The MRolfeDesigns Pro Late Model Series took on the Phoenix International Raceway this past Wednesday night for an 85-lap event, which also marked the third and final race in the division’s Triple Crown series. Ty Majeski used a late charge after making a pit stop for tires with 25 laps to go, and worked his way back forward during the closing stages of the race to pick up his second straight win in the division.
The night got started with Majeski picking up the pole, with a lap of 28.657 seconds, over a tenth of a second quicker than the rest of the field. An 8-car invert dropped Majeski back into the pack for the feature event however, but it didn’t take long for him to work his way forward. Majeski cracked the top three by lap 10 and then chased down Bill Martin and Joe Schaffer who were battling it out for the lead.
Schaffer took his shot at Martin for the lead, but all it did was left the door open for Majeski to get by up into 2nd, and then he worked his way around Martin to take over the top spot on lap 17. From there, Majeski held onto the lead, with Schaffer not too far behind, up until a caution right at the halfway point of the race. A majority of the front runners decided to stay out on track, while a few drivers used the caution to come down pit road for new rubber.
The second half of the race wasn’t as easy for Majeski, as differing pit strategies shook things up and allowed other drivers to make a charge at the top spot. On the ensuing restart, Ty Spearman used the outside lane to lead a pair of laps while battling side-by-side with Majeski, but couldn’t quite clear him and was forced to settle into 2nd. As the run continued, Tom Wetmore was the first driver with newer tires to make a run at the lead. Wetmore jumped to the outside lane to lead lap 55 on the outside, but he too was unable to clear Majeski prior to the next caution on lap 57.
Under this caution, Majeski, Spearman, and other front runners such as, Bill Martin, Windell Stratton and James Linkiewicz all brought their cars down pit road for their pit stops and an extra set of tires. This left Wetmore out on track in the lead with Schaffer and Matt Rolfe joining him up front, while Martin was the first car off pit road and restarted in the 6th position.
The next 15 lap were wild up front, looking like a Daytona plate race with Wetmore trying to hold off the pack behind him. Schaffer took a couple looks to the inside of Wetmore for the race lead but was unable to make the pass, and Rolfe was able to get by into 2nd. Rolfe took his shot at the race lead on lap 70, but he too couldn’t make the pass, and with each failed pass attempt out front, it was allowing Majeski to charge his way forward on the newer tires, and he finally grabbed the top spot away on lap 75 with a caution coming out a pair of laps later.
The race’s final caution set up a four lap run to the finish, and Majeski got a quick jump in front of the field which didn’t allow anyone to stay up along side him. He pulled ahead by a few car lengths in the opening lap, and never looked back on the final dash to the finish, pulling out to a six-tenths of a second lead as he came around to take the checkered flag. Majeski’s win was his 2nd straight in the division, his 3rd of the season, and his 65th career SARA victory.
Ty Spearman came across the line with a 2nd place finish, after running inside the top five for a majority of the race. After being one of the cars that took his extra set of tires late in the race, Spearman was able to drive back up into the top five in the late stages, and used a good jump on the final restart to move up into 2nd.
Matt Rolfe was another driver that spent a lot of his race running inside the top five, and ended up with a top three finish. Rolfe pitted during the halfway caution, and then made a charge at the lead during the late stages of the race, before drivers with fresher tires worked their way by, and Rolfe had to settle for a 3rd place finish on the podium.
Windell Stratton elected to start at the rear of the field, much like he has done all season, and drove up into the top five prior to halfway. During the second half of the race, some contact dropped Stratton back outside the top ten, but he used a late pit stop to put some new tires on his car, and then drove it back up through the pack to take a 4th place finish in the closing laps.
James Linkiewicz also started at the back of the field, but due to not getting a qualifying lap in, but he too was able to work his way up through the field. Most of his race was spent around the back half of the top ten, but the late set of tires allowed him to charge up to 4th in the closing laps before getting edged out at the line by Stratton, dropping Linkiewicz to a 5th place finish.
Just outside the top five, Ian Layne had a roller coaster night after leading the field to the opening green flag, then falling down as far as 15th, before ending up with a 6th place finish at the checkers. Tom Wetmore started near the rear of the field, but used tires to work up into the lead for 17 laps during the late stages of the race, but fell in the closing laps to finish in 7th. Joe Schaffer seemed to have a top three car all night long before dropping spots late and finished 8th. Bill Martin led 10 laps early in the race, but spent the rest of it running up and down the entire top ten, before a little bit of contact dropped him down to a 9th place finish. Eric Block had a quietly strong finish by the end of the race, after spending most of it outside the top ten, he was able to settle in late to finish in 10th.
The Qualifying Dash victory went to Joe Schaffer. Ian Layne, Windell Stratton, Bill Martin, and Evan Osborne rounded out the top five to gain extra bonus points in the championship standings.
In the Triple Crown battle, Tom Wetmore entered the night with a slim 1-point margin over Russell Berry. Berry’s night ended early however when he was caught up in lap-22 incident, which left the door open for Wetmore to clinch it. Wetmore’s 7th place finish brought his total up to 17 points, which was enough for him to clinch the Triple Crown championship.
In the overall points championship, Ty Spearman padded his points lead by just a couple points with his runner up finish, and now leads the standings by 45 points. Spearman will lead the division into next week’s season finale at South Boston, as a part of SoBo Championship Week.