UKIAH, California — No surprise here, Tom Caturegli always brings a fast competitive late model to the track and the Caturegli family is known to have some of the best drivers around. This time was no different. Clay Caturegli, piloting the Black #45 late model, took the lead on lap 2 and never looked back.
A hot and sunny day at Ukiah Speedway did not stop the AABLM from breaking another record. Mike Lovell set fast time and new record for the Ukiah Speedway with a 12.464. He was followed by Mike Doss 12.539, Chris Straka 12.589, Eric Graham 12.597 and Kevin Ostern 12.602.
Lovell won the fast dash; followed by Ostern, Doss, Forrest Kuecker, Straka and Graham. Eric Williamson won the slow dash; followed by Lissa Uselton, Joe “Potatoes” Aiken, Myles Anderson, Kevin Estep and Mike Bourbon.
Ukiah Speedway brought out late models from 5 different counties; this track seems to attract driver talent. We had a newcomer to the AABLM Series, Lissa Uselton from Eureka. Junior “Hot Rod” Roddy of Gualala was present, along with the AABLM regulars.
The main started with 19 late models lined up behind Jim Stillman on the pole and Corey James on his outside. James broke on warm-up laps, so that moved the outside row up one position, giving Clay the front row spot.
Stillman got the jump on Caturegli, but that didn’t last long as Caturegli took the lead on the second lap. The first of 6 cautions came out on lap 4 for Blair Aiken and Anderson. The field restarted with Caturegli in the lead and Berndt Akerstrom in second where he stayed for
55 laps. It looked like Akerstrom was glued to his tail, until his #37 North Counties Development late model broke and ended his evening. 28 laps flew by without a caution, until Kuecker’s loose car got away from him in turn 1, sending him over the embankment. He was able to rejoin the field under caution and resume racing at the back of the pack. The third yellow came out for multi-car spins on lap 38; the first group was Straka and Ostern. Both drivers went into the pits, Straka’s #48, sponsored by the Buckhorn Club, was done for the night and Ostern’s crew continued to work on his car. Before they could count a lap under green, Williamson over steered in turn 2, bringing out another yellow and allowed Ostern the opportunity to rejoin the pack without losing a lap. The 4th caution was for a 3 car wreck in turn 4 involving Joe, Williamson and Uselton.
Joe Aiken of B.A.D. Racing and Williamson, sponsored by Ukiah Automotive, were done for the night. Uselton restarted at the back of the field. A 5th yellow came out for a single car spin by Estep on lap 53; he was able to restart at the end of the field. The 6th and final yellow came out for veteran drivers Graham and Roddy. We could see this coming, they were both driving hard and looking to occupy the same piece of real estate and laps were counting down. Uselton was collected in this, ending the evening for her purple #29 sponsored by John’s Used Cars and Wreckers.
Time was running out, and the Ukiah Speedway time coordinator, Nadine Strauss, had to make the call to shorten the race. All drivers were told by their spotters that the next caution would bring out a checker. With the drivers knowing their time was limited; the leaders got a little restless and had a false start. Caturegli and Stillman tangled before the green came out and were able to hold their position. 3 laps later, the checker came out at lap 66 due to time constraints. Clay gladly took the checker, followed by Stillman, Lovell, Doss and points leader Ostern.
Caturegli, who accepted his trophy in the pits, was quoted” I got spun on the restart, but got straightened out and kept the lead.”