On Wednesday night, the MRolfeDesigns Pro Late Model Series visited the Richmond International Raceway for a pair of features, as the division would run Twin 50’s for the 3rd and 4th races of their season.
In race one, the grid would be set by straight up qualifying times, rather than running a Qualifying Dash this week, and it was Tim Bills that set the fast lap and a new track record with a lap of 20.849 seconds. Bills led the field to the green flag and jumped out to an early lead while the rest of the field battled it out behind him.
A couple of early cautions set the race up for a restart on lap 16 and Bills quickly jumped ahead once again, but TJ Hays moved up into the 2nd spot and started to reel in the leader during the next portion of the race. While the two leaders were pulling away out front, some others were battling hard for a spot in the top five as Ty Majeski, Ty Spearman, Bill Martin and Davey Riendeau swapped positions a number of times.
After another set of cautions, the field was set up with a 5-lap run to the finish, where again Bills was able to jump into the lead. This time, Hays wouldn’t let him get away as they ran nose-to-tail at the front of the field. After getting the two to go signal, Bills slipped up coming out of turn two and bounced off the outside wall, and Hays had to make a split second decision to cut down under Bills, but the two would make contact. Bills shot up into the wall once more, and then the two drivers made contact once again sending both cars around as they entered turn three.
As the two leaders spun, Spearman was the first driver to emerge from the smoke and he came around to take the white flag and the caution would finish the race under yellow flag conditions. Spearman came around to take the victory, picking up his first win of the Pro Late Model season, and his 9th career SARA victory, despite leading just 2 laps in the race.
Martin also cleared through the smoke to finish 2nd after running inside the top five all race. Tommy Burns battled just outside the top five all race before moving up to grab 3rd. Anthony Celentano and Russell Berry both ran outside the top ten for much of the event before gaining some spots in the late cautions to move up and take home top five finishes in 4th and 5th respectively.
After race one, the division would return to the rack later in the evening for their second 50 lap feature. All of the cars that finished on the lead lap of the first event were inverted for the second race. TJ Hays’ incident at the end of race one led to him starting race number two from the front row after the invert, and he quickly jumped out into the lead at the drop of the green flag.
The cautions in the second event came out pretty similarly to those in race one, and after a pair of early cautions set up a lap 18 restart where Hays was able to pull away into the lead during the next portion of the race. David Krikorian and Dale Owen swapped the 2nd position a few times before Krikroian gained the advantage and Cody Kelley joined the party as well before a caution on lap 30.
A few more cautions late in the race allowed Hays to hold onto the lead out front, but the field was set up with one last restart and a one lap shootout to decide the winner. Hays led the field back to the green and received a shot from behind from Krikorian as they approached turn one, but Hays made it stick and pulled away on corner exit to extend his lead by a couple of car lengths and then brought his car around to take the checkered flag. The win for Hays was his first career SARA victory, and he did it in dominating fashion by leading all 50 laps.
Krikorian ran inside the top three all race long and gave it a shot late for the win but settled for a 2nd place finish after a strong run. Kelley started deal last on the grid after missing race one, but charged through the field all the way up into a 3rd place finish on the podium. Tom Wetmore battled around the top five for most of the race and picked up some spots late to finish 4th. Owen rounded out the top five with a strong run after he battled for a podium spot early on and ended up finishing 5th.
After four events on the season, Dale Owen takes over the points lead leaving Richmond with a 7 point advantage, and will lead the series into next week’s race at Oxford.