Monday, Sep 27
Speedway Digest Staff

Speedway Digest Staff

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Alex Palou clinched his first NTT INDYCAR SERIES championship with a composed drive to fourth place Sunday in the Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach, a race won by Colton Herta.

Palou became the first Spaniard to win an INDYCAR SERIES championship and is Chip Ganassi Racing’s second consecutive title winner and 14th INDYCAR SERIES champion overall. This is his first season with the powerhouse team in the No. 10 NTT DATA Chip Ganassi Racing Honda, joining CGR after his rookie season in 2020, when he finished 16th in the standings.

“What a race, what a year, what a season,” Palou said. “This team is amazing. I’m super proud to be a part of Chip Ganassi Racing, all our partners. I’m super proud to be a champion and for the opportunity these guys gave me.

“Dream completed. Let’s get another one now.”

Said team owner Chip Ganassi: “Ladies and gentlemen, you’re seeing a young man that’s going to set a lot of records in this business, and he’s already starting. What a great year we’ve had. I’ve got to be honest with you: It has surprised us when he came in the door and the job he’s done. My hat’s off. Congratulations.”

In the most definitive sign of the youth movement this season in the series, Palou, 24, is the first NTT INDYCAR SERIES champion younger than 25 since current teammate Scott Dixon in 2003. Palou is the seventh-youngest champion in INDYCAR SERIES history.

Herta, who led all three practice sessions this weekend, beat Josef Newgarden to the checkered flag by .5883 of a second in his No. 26 Gainbridge Honda to finish the season with two consecutive victories and three overall in 2021. Herta rebounded from starting 14th after hitting the wall in NTT P1 Award qualifying. He swept both races in his native California this season and won for the first time at his home race in Long Beach, which he attended since childhood to watch his father and current strategist, Bryan Herta, race in the INDYCAR SERIES.

“It feels amazing,” Herta said. “This has been on the bucket list for so long. Super happy.”

Scott McLaughlin clinched the Rookie of the Year award after finishing 11th in the No. 3 PPG Team Penske Chevrolet, becoming the first Team Penske driver to earn this honor. New Zealand native McLaughlin joined Penske’s INDYCAR SERIES team after winning three consecutive Australian Supercars titles for the organization.

“I’m really proud of everyone with the PPG Chevy,” McLaughlin said. “The car’s been awesome, and I finally got it to my liking the last six or seven races. I’m really excited for next year. This year was a foundation year, all about building, and I feel like I’ve done that.”

Six-time series champion Scott Dixon finished third today in the No. 9 PNC Bank Grow Up Great Honda, 1.3368 seconds ahead of champion teammate Palou. 2016 series champion Simon Pagenaud rounded out the top five in the No. 22 Menards Team Penske Chevrolet.

Herta, who grew up in Valencia, just 60 miles north of Long Beach, took the lead for good on Lap 64 of the 85-lap race on the streets of Long Beach. He led a race-high 43 laps and was quick on both the Firestone “black” primary tires and “red” alternate tires.

That ability to find speed and traction on both tire compounds was vital for Herta. He started 14th on the alternate tires, staying on that rubber compound after his first pit stop, too. So, INDYCAR rules mandating that each driver must use both compounds during the race forced Herta to switch to the slower but more durable primary tires for his last stint on track, while Newgarden and other pursuers already had used primary tires earlier in the race and were on the faster but less durable alternate tires for their run to the checkered flag.

Herta had built an 8.8-second lead on his final stint on the alternate tires before pitting on Lap 55 for primary tires. Newgarden jumped into the pits on the same lap for alternate tires and began cutting into Herta’s lead almost immediately.

Newgarden also caught a break on Lap 62 when Oliver Askew’s No. 45 Hy-Vee Honda nosed into the tire barrier in Turn 9 after contact with Conor Daly’s No. 20 U.S. Air Force Chevrolet while dueling for position. That triggered the fourth and final caution period of the race, bunching field for a vital restart on Lap 65 with Herta in the lead and Newgarden second.

Herta, on primary tires, appeared vulnerable to losing the lead on the restart to Newgarden, on grippier alternate tires. But Herta rocketed away at the start of the restart zone and got superb traction exiting the famous hairpin corner leading to the front straight and green flag, while Newgarden’s car lost grip exiting the hairpin.

“We had a great car,” Herta said. “Reds or blacks, we seemed to have the pace. I just can’t believe it.”

But Newgarden refused to give up, showing the resiliency of a two-time series champion. He continued to shave the gap every lap, pulling to within .680 of a second with eight laps to go.

Herta and Newgarden raced in accordion fashion around the 11-turn, 1.968-mile circuit, with Herta – who was running less downforce on his rear wing than Newgarden – building his lead on straightaways and Newgarden taking advantage of more grip to cut that deficit in tight turns.

Newgarden pulled to within a car-length or two of Herta late in the tight, treacherous fountain turn complex. But the gap grew on the straights due to less drag on Herta’s rear wing, and he was able to hold on for victory.

The runner-up finish helped Newgarden jump to second in the final championship standings, 38 points behind Palou.

“Colton did a great job, so congrats to him and his entire crew,” Newgarden said. “He was on the right tire on the right point of the race. If there were no yellows, I think we would have been OK today, to cruise out front. But that’s the way it rolls sometimes.

“Strong effort by our team. I think my crew was the fastest in pit lane all year, so there’s a lot to be prideful for. We fought hard. We came up a little bit short this year, which is unfortunate, but we fought all year long.”

Pato O’Ward, who entered the race 35 points behind Palou in second, ended up 62 points back in third after a disappointing day. O’Ward’s No. 5 Arrow McLaren SP Chevy was hit from behind by the No. 18 SealMaster Honda of Ed Jones and spun in the hairpin turn at the end of Lap 1, dropping him to the rear of the field. That contact led to a loss of drive on Lap 19 after the half-shaft in his right rear wheel snapped.

O’Ward returned to the track on Lap 53 after extensive repair time but dropped out when it became apparent second place in the championship was out of reach. He ended up in 27th place.

“It’s not the first time he has hit us and not the first time he has done something stupid all season,” O’Ward said of the early contact from Jones. “I just wish he could use his head a bit more, at least respect the guys who are fighting for the championship.

“I think we’ve had a great season. I’m proud of the team; I’m proud of myself.”

NTT IndyCar Series PR

Race Winner:    Denny Hamlin of Joe Gibbs Racing (Toyota)

Stage 1 Winner: Kyle Larson of Hendrick Motorsports (Chevrolet)

Stage 2 Winner: Denny Hamlin of Joe Gibbs Racing (Toyota)

 

Stage 1 Recap (Laps 1-80):

Kyle Busch started 10th and finished second, earning nine bonus points.

● The M&M’S driver started 10th, but he picked off several spots right off the bat. Busch was in fourth by lap two and up to third by the time the competition yellow waved on lap 25.

● The Las Vegas native came to pit road on lap 27 to take on four tires, fuel and an air pressure adjustment. The M&M’S over-the-wall team gained Busch two spots coming off pit road to assume his first lead of the day.

● Busch eventually settled into the second position, where he ended Stage 1.

 

Stage 2 Recap (Laps 81-160):

Busch started seventh and finished second, earning nine bonus points.

The Las Vegas native came to pit road following the stage for tires, fuel and adjustments, but an issue with the jack getting on the peg dropped him to seventh coming off pit road.

Busch radioed to the No. 18 team just five laps into the run, telling them he felt a loose wheel on the left side and may need to pit. When the caution came out just a few laps later for an accident, the M&M’S team was able to come down pit road to remedy the situation with a change of all four tires on lap 94.

The two-time Cup Series champion restarted 12th on lap 98. He slowly worked his way toward the front of the field, entering the top-five by lap 114 and reaching third on lap 117.

Busch moved up to second behind JGR teammate Denny Hamlin to finish the segment, earning more valuable stage points in the championship battle.

 

Final Stage Recap (Laps 161-267):

Busch started fourth and finished third.

The M&M’S driver came to pit road following Stage 2, with crew chief Ben Beshore calling for four tires, fuel and a trackbar adjustment to loosen up the No. 18’s tight-handling condition.

Busch restarted fourth for the final stage and had settled into the fifth position by lap 189.

Busch sat near the top-five until his final pit stop of the race, which came on lap 210. The M&M’S driver came to pit road in sixth place under green, but when things cycled out he found himself in fourth and chasing down JGR teammate Martin Truex Jr. for the third position as the laps wound down.

The Las Vegas native finally got by Truex on lap 243 to bring home a third-place finish and strong points position heading into the unknown of Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway next weekend.

 

Notes:

● Busch’s third-place finish is his 12th top-five finish of 2021.

● Busch now has nine top-five finishes in 21 starts at his hometown track in Las Vegas.

● Hamlin won the South Point 400 to score his 46th career NASCAR Cup Series victory, his second of the season and his first at Las Vegas. His margin over second-place Chase Elliott was .442 of a second.

● There were four caution periods for a total of 21 laps.

● Only 12 of the 38 drivers in the South Point 400 finished on the lead lap.

 

Kyle Busch, driver of the No. 18 M&M’S Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing:

 

Was tonight a night where you did what you needed to do?

“Certainly you want to win, but we maximized today the best we had. The 11 (Denny Hamlin) was better than us. I thought early when the sun was out we were better than him, but once the lights turned on we kind of lost a little bit and we got ran into the wall twice off of turn two. That doesn’t help things. Guys did a great job. Thanks to Ben (Beshore, crew chief) and all the guys on our M&M’S Toyota Camry, we were fast, we were frontrunners all night long. Just wasn’t able to get everything we needed today for a win. Thanks to Rowdy Energy, TRD, Interstate Batteries, Ethel M here from Las Vegas. See what happens next week.”

 

What will be your mood leaving Las Vegas tonight?

 

“We got all we could. I felt like during the daytime we were a little bit better than the 11 (Hamlin). We could race with him. I felt like I was looking forward to the lights coming on and us picking up speed and being able to rip the wall a little bit faster. When we got hit into the fence there off of (turn) two the first time, it definitely knocked speed out of our car. We helped it a little bit coming to pit road putting the last set of tires on it, and then I got into the fence again trying to get by a lapped car. Not enough room over there, I guess. Overall, great job by Ben (Beshore) and my guys on this M&M’S Camry. They gave me a good piece. We moved forward all day long, so that was good, and just appreciate TRD and Interstate Batteries, Rowdy Energy and Ethel M for being here from Las Vegas, and all of those guys were here today. Good showing.”

 

Next Up:

The next event on the NASCAR Cup Series schedule is the YellaWood 500 on Sunday, Oct. 3, at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway. It is the fifth race of the 10-race playoffs and the second race in the Round of 12. It starts at 2 p.m. EDT with live coverage provided by NBC and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.

 

TSC PR

Race Winner:  Denny Hamlin of Joe Gibbs Racing (Toyota)

Stage 1 Winner:  Kyle Larson of Hendrick Motorsports (Chevrolet)

Stage 2 Winner:  Denny Hamlin of Joe Gibbs Racing (Toyota)

 

Stage 1 Recap (Laps 1-80):

●  Kevin Harvick started fifth and finished eighth, earning three bonus points.

●  After getting up to second place on the opening lap, the No. 4 Subway Delivery Ford Mustang dropped to 10th by lap seven.

●  Harvick steadily rallied, clawing his way back to sixth by lap 13.

●  “Need some rear grip, early center (of the corner) both ends (of the track),” said Harvick on lap 25 while running sixth.

●  Pitted for four tires and fuel on lap 28 during competition caution. Gained one spot in the pits to restart in fifth place.

●  Some contact with Matt DiBenedetto on lap 35 caused some slight right-front fender damage to the No. 4 Subway Delivery Ford.

●  Harvick maintained fifth place until lap 55 when William Byron got by, sending Harvick to sixth.

●  “Something’s not right here, Rodney,” said Harvick on lap 58 to crew chief Rodney Childers. “I think it’s the tire.”

●  Dropped to seventh on lap 59 and then to eighth on lap 67. Held on to eighth through the end of the stage.

●  Harvick said he needed his car to turn better late center exit.

●  Pitted for four tires and fuel with a track bar adjustment and tire pressure changes at the end of the stage.

 

Stage 2 Recap (Laps 81-160):

●  Harvick started ninth and finished eighth, earning three bonus points.

●  “Feel like I need it to turn mid-center, late-center better,” said Harvick while running eighth on lap 92.

●  Harvick took advantage of caution and pitted for four tires and fuel on lap 93, with the pit crew working on that right-front fender.

●  Lined up 14th for lap-99 restart and was 11th by lap 110.

●  “Sideways all the sudden in traffic,” said Harvick on lap 122 after dropping back to 13th.

●  Rallied to eighth at the end of the stage as Harvick was able to stay out on fuel mileage while others ahead of him were forced to pit.

●  Pitted for four tires and fuel with a track bar adjustment at the end of the stage.

 

Final Stage Recap (Laps 161-267):

●  Harvick started sixth and finished ninth.

●  The No. 4 Subway Delivery Ford Mustang had dropped to eighth by lap 177 as both Brad Keselowski and Kurt Busch got by.

●  Byron passed Harvick on lap 187, taking eighth and sending Harvick to ninth.

●  Ryan Blaney took ninth from Harvick on lap 197, sending Harvick to 10th.

●  Made scheduled, green flag pit stop on lap 214 for four tires and fuel.

●  Harvick was back up to 10th by lap 223. He took ninth on lap 224, eighth on lap 226 and then seventh on lap 229.

●  Keselowsi took seventh place back on lap 250, sending Harvick to eighth.

●  Busch nipped Harvick for eighth on the final lap and Harvick crossed the stripe in ninth.

 

Notes:

●  Harvick earned his 20th top-10 of the season and his 13th top-10 in 25 career NASCAR Cup Series starts at Las Vegas.

●  Harvick’s 13 top-10s at Las Vegas are the most among active NASCAR Cup Series drivers.

●  This was Harvick’s fourth straight top-10. He finished fifth Sept. 4 at Darlington (S.C.) Raceway, eighth Sept. 11 at Richmond (Va.) Raceway, and second in the series’ prior race at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway.

●  This was Harvick’s 10th straight top-15, a streak that began July 11 with an 11th-place finish at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

●  Denny Hamlin won the South Point 400 to score his 46th career NASCAR Cup Series victory, his second of the season and his first at Las Vegas. His margin over second-place Chase Elliott was .442 of a second.

●  There were four caution periods for a total of 21 laps.

●  Only 12 of the 38 drivers in the South Point 400 finished on the lead lap.

 

Kevin Harvick, driver of the No. 4 Subway Delivery Ford Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing:

“That was about what we had tonight. We got the right-front fender nicked up a little bit, but that didn’t really change the car, so we lucked out on that. We battle and gained ground on it. That is what we wanted to do – not give it all away today. We were able to gain ground and we’ll go from there.”

 

Playoff Standings (with two races to go before Round of 8):

1.    Denny Hamlin (3,082 points) 1 win

2.    Kyle Larson (3,096 points) +57

3.    Kyle Busch (3,074 points) +35

4.    Martin Truex Jr. (3,070 points) +31

5.    Ryan Blaney (3,063 points) +24

6.    Chase Elliott (3,061 points) +22

7.    Joey Logano (3,045 points) +6

8.    Brad Keselowski (3,043 points) +4

9.    William Byron (3,039 points) -4

10.  Kevin Harvick (3,036 points) -7

11.  Alex Bowman (3,030 points) -13

12.  Christopher Bell (3,018 points) -25

 

Next Up:

The next event on the NASCAR Cup Series schedule is the YellaWood 500 on Sunday, Oct. 3 at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway. It is the fifth race of the 10-race playoffs and the second race in the Round of 12. It starts at 2 p.m. EDT with live coverage provided by NBC and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.

 

TSC PR

Race Winner: Denny Hamlin of Joe Gibbs Racing (Toyota)

Stage 1 Winner: Kyle Larson of Hendrick Motorsports (Chevrolet)

Stage 2 Winner: Denny Hamlin of Joe Gibbs Racing (Toyota)

 

Stage 1 Recap (Laps 1-80):

● Aric Almirola started 17th and finished 21st.

● The Mobil 1 Ford team failed technical inspection before the start of the race, so the No. 10 had to start at the rear of the field.

● Almirola raced to 25th by the lap-25 competition caution.

● The Mobil 1 Ford driver radioed loose-handling conditions throughout the stage.

● He began to find more speed toward the end of the stage and raced to 21st.

● Almirola pitted at the end of the stage for four tires, fuel and chassis and air pressure adjustments.

 

Stage 2 Recap (Laps 81-160):

● Almirola started 24th and finished 11th.

● The No. 10 team was handed a penalty during their pit stop for equipment interference and was forced to restart at the tail of the field.

● Almirola raced to 21st before a lap-92 caution. He reported a vibration and pitted for four tires under caution.

● The Mobil 1 Ford driver battled his way to the top-15 by lap 137 and raced just outside the top-10 before the stage ended.

● Almirola said the balance of his car was close but needed more grip. He pitted at the end of the stage for four fresh tires, fuel and air pressure adjustments.

● A quick pit stop from the Mobil 1 pit crew advanced Almirola to the eighth position.

 

Final Stage Recap (Laps 161-267):

● Almirola started eighth and finished 19th.

● Though Almirola started inside the top-10, he quickly fell outside of the top-20 and radioed to the team on lap 180 that the changes made “killed” the balance.

● He pitted from 20th on lap 211 for four tires and fuel.

● Almirola was scored a lap down and raced his way back to the top-20 before the checkered flag waved.

 

Notes:

● Denny Hamlin won the South Point 400 to score his 46th career NASCAR Cup Series victory, his second of the season and his first at Las Vegas. His margin over second-place Chase Elliott was .442 of a second. 

● There were four caution periods for a total of 21 laps.

● Only 12 of the 38 drivers in the South Point 400 finished on the lead lap.

 

Aric Almirola, driver of the No. 10 Mobil 1 Ford Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing:

“We found really good speed and balance in our Mobil 1 Ford halfway through the race today and were good enough to race inside the top-10. Then we made one small adjustment, and something just flipped a switch and our balance was way off. We’ll move on to Talladega where we’ve had a lot of success. Excited to get there and compete for a win.”

 

Next Up:

The next event on the NASCAR Cup Series schedule is the YellaWood 500 on Sunday, Oct. 3, at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway. It is the fifth race of the 10-race playoffs and the second race in the Round of 12. It starts at 2 p.m. EDT with live coverage provided by NBC and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.

 

TSC PR

Austin Dillon and the No. 3 BetMGM Chevrolet Team Gamble on Strategy En Route to 13th-Place Finish at Las Vegas Motor Speedway
 
 
 
 
13th
 
 
15th
 
17th
 
"Good try tonight by everyone on the Richard Childress Racing team at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. The front end of our BetMGM Chevy was never really to my liking tonight. We were bouncing through Turn 2, but Justin Alexander and all of the guys made adjustments throughout the race to improve our handling issues. We just needed a little more a little earlier. In Stage 3, we were running 12th when we made the call to stay out and long pit. It was just a gamble to try and catch a caution and make something happen. We led laps and were in position but didn’t get the caution we needed. It was worth a shot. We ultimately finished 13th. We’re headed to Talladega Superspeedway next week, and we’ll do everything we can to try and snag a win.”
 
 
 
-Austin Dillon
 
Tyler Reddick Leads Laps and Impresses in No. 8 Cat Trials 11: Hot Wheels Chevrolet at Las Vegas Motor Speedway
 
 
 
 
6th
 
 
13th
 
13th
 
"Our Cat Trials 11: Hot Wheels Chevrolet was extremely fast tonight at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. I knew having speed in the car when the sun went down was going to be a key to finishing well. The track definitely tightened up as time went on, and I could feel it in our No. 8 Camaro. My crew chief, Randall Burnett, kept up with the changing track conditions though and we were able to post top-three laps times consistently. I think at worst we were a third-place car, and should have been competing for the win at the end. There weren’t a ton of cautions during the race and unfortunately waiting just a couple of laps from when the No. 11 pitted from the lead cost us valuable track position. A sixth-place finish is still a great night for our Richard Childress Racing team and we will now turn our focus to Talladega."
 
 
 
-Tyler Reddick

RCR PR

The 2021 11th annual Pettit Shootout concluded with a trio of drivers sweeping their divisions at Ocean Speedway, with Salinas’ Bobby Hogge IV of Salinas taking top honors in the $3006-to-win, 53-lap finale for the IMCA Modifieds. Hogge’s dominating performance was joined by Frazier Park’s Cale Kanke in the IMCA Sport Modifieds and Watsonville’s Billy Nelson in Hobby Stocks as the weekend sweepers at the Santa Cruz County Fairgrounds dirt track.

“You know hats off to the Pettit Family. I always get emotional when I talk about them because they’re long-time friends,” Hogge said. “That was just amazing right there. It was like everything was in slow motion. The car could run top, middle, bottom. Everybody in this field were stellar racers. Hats off to the race track and Tom Sagmiller, this thing was awesome tonight.”

Hogge lined up on the outside pole for the feature with 2021 West Coast Stock Car Hall of Famer Jim Pettit II behind him on the outside of the second row. Hogge spent little time driving to the front, taking the lead from pole sitter Ryan Porter of Atwater at the green flag. Hogge accumulated a 5.2 second advantage by just the eighth lap of competition, while Pettit and Porter staged a great battle for second. Pettit worked the inside for second while behind him, 2018 Pettit Shootout winner Nick DeCarlo of Martinez tried to drive inside Sacramento’s Josh Combs for fourth.

Hogge entered lapped traffic by lap 12 and DeCarlo pulled into the infield on lap 13 for an early end to his night. The side-by-side action continued for second until Pettit finally made the pass on lap 24. Combs passed Porter for third on lap 25 before Friday night hard charger Rick Diaz moved in to take fourth on lap 30 as well. Five-time Antioch champion Troy Foulger of Oakley took over fifth from Porter using the outside line on lap 31. The final 20-laps were highlighted by battling for the sixth position between 14th starting Robby Sawyer of Bakersfield, 2021 Ocean Speedway champion Cody Burke, Porter, and others. Hogge ran up onto tenth place running Paul Stone of Winton but spent over a dozen laps racing with him before putting him a lap down.

The checkered flag at lap 53 saw Hogge earning the $3,006 victory by 6.223 seconds over Pettit, Diaz, Combs, and Foulger. Sawyer won the battle for sixth with Burke. Reno, Nev.’s Dave Sciarroni advanced nine positions to win the Hard Charger while Nick DeCarlo won Hard Luck.

Car 33 of Cale Kanke swept the weekend in the IMCA Sport Modifieds by taking Saturday’s 33-lap, $1006-to-win feature. Chuck Weir had the early advantage with company from seven-time 2021 Ocean Speedway winner Fred Ryland of Brentwood. Kanke lined up on the outside line with Weir while Ryland tried the inside. Kanke used a slidejob in turn three to take the lead on lap ten. Weir tried to crossover Kanke into turn one but Kanke held the position.

Ryland tucked in on the top behind Kanke by lap 15 while Todd Gomez passed Weir for third on lap 18. Kanke led Ryland, Gomez, Tracy’s KC Keller, and Kenny Shrader at the finish for the victory and the sweep of the weekend.

Hard Charger honors went to Nevada’s Robert Miller who advanced eleven positions while Oakley’s Andrew Pearce was credited with the Hard Luck prize. The Sandy Smile Award went to San Ramon’s Kelly Campanille and the Sportsmanship Award was won by Ryland.

Perhaps the most thrilling race of the weekend was the 33-lap Hobby Stock event, where Billy Nelson of Watsonville won in honor of his grandparents with last lap theatrics. Brek Smith of Newman led lap one from the outside pole position before fourth starting Ryan Hart of Dos Palos used the inside to lead lap two. Hart fought off a challenge from Watsonville’s Mitch Lettunich to lead lap six.

Terry Campion advanced from eleventh to fourth by lap 13 with Nelson overcoming a 16th starting position to run fifth by lap 14. Smith flipped on the backstretch battling with Campion for third, bringing out the red flag on lap 14. Smith was uninjured but eliminated from the race.

Nelson used the outside to take over third on the restart, then started to look inside at the top-two. Sam Kennedy began to challenge Hart for the lead, taking the position on lap 24 with a move on the inside in turn three. Hart eventually was shuffled back to fourth in the battling while Nelson went up the middle in a three-wide move to take second.

A caution on lap 30 set up a three-lap shootout. Kennedy, Nelson, and Campion lined up on the top line around the speedway. Coming to the finish, Nelson dove to the inside of Kennedy. He nipped Kennedy at the stripe by mere inches – officially .007 seconds – for the $506 victory. Kennedy, Campion, DJ Keldsen, and Hart rounded out the top-five finishers. Nelson earned the Hard Charger while Smith was credited with the Hard Luck award for his tumble.

The 11th Pettit Shootout concludes the 2021 season for Ocean Speedway in Watsonville, Calif. A Championship Awards Banquet is being planned with information coming soon!

Ocean Speedway PR

Twelve time Grandview Speedway T.P.Trailers Modified champion Craig Von Dohren has been named the 2021 NASCAR Advance Auto Parts Weekly Series Northeast Region champion earning the veteran Oley, PA driver $15,000. This goes along with the $3,500 that that popular racer earned from NASCAR as track champion and $10,000 that he received from the Rogers family for winning their Grandview Speedway track title.

A trio of drivers battled for the Northeast Region crown with Von Dohren taking the top honors. The winner of more than 110 features at Grandview during his career he finished third in the NASCAR Advance Auto Parts Weekly Series national standings.

 Peyton Sellers, representing Dominion Raceway, South Boston Speedway and Langley Speedway, was named Southeast Region champion and topped off his outstanding season being named NASCAR Advance Auto Parts Weekly Series national champion. Jacob Goede, representing Elko, Minnesota Speedway, finished second in the national standings with Von Dohren third. Todd Patnode finished fourth while Grandview Speedway regular Brett Kressley finished fifth in the final national standings and second in the Grandview point battle.

“Advance is thrilled to recognize Craig Von Dohren, Jacob Goede and Eric Rheade as our regional Weekly Series champions, said Jason McDonell, Advance’s executive vice president of merchandising, marketing and E-commerce. “Becoming a champion requires sustained excellence, commitment and passion for the sport and we congratulate these drivers and team members for their title winning seasons.”

The season finale for Saturday racing is fast approaching for the thirty-second season of the NAPA Auto Parts Thunder on the Hill Racing Series at the Grandview Speedway.   The October 16th event will showcase the Pioneer Pole Buildings Triple Roaring 20’s for Big Block/358 Modifieds plus a full program of Sportsman all getting underway at 6 PM.

On Sunday, October 17th, the season finale for Outlaw Series Enduro and Vintage Racing takes place at 1 p.m.

And on Sunday, November 7th, the annual Racer’s Flea Market gets started at 7 a.m.

Information on Grandview Speedway can be found at www.grandviewspeedway, Facebook, or telephone 610.754.7688.

Grandview Speedway PR

Mike Mahaney couldn’t help but dance while atop his Big Block Modified. The adrenaline, the joy and the relief moved through him in a way he’d never experienced before. 

After 115 starts with the Super DIRTcar Series, the King Ferry, NY driver finally celebrated his first career Series win Saturday night. And he got to do so at his hometrack of Albany-Saratoga Speedway.

Mahaney, in the #35 Adirondack Auto Big Block Modified, held off two of the most prominent Big Block Modified drivers in the world for the $13,000 Massive Malta payday. Stewart Friesen finished second after charging up 19 positions and Matt Sheppard continued to build his bid for an eighth Super DIRTcar Series championship with his third-place finish.

With a handful of laps remaining, Mahaney and Friesen lined up side-by-side for a restart. Both cars fired nearly simultaneously out of Turn Four. Friesen sent his #44 sideways with a hard, clean slider. As Friesen balanced the car on the lip of the cushion on top of Turn Two, Mahaney turned down the track and was able to pass him back in Turns Three & Four. 

Friesen used every inch of the track and every horsepower in his Big Block to steal the win but Mahaney hung on. 

After crossing the finish line, weighing the car, and making his way to Victory Lane, Mahaney took his time standing on the roof of the #35 looking out over the thunderous crowd and the quiet track. 

“I really wanted to let it sink in,” Mahaney said. “I’ve won races before and afterward, it felt like it happened so fast. This is a big one. It’s the most money I’ve earned in a race: $13,000. With it being my first Super DIRTcar Series win, it was just something I really wanted to take in up there.”

Mahaney stood on the podium many times with the Super DIRTcar Series but this time he’s in the middle. 

“I am so glad it was those two on the podium with me,” he said with a grin. “I don’t know how many times I’ve stood next to them on the side. They are the very best in dirt modifieds. Right now in this era, they are the best. They are winning all the races. To finally get it and have them there means something super special for me. They didn’t drop out. We raced them.”

Mahaney is a second-generation driver. When Super DIRTcar Series announcer Shane Andrews called his first race, Jim Mahaney, Mike’s father, took the win. Winning with family and friends there to see and share it was a dream come true for the 32-year-old driver. 

“I just want to absorb it because it’s taken so long,” Mahaney said. “It’s been my whole career, 17 years or something, but with this team, we’ve been competitive enough to the point where we should be winning. People have been asking me when it’s going to happen. It’s been something that everyone has been waiting for. All my fans, the team, and my family.

The electrified crowd roared when Mahaney took to the roof. 

“It was cool to put on a great show for the fans,” he added. “I loved hearing them. It was nuts. It was so loud. It was so cool. I can’t even explain it.”

From start to finish, the track provided exceptional racing throughout the 100-lap event. There was a lane high and low, allowing for tight racing every corner and the occasional slide job.

“He [Lyle DeVore] gave us a track that had a lot of bite so it would last until the end,” Mahaney said. “It wasn’t like we ran 50 laps and then settled in. It was great racing for 100 laps. You can’t beat that. We have so many fans that follow us here. It was overwhelming to hear that response and to feel loved by so many. I truly appreciate it. I am going to enjoy this.”  

Points leader Matt Sheppard finished third after racing his way up from the ninth starting position. The #9S stayed steady in the top 10 throughout the race until late in the race when he began picking off positions until finally reaching the podium. 

“This place hasn’t been great to us the last few times we’ve been here,” Sheppard noted. “To come away with a podium is great since we’ve been on a roll. Our qualifying effort was great and we got a podium. We’ll certainly take it.”

Sheppard is working towards his eighth Super DIRTcar Series championship. At the mid-point of the race, Sheppard was locked in battle with Billy Decker who currently sits second in points. Sheppard managed to shake the Gypsum Racing #91 in the pack and build on his points lead going into NAPA Super DIRT Week XLIX and the NGK NTK World Finals with a third-place finish. 

Stewart Friesen, from Sprakers, NY, had just returned from Las Vegas where he competed in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series playoff race. The Halmar #44 was uncharacteristically off the top times in Hot Laps and Time Trials. 

Friesen started the night out behind the eight-ball by failing to qualify through his Heat Race. He finished one position out of a transfer so he lined up next to Erick Rudolph on the front row of the Last Chance Showdown. 

“The Halmar guys worked really hard all night,” Friesen said. “I was in Ronnie Johnson’s trailer grabbing springs and worked it out.”

With the ability to pass at every corner of the track for all 100 thrilling laps, Friesen worked his way from 21st to second to also claim the Hard Charger Award winner.

While waiting for Mike Makaheny’s celebration to subside, Friesen said, “That was some of the most fun I’ve ever had in a Modified. That was a helluva lot of fun. How about Mike Mahaney?”

While Mahaney started on the front row, he had to contend with Tim Sears Jr. for the early lead. Once the #35 was out in clean air, he began to stretch his lead. But soon, 2021 Albany-Saratoga Speedway track champion Anthony Perrego made some decisive moves to take the lead early in the race 

Unfortunately for Perrego, after the halfway point something went amiss on the #44 and Perrego pulled his car into the infield with a rear-end failure. Mahaney inherited the lead from Perrego and never looked back.

Since 1972, 185 drivers have won Super DIRTcar Series Features out of thousands entered. On Saturday, Sept. 25, Mahaney became the 186th.

Around the corner: The greatest week of all of dirt racing is about to begin. Racing’s Biggest Party, NAPA Super DIRT Week XLIX (October 5-10), is set to kick off on Tuesday, October 5 at Brewerton Speedway for the $10,000-to-win Demon 100. 

Feature (100 Laps) 

1. 35M-Mike Mahaney [2][]; 2. 44F-Stewart Friesen [21][]; 3. 9S-Matt Sheppard [9][]; 4. 2RJ-Ronnie Johnson [3][]; 5. 21A-Peter Britten [13][]; 6. 88W-Mat Williamson [11][]; 7. 111D-Demetrios Drellos [14][]; 8. 99L-Larry Wight [10][]; 9. 91D-Billy Decker [5][]; 10. 5H-Chris Hile [8][]; 11. 2L-Jack Lehner [20][]; 12. 83X-Tim Sears [1][]; 13. 98H-Jimmy Phelps [16][]; 14. 32CC-Max McLaughlin [12][]; 15. 215p-Adam Pierson [6][]; 16. M1-Dave Marcuccilli [4][]; 17. 25R-Erick Rudolph [25][]; 18. 42P-Pat Ward [15][]; 19. 28M-Jordan McCreadie [19][]; 20. 19M-Jessey Mueller [17][]; 21. 7D-Donald Ronca [22][]; 22. 44P-Anthony Perrego [7][]; 23. 34R-Kevin Root [26][]; 24. 97B-Bobby Hackel [23][]; 25. 9X-Tyler Trump [24][]; 26. 32CM-James Meehan [18][]

Hard Charger Award: 44F-Stewart Friesen[+19]

Super DIRTcar Series PR

Landon Pembelton, a sixteen-year-old Amelia, Va. native, used cunning pit strategy and a fast race car to hold off veteran Mike Looney to win the nation’s biggest, richest and most prestigious NASCAR Late Model Stock Car race, ValleyStar Credit Union 300. Pembelton, making his debut at Martinsville Speedway, was recently named the NASCAR Advance Auto Parts Weekly Series Southeast Region Rookie of the Year.

“It’s pretty unbelievable,” said Pembelton, who earned more than $32,000 for the victory as well as the coveted Martinsville grandfather clock. “I never thought I’d win a clock until I got a lot of experience under my belt. It’s pretty amazing.”

The move that likely won Pembelton the race came during the first scheduled break in the action at lap 75, when Pembelton’s crew bolted on his allotment of two new Hoosier tires. He made his way back up to third by the time of the second break at lap 150, but unlike most of the field, he decided to stay out and inherited the lead as a result.

“We were talking about it on the grid getting ready to go, strapping in, and my crew chief said let’s try something different,” Pembelton said. “It actually played out a lot better than I thought it would. I really didn’t know what I thought about it at that point, but it actually came out pretty good.”

Behind him, Mike Looney followed the same strategy and stayed out, meaning the rookie Pembelton would restart alongside the veteran Looney for the final dash to the checkered flag.

Pembelton got a great restart and held off Looney, but an immediate caution flag for a spin by Stacy Puryear set up another restart with Pembelton and Looney on the front row. This time around Pembelton got another great restart while Looney spun his tires, allowing Jacob Borst to sneak into second.

The top-three stayed that way until another caution on lap 171 when Corey Heim came to a stop on the track. Utilizing the choose rule, Borst opted to restart behind Pembelton on the bottom while Looney took the top to restart on the front row.

This time around it was Looney who got the better restart, with the 2016 ValleyStar Credit Union 300 winner leading by a fender at the start-finish line the next time around.

Pembelton hung to Looney’s inside and in turns one and two gave Looney a shove up the track, forcing Looney out of the way and allowing Pembelton to clear him to regain the race lead.

Looney fell to third behind Borst after the shove by Pembelton and Looney spent several laps trying to get back around him. The two made contact at one point down the frontstretch that nearly sent both cars sideways, but they both recovered, and Looney eventually got the position back.

By then it was too little, too late for Looney as Pembelton had stretched his lead to more than 2.5 seconds. He crossed the finish line well ahead of Looney to become the 26th different winner in the history of the event.

“We wanted to run this race, we wanted to just try and make it,” Pembelton said. “It’s pretty unbelievable. It was kinda cool out front.”

Now all that remains for Pembelton is to decide where his new Martinsville grandfather clock will live.

“I want to put it in my room, but I don’t have any room,” Pembelton said with a smile. “We can make it work.”

Despite finishing second, Looney was one of the first people to congratulate Pembelton in victory lane after the race. If anyone was going to beat Looney, he said he was thrilled that it was Pembelton.

“The Pembelton family have been racing for a long, long time. They’re good people,” Looney said. “Once he got that gap on me we were too equally matched. I couldn’t run him down. On one hand I would have liked to have a green-white-checkered, but I’m pretty pleased to bring Billy Martin’s car back home in one piece.”

Layne Riggs, who was the leader at the end of the second scheduled break at lap 150, finished third. Recently crowned ARCA Menards Series East champion Sammy Smith was fourth, with Jared Fryar completing the top-five finishers.

Bobby McCarty, who started second and was the race leader at the time of the first 75-lap break, finished sixth and was crowned the 2021 Virginia Triple Crown champion. He earned $7,000 for capturing the three-race championship that also included the Hampton Heat 200 at Langley Speedway and the Thunder Road Harley-Davidson 200 at South Boston Speedway.

The ValleyStar Credit Union 300 will return in 2022 at a date to be announced in the future.

Martinsville Speedway PR

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