This past Monday night, the NEO Racing News SK Shootout Series headed out west to take on the Irwindale Speedway for a 125-lap feature event, which also marked the third and final Triple Crown race of the season.
The night got started with Ty Majeski picking up his 7th pole of the season, with a lap of 17.048 seconds in Time Trials. A six car invert would drop Majeski back though for the race, as well as the Qualifying Dash as Matt Eddy was the beneficiary of the invert. Eddy led the top ten cars from Time Trials into the Dash, but it was Colin Allman that got around Eddy on the high side on lap one to take the lead. Allman brough Bill Martin up the outside with him, and when the two of them started battling, they made contact sending both cars around, allowing Majeski to sneak by on the outside, and Majeski went on to pick up the Dash win for some extra bonus points towards his championship lead.
Matt Eddy led the field to the green flag once again for the feature event and this time got the early jump into the lead while the field began to battle it out behind him. Allman was able to settle into the second spot in the opening laps and was the first to make a move on Eddy for the lead, and he made it stick on the bottom groove and took over the top spot on lap 13.
As Eddy began to get shuffled back on the outside, Bill Martin worked his way up into 2nd, while a few laps later Majeski took over 3rd with a diving move under James Linkiewicz to take the position away. By lap 20, Martin had eaten into Allman’s lead out front and began putting the pressure on for the race lead. Martin made his move to the inside, and the two drivers ran side by side for a couple of laps, which was allowing Majeski to close the gap as well. On lap 24, Allman clipped the outside wall entering turn three, which resulted in a little bit of contact between himself and Martin, and Martin was able to take advantage as he moved up into the lead with Majeski moving up into the 2nd position.
As the green flag run continued, Martin remained in the lead with Majeski stalking him just a few car lengths behind. The leaders began working through lapped traffic by lap 45, and as they approached another lapped car on lap 52, Martin was forced to check up on the exit of turn two which allowed Majeski to get a run, and he dove it down to the bottom lane to try and get by Martin.
Martin was able to power by on the outside to maintain the lead, but Majeski wasn’t done as he chased Martin back down and gave it another shot on lap 55. This time Majeski shot it down to the very bottom of the track, and just barely cleared Martin on exit, and forced him to check up as the 91 machine took over the lead. Martin fought back as well however and chased Majeski back down by lap 63, and made his move back to the low side, but when Majeski tried closing the door, the two cars made contact sending Majeski around and out of the race lead as the race reached half way.
With the race being a Triple Crown event, the drivers would each have an extra set of tires waiting for them in the pits and most of the field took advantage on the caution to come down and get some fresh rubber. Matt Rolfe led the first group of cars down pit road from the 4th position, while on the next time around Linkiewicz and Majeski also came down from the 2nd and 3rd positions, leaving Martin out front as the only car on old tires. However Martin would also come down a lap later, and when things cycled out, it was Rolfe who led the field back to the green flag.
Rolfe got the jump out ahead on the lap 70 restart after the front of the field was shaken up during the pit cycle. He would pull away by about five car lengths before Allman was able to slide up into 2nd ahead of Michael German as the next green flag run continued. The top three remained unchanged prior to the next caution on lap 86, meanwhile Martin and Linkiewicz had been trying to work their way back to the front as the battled Eddy for the 4th position.
On the ensuing restart, Rolfe led the field back to the green but slid up on the exit of turn two, allowing Allman to pull the crossover to get to his inside, but the next lap around as the battled hard for the lead, contact would result in Rolfe getting pushed up into the wall as Allman drove on into the lead. German moved up into 2nd with Martin advancing into 3rd, and the top three would battle it out for the race lead over the next 20 laps.
Allman continued to lead through lap 100, as German and Martin fought hard for the 2nd spot, but both were able to keep within a couple car lengths of the leader. Martin kept looking to the inside, diving it down to the very bottom in turns three and four, and finally way able to gain the advantage on lap 109 before setting his sights on Allman out front. Just two laps later, Martin returned to the bottom of the track, and after a pair of attempts he was able to clear himself into the race lead. Allman was unable to pull off the crossover move, and then fought with German for 2nd before he would ultimately get loose on lap 113 and ended up spinning around out of the third position for the race’s final caution.
The yellow set up one final restart with just 6 laps to go, but with Martin back out front, he would have no issues as he quickly gained the advantage by a few car lengths, and maintained the gap as he came around to take the checkered flag for the victory. The win for Martin was the 2nd of the season for him, his 13th career SK Modified win, and his 37th career SARA victory, moving him up into a tie for 2nd all time.
Behind Martin, Michael German matched his best SK Modified finish of the season in 2nd, after moving up into the top three during the pit cycle and then remained there for the rest of the race. Matt Rolfe led 25 lap during the middle portion of the race before getting knocked back but was able to fight his way up into a 3rd place finish on the podium. After leading the opening laps of the race, Matt Eddy fell into the back half of the top ten during the opening run, but had a solid car in the second half of the race and finished in 4th. Rounding out the top five was Ian Layne, who was on the outside looking in for most of the race before picking up a couple spots late to finish in 5th. Michael Baxter, Eric Block, Kyle Vergata, Mark Welch, and Majeski rounded out the top ten.
In the Triple Crown battle, Majeski came in as the favorite after winning the first two events in the series, but with his mid race spin and some technical issues that dropped him down to a 10th place finish, it opened the door for Michael German to have a shot. With German’s 2nd place finish, he would end up in a tie with Majeski at the top of the standings with 12 points a piece, and with the tie-breaker going to the driver with the best finish in the final race of the series, Michael German would be crowned the Triple Crown champion.
In the points hunt though, despite his 10th place finish and despite Bill Martin taking the win, Majeski was able to keep the points loss to a minimum with the aid of bonus points, and only lost 7 points as he continues to lead the championship standings by 49 points with just two races remaining in the season. Next week, Majeski will lead the division into the Stafford Motor Speedway for a 100 lap feature event.