The 2016 Spring Season for the Sim Auto Racing Association got under way on Monday night, as the NEO Racing News SK Shootout Series hit the track at the Iowa Speedway for a 100 lap feature event.
A total of 29 cars made it on track for the feature event, but before that it was Bill Martin who set the fastest lap in Time Trials with a lap time of 24.022 seconds, besting his own track record from last season to grab his 37th career SARA pole. The top ten cars from Time Trials advanced into the Qualifying Dash, and a full ten car invert sent Martin back in the pack while Michael German was inverted to the front of the field. It didn’t take long for Martin and other drivers such as Cody Kelley and Tom Wetmore to charge to the front of the field though, and they all battled it out coming to the checkered flag with Martin beating Kelley to the line by inched for the Dash victory.
Michael German led the field to the green flag in the feature event and jumped out into the lead. Once again however, Martin, Kelley, and Wetmore were charging to the front and this time it was Wetmore that made it out front and took over the top spot by lap 9. Wetmore held the lead until lap 29 when Kelley made his move to the bottom for the lead, and then Martin took his turn when took the lead on lap 36 and led until the next caution just past halfway on lap 52. A majority of the field headed down pit road during the caution to take on a new set of tires for the second half of the race.
One driver that stayed out was newcomer Derrike Prater who led the field back to green, but it didn’t take long for the new tires to pounce as Wetmore was the first to work his way back up into the lead. On lap 73, as the top three cars battled they all made contact which opened the door back up for Martin to get by to retake the lead, and it also allowed Ty Majeski to make up some ground as he joined the fight up front as the laps counted down.
A lap 90 caution set up one final restart with just six laps to go, and Martin jumped out into the lead but Majeski had worked his way into 2nd and closed in on the rear bumper of the leader. As the leaders came out of turn two on lap 96, Martin’s car slid out from under him and as he got up into the wall, Majeski took advantage and got by into the lead, just as the caution came out behind them which sealed the victory for Majeski as the race ended under the checkered and yellow flags. Majeski led only 5 laps total on the night as he had to come from the 27th starting spot after missing qualifying, but they were the most important ones as he ended up with the victory, his milestone 50th career SARA win.
Martin hung on for 2nd after getting into the wall, and after having arguably the fastest car on track for most of the night but one slight slip up cost him the win. Kelley maintained his spot on the podium with a 3rd place finish after contended out front all race long. Anthony Celentano and Patrick Hahe both had quiet nights, but made up ground at the mid-race caution and both worked their way up into the top five late in the race for 4th and 5th place finishes, respectively.
Just outside the top five, another newcomer Mike Alexander had a good run as he ran as high as 4th during the first half of the race and made his way back up into a 6th place finish. Christian Pedersen was another driver that missed qualifying and had to come from the back of the field, and was able to work towards the front during the second half of the race to take 7th. Matt Eddy ran just outside of the top ten early in the race and picked up some spots during the mid-race caution and held onto that track position for an 8th place finish. After starting up front, Michael German slipped back into the back half of the top ten before settling into a 9th place finish. Time Bills rounded out the top ten as he too came from the back but was only able make it as high as 10th which is where he finished.
After the first event of the season, despite not picking up the win, Bill Martin leaves Iowa with a 9 point lead in the standings as the division will head to Oxford Plains next week for the second race of the season.