, leading up to Saturday's show, the infield and pits were a little muddy, but the racing surface was ready for action! Weather had finally taken a turn for the better, as the sun was out nearly all day, with temperatures reaching the low 60's. Much to my surprise, the water truck was on the track, when I arrived at noon. My initial concern was that the track would be extremely wet and narrow the entire night. However, the track had been packed nicely and required a little more moisture, following hot laps.
|USA Raceway in Tucson, Arizona - Saturday, January 9, 2016|
While the track held moisture well and had two distinct grooves, it was very bumpy on the bottom lane, especially entering turn 3. I spent the majority of the night in that area of the track, watching from the infield and saw left side tires literally bouncing and losing contact with the ground, as cars rumbled over the bumps. This would usually cause the car to skate up the track, costing precious time. "The Kentucky Colonel" Steve Francis responded "it definitely had some character", when asked about the track conditions. I also spoke with Tucson, Arizona native, Jake O'Neil, after he won the "last chance dash" and explained that he "would just wait for guys to hit the bumps and skate up the track, then dive underneath them".
As rough as the track was, it still provided some exciting racing action and nearly everyone agreed that the conditions should improve, as the mini-series race continues. Here's a recap of the racing action from Saturday, including results:
Davenport was forced to start deep in the field, as he missed the scales following his heat race win and had to race his way through a B-main. Lap 18 marked the turning point of the race and the action really started to heat up! Tyler Erb, of Texas, slowed to a stop in turn 4, while he was running in the top-5, surrendering to mechanical problems related to the radiator. There was a huge stack-up on the restart attempt, forcing Las Cruces, New Mexico racer, Garrett Alberson, up onto the track's inside birm. Alberson's right-side tires dug into the birm, causing him to roll softly and land back on his wheels. Thankfully, Garrett was okay, but that marked the end of his evening. On the next restart attempt, then 5th place running Kyle Beard, of Trumann, Arkansas, spun in front of nearly the entire field, upon entrance to turn 3. Somehow, the entire field avoiding contact with Beard, though Colorado native, Scott Lewis was forced into the wall and ended his night.
Thankfully, this was the last caution of the evening and left 12 laps for the remaining competitors to do battle! Don O'Neal was excellent on the restarts and pulled away to the victory! Steve Francis also made an impressive drive, taking the runner-up position, with Darrell Lanigan, "Mr. Smooth" Billy Moyer Sr and Davenport rounding-out the top-5.
|"The Real Deal" Don O'Neal won Night 1 of the Wild West Shootout|
|"The Kentucky Colonel" Steve Francis charged up to finish 2nd in Night 1|
|"The Bluegrass Bandit" Darrell Lanigan & "Mr. Smooth" Billy Moyer Sr finished 3rd & 4th|
Late Model Results
|Cade Dillard won the Modified feature in Night 1 of the Wild West Shootout!|
|"The Sandman" Rodney Sanders settled for 2nd, while Darron Fuqua finished 3rd|
|Late Model heat race action on Sunday. Check out the snow-capped mountains in the background|
Unfortunately for Gustin, he and Davenport made contact out of turn 2 with less than 10 laps remaining, causing "The Reaper" to spin out. Davenport had been hammering what was left of the cushion, on the outside of the track, upon entrance to the corner. However, since the cushion was nearly up on the wall on corner exit, he would let-off halfway through the turn, cut his wheels hard left and get a nice run out of the corner, running as low as he possibly could. It was that exact line that he ran, when Gustin's right-front tire struck his left-rear tire, causing Gustin to spin. "The Reaper" did his best "Days of Thunder" impression, completing a full 360-degree spin and keeping the car rolling.
Thankfully, he did not spin into traffic, but Gustin slowed and pulled into the infield, knowing his chances for a solid run had evaporated. Since Gustin kept his car rolling, a caution flag was not thrown. Davenport then set his sights on race leader Mars and flew around the outside of him with about 5 laps remaining in the 30-lap feature. "The Iceman" gave "Superman" a run for about a lap, but eventually gave way and settled for 2nd place, allowing Davenport to run away for the victory!
|"Superman" Jonathan Davenport stole the win late on Sunday, Night 2 of the Wild West Shootout!|
|After leading over 20 laps on Sunday night, "The Iceman" Jimmy Mars settled for 2nd place|
|Jason Papich & Garrett Alberson finished 3rd & 4th on Sunday night|
Late Model Results1. Jonathan Davenport (5), 2. Jimmy Mars (1), 3. Jason Papich (4), 4. Garrett Alberson (3), 5. Don O'Neal (6), 6. AJ Diemel (7), 7. Shane Clanton (13), 8. Steve Francis (10), 9. Brandon Sheppard (18), 10. Kyle Beard (8), 11. Darrell Lanigan (16), 12. Morgan Bagley (11), 13. Billy Moyer Sr (17), 14. Chris Simpson (14), 15. Tony Toste (9), 16. Jason Krohn (19), 17. Jake O'Neil (22), 18. Terry Phillips (15), 19. Rob Sanders (24), 20. Ryan Gustin (2), 21. RC Whitwell (20), 22. Rodney Sanders (22), 23. Brad Looney (), 24. Austin Siebert (21)
"Superman" failed to disappoint for the 2nd night in-a-row and left everyone wondering what "might have been", had he not missed the scales following his heat race win the night before. Davenport will certainly be the driver to beat during the next race, on Wednesday night. "The Georgia Bulldog" was also impressive on Sunday night, charging from 13th to finish 7th, along with "B-Shepp" Brandon Sheppard, who charged from 18th to finish 9th. Hard luck award of the night has to go to Gustin, who went from challenging for the lead with about 7 laps to go, to finishing 20th, in the infield. Here are the current Late Model point standings, after 2 races, entering Wednesday night's action:
Late Model Points
|Cade Dillard made it two-for-two, winning Sunday, Night 2 of the Wild West Shootout!|
|Ricky Thornton Jr, Stormy Scott & Brad Dierks finished 2nd through 4th on Sunday night|