MADERA, California — For driver Matt Erickson, Lady Luck must have been on his side in round two of the Coors Light Open Late Model Series 100-lap race presented by Gene Adams Paving on Saturday, April 28, 2012, at the Madera Speedway.
The Toyota Sedans, Hobby Stocks, MSTs and 4-Bangers were also featured.
Though he trailed for the first 85 laps, it was Erickson that was the recipient of the $1,000 payout as he won the 100-lap main in the Coors Light Open Late Models division.
It was when race-leader Trevor Schlundt of Clovis spun around after Bakersfield’s Dallas Montes got into him on Lap 85 that Erickson found himself in first place.
With new a fortune, Erickson was able to fend off a late push by trophy dash winner Kenny Smith in the waning laps to pull out the victory. While Smith finished second, Dale Kascht took third.
“I tend to have bad luck on these open shows, so I was just hoping that nothing would break and the rear would hold up,” Erickson said in the winner’s circle. “The last couple of races here, I would be leading but then have rear-end and transmission issues or just flat-out bad luck. But luck was on my side today and I came home with a win.”
In the first of the two 50-lap twin mains, it looked as if Schlundt, who had the fastest qualifying time and also won a six-lap trophy dash earlier in the day, would be the runaway winner.
After the first lap, Schlundt created distance between him and the rest of the nine-car field with Montes, who won the first round of the Coors Light Open Late Models series on March 24, 2012, in second.
Erickson and Bryan Herzog, who spun out, were each sent to the end of the race after a caution on Lap 20.
While Erickson was making his way back, Smith passed Montes to get into second on Lap 23.
Before long, Erickson was behind Montes before the yellow flag was waved on Lap 48 as the drivers went back to the pits with Schlundt leading.
“At that point, I was just trying to stay on the bumper of the car that was in front of me and I think at that time it was the No. 6 car (Montes),” Erickson said.
When the cars returned for the second 50-lap main, Schlundt contined to hold his position after the restart though Smith, Erickson and Montes were right behind.
“After the first 50, I thought he was going to walk away with it,” Erickson said. “But when he came back I thought he was having transmission troubles, but they fixed it and he got back out there and led a couple of more laps, but in first place, you can’t go wrong there.”
With 20 laps to go, Smith caught up to Schlundt as the two were in an unlikely battle. Five laps later, Schlundt was turned around by Montes after Turn 4 as both drivers were sent to the rear.
“I was just hoping that Trevor would burn his stuff up and that’s what happened and allowed the No. 99 and No. 6 car to bunch up,” Erickson said.
After the caution, Erickson bolted out in front and held his ground for the final 14 laps and two restarts, including one on Lap 98.
“I just took some advice and went on the outside and the car stuck,” he said. “It was the best its ever hooked up on the outside there. I like this track because of the flat corners and then you get the progressive banking as you go up that allows for side-by-side racing but this new asphalt made it a lot of fun here because before it was almost a one-groove track but now its probably a three-groove track.”
Montes finished fourth in the race and Rick Thompson rounded out the top five.
One driver that has definitely had a ton of prosperity on the speedway’s newly paved track is Hobby Stock driver Frank Mazzei.
While Mazzei won his fourth straight main, he was taken to the limit by Ryan Hart in the 25-lap race.
Out of nowhere, Hart almost caught Mazzei near the finish line as there was just a difference of 0.144 seconds between the two.
“I’m out here helping Ryan and I’ll help any racer that wants me to,” Mazzei said. “I told (track owner) Kenny Shepherd that I want to get more cars in this class and if that takes helping people work on their cars, I’ll donate my time.”
It was the third straight second-place finish for Hart though it was too close for comfort for Mazzei.
“The guy (Hart) is nice, I hit him in the trophy dash and I felt so bad,” Mazzei said. “If I don’t win the championship, I hope he does.”
Hart led for the first five laps before Mazzei established his position.
On Lap 8, Hart’s car tapped into Richard Herzog, who had the fast qualifying time of 18.235.
After the restart, Mazzei continued to hold his lead but it was by far his closest challenge as Hart caught up to him with two laps remaining to make it a near photo-finish.
For the fourth time this season, Mazzei donated his first-place trophy to a child in the grandstands.
“This is a fun family deal and that is why I give all my trophies to the little kids,” Mazzei said.
While Mazzei and Hart competed for the top spot, Sheldon Cooper, who won the six-lap trophy dash, took third.
Two drivers that returned to the winner’s circle were Jarred Tickel in the Toyota Sedans division and Kevin Thompson in the MST class.
Thompson won the 30-lap MST race a week after he crashed his racecar in qualifying and was absent for the main after winning the first two of the season.
“I didn’t watch last week’s race,” Thompson said. “I left early because I had to get my car back in the shop because of how bad it was. I wasn’t too happy about it. That was the first time that I wrecked and couldn’t get the car out to at least start the main event.”
Before the main, Thompson had the top qualifying time and won the six-lap trophy dash though he wasn’t quite sure how the car would do for a full main.
“It feels great to be back but when you get a car bent up as much as I bent this up last week, you never know how it will go,” Thompson said. “Being that it was the first time out on the track, it was a little scary and I wanted be a little cautious but the car is almost back to where it was before the wreck.”
For the first 10 laps, it was the father/son combination of John McCollum Sr. and Jr. that held the top two spots. With McCollum Sr. in the slight lead, Thompson started to pull away from McCollum Jr. in second before overtaking the leader on Lap 11.
“I just stayed in there and waited for the right opportunity because the McCollums were right there,” Thompson said. “I had one in front and one behind me, so it was tough to pass. Then they were both beside me and we were all running real strong. It was just good racing.”
From that point, Thompson continued to move forward and despite the setback from a week ago, won his third main of the season.
“It really put me way back in the points but we’re going to do the best we can to try to climb our way back into this points race,” Thompson said. “We are going to come out and race real strong against the McCollums and all the guys that show up each week and do the best we can.”
McCollum Sr. finished second in the race while McCollum Jr. took third a week after winning the main.
In the Toyota Sedans division, Tickel became the first repeat winner of the division.
Tickel, who hasn’t finished lower than third in any of his races this season, took the opener on April 7 but watched as Donnie Large Jr. and Ed Rodriguez each claimed mains in consecutive weeks.
“It’s a close group of people and makes for good racing,” Tickel said. “I’m having tons of fun out here.”
Madera’s Del McIntosh led for the first half of the race before Tickel, who passed Bud Tickel on Lap 12, caught up to him. After a caution that saw last week’s race winner Rodriguez spin out, Tickel took the lead from McIntosh on the Lap 16 restart.
“His (McIntosh) car’s running good and he isn’t going to mess up,” Tickel said. “So I had to go around him on the outside and it handled well out there.”
Tickel, who won the six-lap trophy dash and had the fast qualifying time, looked like he was back to his first race form as he rode to victory in the eight-car field. McIntosh took second while Large Jr. finished third.
While Tickel and Thompson earned another main win, a driver that experience his first victory of the season was Tyler Johnson of Dos Palos.
Johnson won the 15-lap main in the 4-Bangers division.
“It feels pretty good to finally get this first main event win,” he said. “I’ve had trophy dash wins but to finally win a main event this year is pretty nice and a pretty good set for the championship at the end of the year.”
Johnson took the lead from Nastasia Dodd on the second lap and rode on to his first win after three straight second place finishes.
“I hope to get many more wins but if this is the only one, I’m happy I got it,” Johnson said.
Johnson, who also won the trophy and had the fast qualifying time, hasn’t missed a race this season.
“Consistency really is key out here in this division,” Johnson said. “I’ve been racing for six years, so I have a little bit more experience than some of the rookies in this field, so I feel that does give me more of an edge, especially on this new pavement.”
It will be a big-time event when the Madera Speedway returns to action on May 5, 2012 as its hosts the Vukovich Classic/Super Saturday Round #1 presented by Coors Light 410/360 Super Modifieds, USAC Sprint Cars, BCRA/USAC Midgets, USAC Focus Midgets, NCMA Sprints Cars, Vintage Super Modifieds, Valley Sportsman and BCRA Vintage & Midgets.
Toyota Sedans — 30 Laps
Donnie Large Jr.
Hobby Stocks — 30 Laps
MST — 30 Laps
John McCollum Sr.
John McCollum Jr.
Main — 15 Laps
Trophy Dash — 6 Laps
Coors Light Late Models — Dash 1
Coors Light Late Models — Dash 2
Toyota Sedans — Dash 1
Donnie Large Jr.
Toyota Sedans — Dash 2
John McCollum Sr.
John McCollum Jr.
Qualifying — 2 Laps
Coors Light Late Models
Trevor Schlundt 15.272
Dallas Montes 15.302
Matt Erickson 15.493
Bryan Herzog 15.508
Dale Kascht 15.552
Ronnie Roberts 15.624
Howard Holden 15.757
Rick Thompson 15.871
Kenny Smith 15.871
Jarred Tickel 17.901
Bud Tickel 17.924
Donnie Large Jr. 18.095
Del McIntosh 18.169
Jesse Ruckman 18.323
Ed Rodriguez 18.411
Kyle Fortney 18.488
Tim Curtis 19.128
Richard Herzog 18.235
Frank Mazzie 18.295
Sheldon Cooper 18.732
Ryan Hart 18.756
Don Selsor 19.128
Kevin Thompson 16.794
John McCollum Jr. 17.111
Gene Adams 17.388
John McCollum Sr. 17.546
Tyler Johnson 19.545
Nastasia Dodd 20.497
Adam McEwen 20.966
Tres Clevland 21.158