The 2016 Spring Season came to a close for the NEO Racing News SK Shootout Series on Monday night as the division took on the South Boston Speedway for their season finale. The SK Modifieds kicked off SoBo Championship Week with a 150-lap feature event that would determine the first champion of the season.
Bill Martin entered the night on top of the standings by 15 points over Ty Majeski, with Ian Layne lurking close behind just 23 points back of the lead. Second place driver missed the event, leaving Martin to hold off Layne for the title.
The night got started with Tyler Hudson picking up his first career SARA pole, narrowly beating out both Matt Rolfe and Tim Bills by just .001 seconds. The top ten cars from Time Trials then advanced into the Qualifying Dash, where a 9-car invert sent Hudson back into the pack, while newcomer Colton Landes was inverted to the front. Two drivers that missed the Dash were Layne who qualified 11th, and Martin who didn’t get a lap down and started 23rd in the feature. In the Dash, Landes led the field to the green flag but it was Derek Robinson who got by and then held off the pack to pick up the Dash victory.
In the feature event, Landes led the field back to the green for the opening run of the race. A caution on lap 7 set up the night’s first restart of the race, and drivers were quick to pounce as James Linkiewicz worked his way past Landes to take over the race lead on lap 16.
After another caution on lap 21, the field then set out on a 25-lap green flag run with Linkiewicz still out front. Spearman followed Linkiewicz up into the 2nd spot, with Tyler Hudson climbing his way up into the top three in the opening laps of the run, and the trio of cars began to separate themselves from the rest of the field. Another caution bunched everyone together once more for the lap 57 restart, which led to a 70+ lap green flag.
Linkiewicz jumped back out ahead on the restart with Spearman following within a couple of car tenths behind him, and Martin worked his way towards the front of the field to join them in the top three. As the laps ticked off during the run, the drivers with a long-run setup began to move forward and this included Spearman who made his move into the lead on lap 76, and then began to pull away while Linkiewicz and Martin battled for 2nd. Matt Rolfe worked his way up into 4th while Hudson slipped back to 5th with a loose handling car.
As the race crossed the lap 100 mark, and then the lap 125 mark, it had the appearance as if the race could go green to the finish. Martin had moved up into 2nd and was maintaining the position, while his championship contender Layne was running at the back half of the top ten, and Martin just about had everything locked up for back-to-back titles.
That all changed however on lap 130 when Martin clipped the outside wall and nearly spun out trying to save it. While Martin was still attempting to regain control, Rolfe was left with not much room to get by, and would get into the back of Martin sending him into the outside wall, ultimately ending Martin’s night, leaving the fate of the championship in the hands of Layne.
With the caution coming out with less than 20 to go, most of the field took advantage of the caution to come down pit road to get new tires and to make one last run to the checkers. Two drivers that stayed out however, were Spearman and Linkiewicz who decided to hang onto their track position with older tires. Behind the two leaders, Hudson would move up into 3rd with four fresh tires, as well as Clay Snider who would restart 4th, and Russell Berry joined them in the top five after taking just two tires.
On the lap 135 restart, Spearman and Linkiewicz ran side by side, but as they battled it kept the door open for Hudson to get under Linkiewicz to fight it out for 2nd. Spearman looked to keep both driver behind him but coming out of turn two on lap 137, Spearman slipped up allowing Hudson to get a run up his inside. Hudson came around to lead lap 138, but had Snider following him up into 2nd and the two drivers with the freshest tires would battle it out to the finish.
In the closing laps, Hudson was able to pull away by a couple car lengths, and it was a gap that Snider couldn’t close. Hudson pulled out to over a half-second lead, when the final caution flew on lap 148, sealing the deal for Hudson. He would lead the field around under the checkered and yellow flags, and would pick up his first career SARA victory while leading just 13 laps after the late move to come down pit road for new tires.
Behind Hudson, Snider was able to maintain the 2nd spot in the closing laps, after he ran in the back half of the top ten before making a late charge to contend for the win. Despite staying out on old tires, both Spearman and Linkiewicz were able to hang on to 3rd and 4th place finishes respectively, after both leading 60+ laps each during the race. Russell Berry worked his way up from a 22nd place starting spot before moving into the top five late with his two-tire strategy and ended up finishing in 5th.
With the championship outcome possibly being determined by Ian Layne’s finish after Martin was knocked out 20 laps short, Layne was able to work his way up to finish 6th.
However the finish wasn’t enough, as Martin was able to maintain the points lead by just 9 points at the end of the night, and he would leave South Boston as the SK Modified champion.
Bill Martin’s championship run consisted of 2 wins, 2 poles, 7 top fives, 9 top tens, and 162 laps led, as he would earn his 2nd straight, and 3rd overall SARA SK Modified Championship. The title for Martin was also his 7th career SARA championship, which is most all-time.
The Rookie of the Season title at the end of the night would go to Eric Block. Block picked up 6 top ten finishes in his rookie season, and scored 69 out of a possible 80 points in the rookie standings during his first full season in the SK Modifieds.
Despite missing a few races on the season, Ty Majeski ended up with the Qualifying Dash title, earning 27 total Dash points during the season, 8 more than any other driver.
Michael German won the Triple Crown title two week’s earlier at Irwindale.