This past Monday night, the Grassroots Vintage SK Shootout Series took on the hot and slick Irwindale Speedway for their second event of the 2016 Summer Season. A total of 27 cars hit the track for the 100-lap feature event.
In Time Trials, Bill Martin set the fastest time with a lap of 17.226 seconds to grab his 40th career SARA pole. The top ten cars then transferred into the Qualifying Dash to battle it out for some extra bonus points, and a 6-car invert dropped Martin back, while David Krikorian was inverted to the top spot for the second week in a row. Krikorian got the quick jump and went on to lead every lap for the Dash victory. All 27 cars that attempted to qualify would start the main event.
Krikorian led the field back to the green flag for the 100-lap feature, and quickly jumped ahead using the inside lane on the start to his advantage, but a quick caution set up an early restart. On the lap 7 restart, much of the field scrambled through turns three and four as a number of cars dove down to the apron, but some drivers found out it didn’t work the hard way as they got together to bring out another early caution, this time collecting a number of drivers.
After another incident on lap 20, the field was finally able to settle in which allowed some cars to start working their way towards the front. Krikorian continued to lead up until Bill Martin worked his way up into the 2nd spot and then put the pressure on for the top spot and took the lead away on lap 30. Cody Kelley also worked his way towards the front, and followed Martin up into the 2nd spot after a few laps, and for the remainder of the race, the two drivers would battle up front in a shootout for the top spot.
Behind them, Krikorian dropped back to 3rd, while Matt Rolfe had settled into the 4th spot, and Matt Eddy worked his way by Conner Blaise for 5th. But the battle to watch was for the lead, as Kelley was pushing hard to get by, while Martin battled back to try and hold him off.
With temperatures in the high 80’s, the inside lane provided a little bit of grip and Kelley took his first shot down there on lap 46 to pull up beside Martin, but the momentum on the high side allowed him hold onto the lead. As the leaders worked their way by lapped traffic, Kelley again pulled down to the inside but this time would run a bit higher on track to stay up beside Martin for the next five laps before Kelley was finally able to clear him to take the lead. Martin fought back though as he made the crossover move to take the lead back on lap 52. The two would settle in for a few laps before the next caution flew on lap 57.
After a pair of cautions, the field would set off on their final green flag run to the finish on lap 74, allowing Kelley and Martin to go at it for the top spot once more. Kelley rode in Martin’s tire tracks until he was able to get a run down the backstretch on lap 82 to set him up for another dive down to the apron in turn three. Kelley led the lap at the stripe but the two continued to run side-by-side for the next lap until Martin got loose out of turn four allowing Kelley to get clear in the lead. Martin gave it one more shot on lap 85 as he took his turn down on the apron, but couldn’t make it work.
Over the final 15 laps, once Kelley was able to shake Martin off, he would pull away out front and eventually came around to take the checkered flag nearly 1.5 seconds out in the lead. Kelley would lead 20 laps on his way to his 5th career in the SK Modifieds, and his 35th career SARA victory.
After dueling with Kelley for much of the race, Martin surrendered the lead late but was able to maintain a strong 2nd place finish after leading a race-high 51 laps. Krikorian led the opening 29 laps before dropping back to 3rd, but dropped any lower throughout the remainder of the race to finish on the podium. Rolfe ran inside the top five all race long and eventually settled into the 4th position, but battled late in the race with Matt Eddy who had worked his way up from the 17th starting spot to battle for the top five. Rolfe would hang on for 4th, while Eddy finished in 5th.
Just outside the top five, Cody Erdmann recovered from being in one of the early cautions to work his way up into a 6th place finish. Clay Snider had a solid run inside the top ten after moving up early, and then battled behind Erdmann in the late stages but settled for a 7th place finish. Russell Berry started outside the top 20 but slowly worked his way forward as he stayed out of trouble and cracked the top ten in the second half of the race before finishing in 8th. Evan Sorensen ran just outside the top five for most of the night, before losing a couple of spots in the late stages but held on to finish 9th. Christopher Alcares picked up his first career top ten, after running in the back half of the top twenty for most of the race before moving up to finish in 10th.
After two events on the schedule, the points battle is tight at the top of the standings as David Krikorian leads by just 1 point over Matt Rolfe, while Cody Kelley sits just 3 points back. The division will head to the USA Speedway next week for the Lakeland 100.