2022 Lunkerdaddy Pro Late Model champion Kyle Keller of Las Vegas became the second repeat winner of the 2023 campaign, claiming Saturday’s round eight from Madera Speedway. The MAVTV-televised race served as the penultimate round for the closely contested championship and had many twists and turns over its 80-lap distance.
Keller topped qualifying as the first repeat fast-timer this season then drew ninth in the redraw. Points leader Tyler Herzog of Fresno drew fifth while second in points Jacob Smith of Eagle, Idaho had to march from tenth.
Opening night winner Robbie Kennealy of Madera led the opening lap of the race before a quick caution. Multi-time champion Matt Erickson and Kennealy locked horns for the lead on the restart. Erickson led lap three. Kennealy slid through the infield in turn three after contact, falling back to fourth but the race stayed green.
The caution fell on lap 11 for Trevor Schlundt spinning in turn three. Herzog drove underneath round seven winner Shelden Cooper of Clovis for second. Two more cautions slowed the action and the subsequent restart scrambles allowed 51FIFTY Jr. Late Model standout Chase Hand of Wilton to knife into second. Hand then challenged Erickson from the inside for the lead on a lap 17 restart. Erickson and Hand collided heading into turn one, sending both into a slide to bring out the caution.
Tenth-starting Smith inherited the lead after the early-race fireworks and led lap 20. Herzog tried the outside of Cooper for second to no avail. Hand then tangled with Schlundt on lap 32, relegating him to restart at the rear of the field for a second time.
Cooper slowed with sparks underneath his machine on lap 33 for a caution flag. He was able to rejoin the race but was penalized a lap for drawing the caution.
Loomis’ Kenna Mitchell battled with Erickson before they came together as well, sending both into a spin on the front stretch. Mitchell was unable to continue in the race with damage.
Kennealy had oil pan damage from his lap four spin that eventually erupted, sparking a multi-car crash in turn one in the fluid on lap 48. Fresno’s Rick Thompson suffered heavy damage that dropped him out of the top-five. Bass Lake’s Mike Hensley and Schlundt were eliminated from the race. Fourth-running Glen Cook of Mariposa also had a leak in the rear end but he was able to make repairs during the Mission Racing Style Tortilla Chips break.
When racing resumed, Cook unfortunately spun after contact from 51FIFTY Jr. Late Model points leader Vito Cancilla of Martinez on lap 51. The following restart was an exciting one with two-by-two action at the front between Smith, Herzog, Keller, and Hand. Herzog and Smith made contact twice, with the second contact sending the duo spinning down the front stretch for a caution on lap 56.
The final caution of the event flew on lap 77 when Thompson and Erickson had a coming together on the front stretch while Erickson attempted to lap Thompson.
Keller prevailed over the numerous restarts and excitement to win the feature. Smith charged around Hand for second position. Herzog and Cook rounded out the top-five. Herzog will lead Smith by just ten points heading into the season finale: the $10,000-to-win Short Track Shootout on October 7.
Martinez’ Vito Cancilla eclipsed 400-laps led in the 51FIFTY Jr. Late Model Series in 2023, muscling past season-long challenger Chase Hand of Wilton, Calif. for Cancilla’s seventh triumph of the season as he moves closer to the championship.
Hand had won the fast-time award in the last two races and was seven-for-seven on runner-up finishes heading into round eight. Cancilla answered by topping qualifying then drawing the pole position during the redraw. Hand drew second for a heads-up duel of the top two in the series in a 70-lap race for drivers ages 10-16.
Cancilla leapt to the lead while Castro Valley’s Cam Carraway battled with Madera’s Joey Kennealy for third. Lincoln’s Kylie Glick slid through the infield to fall to the back of the pack on lap seven.
Carraway got loose in a tight battle with Texan Tristan Pena in turn two, with Pena spinning to avoid for the first caution on lap 24. Hand challenged Cancilla for the lead on the outside while Kennealy challenged Bakersfield’s Taylor Mayhew on the outside for third as well.
Hand led lap 27 before Cancilla led lap 28. Hand wrestled the lead back on lap 29. Kennealy won the side-by-side battle for third, nabbing the position on lap 35.
Reno’s Mia Wright spun on the front stretch on lap 36 to bring the race to its Mission Racing Style Tortilla Chips race break. Hand led Cancilla, Kennealy, Mayhew, and Carraway into the break for adjustments and interviews.
Mayhew fell backwards on the outside line on the restart while Cancilla ran all over the back bumper of Hand. Cancilla tried to muscle Hand in turn four on laps 49 and 51 to no avail. Cancilla finally muscled his way to the inside in turn two on lap 52, taking over the top spot on lap 53.
Hand tried to answer back on the outside before crossing over to the inside of Cancilla on the frontstretch on lap 54. Cancilla held court, taking the coveted seventh victory of the season followed by Hand, Kennealy, Mayhew, and Carraway.
Tyler Ridley won the 30-lap MST feature in which ten Mini Super Toyotas took the green flag. Tim Kammerer, Rian Bowman, and Patrick Geiger each led a lap during the first three laps of competition. Geiger paced Ridley throughout the main event. Lapped traffic reared its head, allowing Ridley to sweep past Geiger on the outside to lead lap 29.
Ridley led Geiger, Joseph Holliday, Kyle Labrie, and Thomas Magray at the checkered flag.
In INEX Bandolero competition, Kaine Bettancourt topped Andrew Williams in a 20-lap race.
Madera Speedway competes again on September 29 and 30 with the Harvest Classic, including the Speed Tour Super Modifieds on Saturday night.
For more information about the Madera Speedway including how to advertise with a race team on MAVTV please visit www.racemadera.com or call the race office at 209-356-1968.
The 2023 season would not be possible without the support of Lunkerdaddy Fishing Lures, 51FIFTY LTM, Mission Foods, 805 Beer, Race 2B Drug Free, Competition Carburetion, Hoosier Tires, and Sunoco Race Fuel.
Madera Racing on MAVTV airs Monday nights at 5:00pm Pacific and 8:00pm Eastern.
2023 MADERA MAVTV LATE MODEL SCHEDULE
March 18 – $5,000-to-win
May 20 – Military Tribute Night
June 24 – Reverend Ron Spencer Red, White Blue Classic
July 22 – $5,000-to-win
October 7 – $10,000-to-win Short Track Shootout
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