Outlaw Racing News
Wigent Dominant in Road America Runaway
Elkhart Lake, WI - Wrangling these cars around the 14 turn monster that is Road America is already tough enough. For some coming to Elkhart Lake is a matter of survival, bringing home equipment in one piece. For others it life or death, running these 3400lb beasts on the ragged edge, scrapping for every inch of surface for whatever grip they can find. Pacey Wigent put the series on notice after being the only driver in the 2:06 bracket during practice and qualifying. Polishing the night off with a sweep of the stages and becoming the first repeat winner of the season.
Coming into Road America, most everyone knew Wigent would be the one to beat. Posting times in the 2:06 bracket in practice leading up to the race while only a handful of drivers lurked within the 2:07's. He followed that up still by capturing the pole by 7 tenths of a second over Aaron Dukes with an even lower 2:06.738. Yet after the green flag flew, Wigent proceeded to set himself behind the 8 ball, running wide of turn 1 and falling back to 8th. Dukes would inherit the lead but only for a moment as Dukes would run wide as well, barreling through the sand trap at Canada Corner. Dukes would fall the 4th as Sam Wade took over the top spot and led the opening lap. Wade would soon come under fire from Shad Swatsworth, as the two would engage in a series of battles until Swatsworth would emerge with the lead coming to 2 to go. While the battle for the lead cooled off, Wigent had sliced back through the field climbing all the way to third. Wade wouldn't be able to hold Wigent off for long as he would relinquish second and eventually third before the laps end. Wigent then set his sights on Swatsworth, finding himself only a half second back by the time the white flag flew. Though Swatsworth put up a gallant defense, a mistake going into the Moraine Sweep saw the 21 Chevy go wide into turn 5, as Wigent retook the lead. Swatsworth would settle in second as Wigent would claim stage number 1.
Stage 2 wouldn't quite see the same level of excitement as Wigent would pull away off the restart. Dukes would have early issues dropping him to 4th but would again rebound to 2nd by stage end. The gamble for Zach Gandee would pay off who pitted late in stage 1, traded in for track position in stage 2, holding on to 4th acquiring those much needed stage points as mechanical failures would plague the 19 before the end. Wigent though had set sail opening up over a 4 second gap on Dukes in second, taking the second stage as well.
The final stage would see a little different game being played as much of the field looked to make the final 11 laps on a one stop strategy. For the first stint Wigent would have to haul in the reigns and drop pace opening the door for Dukes to make numerous challenges at the lead. After Dukes took the first lap or two to get his pace set, the number 1 Chevy began reeling in the 0 of Wigent. The Moraine Sweep seemed the place to be as lap after lap Dukes would make a late brake attempt to take the long way around Wigent down in Turn 5. With out fail Dukes would hang on the door of Wigent but as they made the uphill run to turn 6, Wigents' inside advantage would fight off the challenge. Until coming to 5 to go, Dukes again looked to the right of Wigent down the Moraine Sweep, but with a small nudge to Wigents right rear, forcing the number 0 just wide enough for Dukes to snake through for the lead out of turn 6. However he wouldn't be able to enjoy it for long, with Wigent close in tow, the number 0 would fight back to the right of Dukes through the Carousel and heading for the kink of the Kettle Bottoms door to door. Much in the way of paying Dukes back, Wigent gave a nudge to Dukes through the kink, sending Dukes off. Though Wigent would lose some time down through the Kettle Bottoms getting his car back straight, the incident opened up a solid three second gap as the two headed to pit road for their one stop. As the pit sequence cycled through Dukes was again back chasing Wigent, with Swatsworth just a few seconds behind. Dukes would finally find his speed rattling off quicker and quicker laps, even joining the 2:06 club, and widdling down Wigents' lead to just under a second. All until a mistake coming through the Hurry Downs and into turn 8, took the number 1 wide allowing Wigent to regain the time he'd lost. With just 2 laps to go it all became a formality. Wigent would make one final 110ft climb up the Road America Straight en route to his second win on the season. Dukes would come home in second as a lingering Shad Swatsworth shadowed him in third. Sam Wade produced his second top five of the season with a fourth as Richard McGinnis, in his first race back in several seasons, rounded out the top five.
Another solid points night for Aaron Dukes saw him maintain his championship lead seeing him only drop one point over the new second place contender Pacey Wigent. With tonight's resounding win Wigent jumped 2 spots in the standings, leap frogging Ryan Lewis and Zach Gandee for sole ownership of the number 2 spot, 24 points in back of Dukes. Ryan Lewis salvaged a rough night with a pair of bonus points, dropping to third in the standings but losing another big chunk of points to the series leader, now 43 points off the top spot. Zach Gandee saw mechanical failure relegate the 19 team to a dismal 10th place finish, though a gutsy call in stage 2 saw him reclaim some bonus points as Gandee falls into a tie for fourth in the standings. Alongside Gandee in 4th is Shad Swatsworth, whose pair of podiums has seen the number 21 team shoot through the standings and into the top 5 for the first time this season. As the championship battles begin to heat up, the series rolls into the slick and rugged Atlanta Motor Speedway.
Outlaw Racing News
Lewis Holds Off Swatsworth in Brutal Late Race Shootout
Hampton, Ga - Capping off a night with fireworks and flaring tempers, you could be forgiven for thinking we were a week into the future, under the lights at Bristol. Alas it was Hot'lanta playing the role of Bunsen burner as late race rubbing, bumping, and battling left ruffled feathers by nights end. Ryan Lewis though rose above after a late race restart, holding off a host of contenders to finally strike pay dirt. Claiming the victory and moving back into striking distance in the championship hunt.
Once again the night featured Pacey Wigent as the races pole setter, making it three weeks in a row for the number 0 team. Looking good off the drop of the green flag Wigent held the lead through the first few cycles until the races first caution struck just 3 laps in. During pit stops, Shad Swatsworth would emerge as the race leader as he Wigent and Lewis exited the pits 3 abreast. Swatsworth would lead much of the opening stage until much of the field learned of an arising issue. The fuel window was knocking just short of stage end, leaving many drivers scrambling for a call. While a handful would elect to pit, many chose to stay out. Much of the pack would run out on the final lap, essentially becoming a race for slugs as the white flag flew. Wigent seemed to have played the mileage to a tee but coming out of turn 4, the number 0 Chevy caught the apron sending Wigent for a ride, and opening the door for Sam Wade and Jerry Robertson to fight it out for the stage win. Sputtering to the line Wade would beat out Robertson for his first stage win in ORS.
The stage would feature another strategy fueled finish just as tight as the stage before. As a number of drivers fought tooth and nail for the lead, several drivers hung back after the restart looking to extend their mileage by 3 laps. While the task looked good on paper, in practice it proved difficult even for those affluent in the art of saving fuel. There looked to be a fair mix of those stretching and those going for a splash and go. Among those pitting, Ryan Lewis and Andrew Czysz came out ahead of the rest. Among those saving none other than Aaron Dukes looked again to steal a stage, but was still towed by Shad Swatsworth who was a late joiner of the saving side. As the laps wound down, Lewis chewed into the difference while relegated to third. Swatsworth though a valiant effort would come up short, losing power out of turn 2 on the final lap. Dukes would fly by but would soon lose power himself in turns 3 & 4. All the while Lewis well under power ate quickly into the gap as Dukes coasted for the line. In tortoise and the hare fashion, Dukes and Lewis crossed the line side by side, with Lewis coming back to claim the stage in dramatic fashion.
With the opening stages in the books, it was time to open up and go all out for the final stint. This is where the racing began to get hairy. Another early caution after a number of incidents transpired brought the field back together, and in range of even more contact. The restart indeed brought some chaos but things did settle down as the packs' number began to dwindle. A door here, a how-do-you-do there, contenders were finding themselves ever more behind the eight ball as the field crept towards their first green flag stop. Even getting onto pit road proved a challenge and several incidents took place with cars getting together on entry including one sending Dukes and Lewis off track and missing the pit entrance. As the stops cycled through, the field was in disarray. Until one last incident brought out a controversial caution in the closing laps. Though a rare missed call to bring out the yellow, the Race Director did in hindsight realize that the caution indeed should not have flown, a mistake that setup a final 6 lap shootout to decide the race. With the field taking an extra pace lap to set the order, the stage was set as the green flag put the field back in motion. Lewis quickly resumed the lead with Czysz close in tow. The battle became one for second as the position became a revolving door of drivers as laps ticked off. The one position that wasn't constantly changing hands was the one held down by Ryan Lewis, watching on as the storm brewed behind him. Dukes would be its first victim as contact with Wade sent the number 1 Chevy careening through the infield grass. With 2 to go, Swatsworth had made his to second as Wigent had rebounded his way to third. As the white flag flew no one seemed willing to step out of line, off the bottom, to be freight trained to the back. The field coming back to the final turn, Swatsworth and Wigent looked for any room they could to edge around the 22 but contact would send the 0 out of control in front of the field, collecting Sam Wade as well, as Ryan Lewis would hold off a carnivorous pack of drivers to escape Atlanta with his first win of the season. Swatsworth would hold on for second while first time series racer Andrew Czysz notched a podium in his first race. Terry Radfords' sub found his way to a fourth place finish, hovering around the top 5 all night and Kurtis Swatsworth just beat out Jerry Robertson for the final top 5 spot.
While the points did shake up a bit, not much overall has changed. Even with a 7th place finish, Aaron Dukes was still able to increase his championship advantage by a single point, 25 points now separating him from second place. Ryan Lewis had a big points night to pull himself back into the hunt, retaking the second spot, 25 points down. Pacey Wigent ended the night on a sour note after being relegated to 8th, but with Dukes joining him down the order, the damage was minimal. Though falling to third, Wigent sits 27 points out of first, just 2 points behind Lewis. Shad Swatsworths string of success has seen a meteoric rise back up through the standings. After sitting 8th just weeks ago, Swatsworth has punched through into 4th, 42 points out of the top spot. To round out the top 5 we see a tie for the position, as Zach Gandees' provisional and Jerry Robertsons' consistency find the pair locked in 5th for the week. Both drivers 23 points behind Swatsworth in 4th.
Next week whats already fuming can only get warmer as we storm into the concrete jungle of Thunder Valley and the Bristol Motor Speedway.
Outlaw Racing News
Two Tire Wager Secures Dukes Second Win of the Season
Bristol, TN - Furrowed fenders, fierce fights, and fantastic finishes, Thunder Valley gave the fans what they bargained for and then some. There was plenty of great side by side racing all evening long as the drivers left all they had on the track. Yet it was a strategy call that proved to be the winning call. Aaron Dukes gambled on a two tire stop in the final 31 laps to ward off Zach Gandee's challenge to win his second race of the season.
The One Lap Wonder himself, Pacey Wigent, sat on the pole for the 4 straight week to start the night off. Wigent would lead the first 8 laps of the opening stage until catching the apron off of turn 4, giving the lead over to Dukes who spent those laps fighting from a 4th place starting spot. With Dukes at the point, he and Wigent would open up a solid 2 second lead over 3rd place Shad Swatsworth, all while Wigent stayed right on the bumper of the number 1 Chevy. Right up until the two opted to pit in the first stage, stranding them a lap down. In the meantime, Shad Swatsworth would inherit the top spot, owning a near 3 second lead over Zach Gandee in 2nd. Swatsworth would cruise for the final 20 laps of the stage, taking his first stage win of the season.
A pair of cautions would open up the 2nd stage, allowing Dukes and Wigent back onto the lead lap but back in 9th and 10th. By the time the 2nd restart attempt put to rest the final caution of the stage, Swatsworth continued to lead as the final 31 laps of the stage kicked off. The lead would change hands with 23 to go, as Gandee would work his way around Swatsworth for the top spot. Wigent would then poke his nose into the fight right on the bumper of the 21, as the leaders entered the final 20 laps. Swatsworth would catch the wall, allowing Wigent around into 2nd, all while Dukes and Elijah White entered the fray, running down the top three from over a second and a half back. Wigent had reeled in the 19 of Gandee with 5 laps to go as the top 5 now were within a second of each other. It became apparent quickly that Gandee was struggling on the 34 lap old tires. As Wigent engaged the struggling 19 Toyota, Gandee would bounce off the wall out of turn 4 coming to 3 to go, slamming doors with Wigent off the ricochet. The two continued side by side into turn 1, as Swatsworth gave the 0 of Wigent a shove into the corner send the 0 back up into the 19. Even still the 0 and 19 remained side by side as the group took 2 to go. Wigent would eventually clear the 19 into turn 3 coming to the white flag, as now Swatsworth and Gandee fought door to door. They would come together off of turn 4, sending Swatsworth down the track and opening the door for Dukes to fill the middle as the 21, 1, and 19 went into turn 1 three wide. The three would exit turn 2 with minimal contact, with Dukes and Gandees' momentum clearing them of Swatsworth into turn 3. Dukes would get a half car ahead of Gandee and stay there as 2nd through 5th crossed the line under a blanket. Wigent would avoid the festivities taking his 3rd stage win of the season by a half second.
Much like the stage before, an early caution started off the final 63 laps to the checkers. As the field restarted with 58 to go, Wigent held the early advantage but Dukes would quickly fight back to the outside of the 0, 2 laps clear of the restart. Dukes and Wigent would battle side by side for 5 laps, before Dukes would prevail off the top side. With clean track, and the battle for second now intensifying behind him Dukes opened up a near 1.2 second advantage before Gandee secured the number two spot. Now clear of that battle Gandee set his sights on the number 1 Chevy, slowly eating away at Dukes' lead. As the race came to 32 laps to go, both leaders would peel off for their final stops of the night. Making a last second call for two tires, as Dukes was pulling into his pit, the number 1 team elected for a quick 2 two tire, one can stop, leaving Dukes 5 laps short of fuel, but letting the king of management control his realm. The call would gift Dukes a near 7 second advantage over Gandee for the final 31 laps to maintain. Working amidst lap cars Dukes would tick off consistent laps, all while watching his lead vanish piece by piece, second by second. Entering into the final 10 laps what was six and half seconds was down to three. Gandee to his credit would close the gap to Dukes to under 2 seconds but not enough laps remained to bring his 4 tires to bear. Dukes would hang on to claim Thunder Valley for his 29th ORS win by a second and a half over Gandee. Wigent would fight back to a podium finish, as Shad Swatsworth would hang on to fourth after also opting for a two tire strategy. Elijah White, subbing in the 00 for Andrew Czysz, claimed the final top 5 spot.
This comes as a win at the right time for Dukes, coming off a 7th place finish at Atlanta. Able to help bolster his point lead, Dukes now sits on a 33 point advantage over 2nd. Pacey Wigent moves back up into the runner up spot in the standings after last weeks 8th place finish dropped him to 3rd. Dukes may just be beyond arms reach, but Wigent still very much controls his destiny in the championship hunt. The ever consistent Shad Swatsworth climbs into a tie for third, one of three current ties in the points standings, in lieu of Ryan Lewis' absence at Bristol. Both drivers sit 51 points in back of Dukes. Zach Gandee climbs back up into the top 5 after a solid night a bristol. Gandee now sits 68 points behind the top spot.
Next week we whisk away the night in favor of the Sunshine state, and the Homoestead-Miami Speedway.
Outlaw Racing News
Lewis Avoids Trouble, Find Victory Lane in a Chippy Homestead Night
Homestead, FL - On a night where the season high for cautions was well surpassed, it became a game of survival. Not being caught out by an accident late in the race. Though the race itself left much to be desired, the caution filled event gave way to a fantastic 9 lap shootout where the top 7 were under the veritable blanket. Fighting off challenge after challenge, Ryan Lewis was finally able to breathe a sigh of relief after the checkers fell, walking away with his second victory on the year.
Lewis however, did appear to be the man to beat early on in this long night, grabbing the pole position by nearly a full tenth with a blistering 31.676 lap time. The pole didn't help much as the race went green, coming under fire almost immediately from Zach Gandee and Aaron Dukes. The lead would swap around before Gandee would settle in the top spot, with much of the top 5 in tow. With fuel forcing at least one stop in the stage, lap 14 kicked off a pit cycle that only took 2 laps to fully circulate. The front runners on two tires, Gandee would resume the lead by just a few car lengths over Lewis as the cycle concluded. As the final 6 laps played out, Gandee found himself on skates, as the 19 Toyota hung it rear into the wind on more than one occasion. This would open the door for Lewis who would challenge with 4 to go. Unable to hold off Lewis, Gandee would slink into 2nd destined to watch Lewis ride for the final 3 laps to take the stage.
As the race rumbled into its middle stage, the first caution of the night threw a curveball into the fuel strategy. Resuming with 16 to go, the far edge of a fuel run, the sense of urgency saw another quick caution put the field into its 2nd attempt at a restart. Single file coming to 15 to go, several drivers would pit to top off, seizing a potential opportunity to pit with the field getting up to speed and not lose a lap. Fuel however seemed to be an after thought, as the lead became a hornets nest. Dukes and Gandee would battle non stop as Dennis Boggess and Shad Swatsworth joined the fray. Roughly 7 lead changes later, the field had taken 5 to go, and fuel reemerged to the fore front. Dukes followed Gandee and Boggess into the final laps, but as the white flag flew one by one, drivers found themselves on fumes. All but Dukes and Gandee who would come off the final turn side by side, but Gandees' fuel would last just as the 19 took the green checkered by three quarters of a car.
Though things seemed rather tame through the first two stages, by the time the final 53 laps kicked off all of that was out the window as the final stage seemed to become a procession of caution laps. Of the three projected pit stops, only one pit cycle was reached by means of green flag racing. This by no means demeans the racing up at the front of the pack, as tonight easily held the record for most lead changes and looked to be anyone's race if trouble could be avoided. Everything planned was thrown out by the time the races 8th and final caution left just a 9 lap shootout. What was a mess didn't look promising as the green flag flew over Dukes, putting the final 9 laps in motion. The finish would be the diamond in what had been a rough race. Lewis would put the moves on Dukes quickly, taking the lead back with 7 to go. Boggess would work his way up to 2nd as he and Dukes would fight door to door for several laps before sliding his number 5 Chevy up behind Lewis in first. Gandee would have a go at Dukes as well for 3rd, the two touching doors as the field took 5 to go. Bogges would make his first challenge at Lewis in 1 & 2, getting alongside but losing momentum on exit, letting Lewis clear the 5 and allowing Dukes back alongside into turn 3. Boggess would fend off Dukes, holding onto 2nd as they came to 4 to go. Boggess would again challenge Lewis back into turn 3, looking for the outside line but Lewis would again thwart the attempt clearing the 5 out of four. Boggess would look again a lap later, to the inside this time but with the same result as Lewis lead the pack of 7 back to the line for 2 to go. Boggess would again go for the outside as they came back to turn 3 but would have to give as the 5 tightened up, giving a huge run to Dukes who would pull to the inside to challenge for 2nd. Trying to follow Lewis, Boggess would come down into Dukes momentarily sending the 1 car down the track and nearly into the inside fence, but a good piece of driving kept the number 1 Chevy going, keeping inside of Boggess into turn 1. With a bad entry, and Boggess sliding up out of two, Gandee looked to take advantage, splitting the two drivers up the middle, 3 wide out of turn 2. Boggess and Gandee would clear Dukes down the back straightaway as Jerry Robertson, Dukes and Wigent went three wide into turn 3. Looking to protect into three, Lewis would cover the run of Gandee, forcing the 19 to push Lewis through the corner. The effort to cover was enough, as Gandee couldn't get enough of a run off of four, and Ryan Lewis would take the checkered flag for his second win of the year. Gandee would see his late surge come up just short, having to settle for 2nd. Boggess had a strong car most of the race, ending the night 3rd. Dukes held onto 4th after contact with the 0 of Wigent as he and 5th place finisher Jerry Robertson were 3 wide into turn 3.
Dukes continues to extend his championship lead with another solid night, seeing his advantage grow to now 40 points over 2nd place. Speaking of 2nd place a tie has emerged after Lewis' win and with Wigent outside the top 5. The two find themselves both 40 points out of the top spot. Zach Gandee has rebounded nicely with a pair of runner up finishes following two DNFs, propelling his number 19 team back into 4th in the standings, 10 points clear of 5th, and 59 off of Dukes. Shad Swatsworth saw a great run fall short after mechanical problems dropped the 21 team from the race. The finish would knock Swatsworth into 5th, now 69 points behind Dukes.
Next week is back under the lights at Kentucky Speedway.
Outlaw Racing News
Wigent with Late Race Success, Snags Third Win of Season
Sparta, KY - On a beautiful Kentucky night, the racing was a premium in this cautionless event. Plenty of on track action, with the finish coming down to an amalgamation of strategies. Tires became the currency of the night, and to claim the checkers you'd need every bit of tire life you could muster from the Goodyears tonight. Pacey Wigent proved that theory true as four tires saw the 0 Chevy saw through the field in the final 10 laps to climb from 5th to victory lane.
From the jump Shad Swatsworth looked to be a tough man to beat, taking the pole for his second of the season. Then through much of the opening stage, Swatsworth showed the way even through the first round of green flag pit stops. On a two tire strategy to finish off the 22 lap stage, Swatsworth inherited a huge lead as the pit cycle concluded. Switching on the cruise control, Swatsworth casually took the races opening stage for his 2nd of the season.
Stage 2 saw a slew of contenders rise up to the challenge the 21 of Swatsworth. Jerry Robertson, Pacey Wigent, and Richard McGinnis would join Swatsworth atop the field as the group would exchange the lead amongst each other. As another pit cycle commenced McGinnis looked in the right position, only a splash and go for the 3 team set him atop the rest of those who pit. Again, tires were the currency of the night, and even with a sizable lead the worn tires would give way to Robertson and Wigent who battled it out in the closing laps before Robertson would emerge victorious for his first stage win of the year.
By the time the final stage rolled around it looked to be anyone's race amongst the contenders. Once again Robertson, Wigent, and McGinnis went right back to trading the lead as the final 53 laps began. Much of the field stayed rather tight through the first 8 laps, as 1st through 10th were separated by little over 2 seconds. Then kicked off what would become a battle of differing strategies. Aaron Dukes who had been a non factor up to this point short pit the field for 2 tires, putting him well off sequence as much of the field wouldn't pit for another 6 or so laps. While the first pit cycle ended, Dukes found himself out front by more than 6 seconds over Sam Wade. Naturally over the course of the run, Wade would close the gap and eventually gave up 2nd to Wigent who closed the gap even faster. With Wigent and company bearing down on Dukes, the number 1 Chevy came to pit road with 30 to go, giving the lead back to Wigent. Wade would join Dukes just laps later, as the rest of the field began pitting with 27 to go. As the second round of pit stops finished, Dukes again found himself well ahead by nearly 5 seconds. Tire being the premium they were, the age of Dukes' showed through as Wigent would eat away at the lead, closing the gap down to just over a second before Dukes made his final stop with 15 to go. Wigent again would brandish the top spot but would give it up just two laps later coming to 13 to go. Much of the pit cycle slowly crawled back to Dukes' sequence as the Wigents' stop kicked off the final pit cycle. leaving McGinnis with a 7 second lead in the final 10 laps. Dukes and Wigent were left in 3rd and 5th as Swatsworth and Robertson gambled for track position with their 2 tire stops putting the 2nd and 4th respectively. Dukes would have to gingerly pass the 21 of Swatsworth as the connection problems that had plagued the team all night continued, allowed Wigent to quickly close up the gap between them. Finally with 5 to go, Wigent took over second from Dukes as Robertson completed his pass of Swatsworth for 4th. With all this going on McGinnis could do nothing but watch his lead disintegrate, clutching onto a 3 second advantage. Wigent wasted no time with McGinnis, catching the number 3 Chevy and dispatching him coming to 2 to go. As Wigent set sail, Dukes then had to cautiously approach McGinnis attempting to pass in the final corner. Misjudging the closing distance with McGinnis' well worn tires the 3 and 1 got into each other collecting the 42 of Robertson. Dukes would get into the outside wall but collected himself well enough to make it to the line for 2nd, as McGinnis limped across, sputtering for 3rd, while Robertson got righted in time to hold onto 4th before 5th place finisher Swatsworth came barrelling in. Ahead of the action was Wigent, claiming his 3rd victory of the season, and inching ever closer to the championship lead.
No big changes to the Championship standings heading into the final 5 races of the season. Gandee's provisional dropped him back into 5th, moving Swatsworth up into 4th after a great points day for the 21 team. Dukes saw his championship lead shrink a little now down to 28 points over Wigent. Next week we follow the action back to the east coast, and the Richmond Raceway.
Outlaw Racing News
Wigent holds off Gandee to Grab Back to Back Wins
Richmond, VA - With the end of the season in sight, the race for the championship is heating up. Aaron Dukes has maintained a stranglehold on the championships top spot after the second race of the season, behind consistently strong finishes as shown by his series leading amount of Top 5's and handful of wins. Yet the recent hot streak fueling the Pacey Wigent team has loosened Dukes' firm championship hold, bringing his advantage down to its lowest since week 3. Wigent became to first driver to notch back to back wins this season, holding off a tough challenge from Zach Gandee in the closing laps to claim his 4th victory here in Richmond.
Controversy plagued the early part of the night, with a difference of opinion effecting the qualifying runs of Ryan Lewis and Pacey Wigent. Regardless the two ended up being the races' front row, with Lewis walking away with the pole by just a few hundredths. The races first stage was rather quiet with bad handling race cars abound, much of the field got seperated quickly. Lewis looked to have the stage well in hand as the pit cycle was finishing, brandishing a sizable gap of Gandee behind. Only issue was several drivers had yet to pit. Dukes and Wigent were both looking to stretch the fuel mileage for the entire 37 lap stage. Wigent would fall short dropping out of the points for stage 1. To no ones surprise Dukes saved the 11 laps he needed to go the distance stealing stage 1 for stage win number 3 on the season.
Stage 2 would see an early wreck bring out the races' only caution. Lewis who had taken the lead off the initial restart, resumed his lead once the race was back underway with Gandee close in tow keeping the pressure on. Through much of the run, the 22 just couldn't seem to shake the 19 of Gandee, maintaining the gap to just about 5 car lengths. As the laps wound down, the tires would too as the drivers would see this as the longest green flag run they'd see all night. Unfortunately for Lewis his tires would give up first. With 9 laps remaining, Gandee sprung into action with a good run off of four, jumping to the inside of Lewis for the lead into turn one. Doing his best to hang on, Lewis would hold strong for the turn staying to Gandee's outside but would have to give into turn 3, giving the race a new leader in the 19. The duo up to this point had a fairly large gap back to 3rd, even as the rest of the Top 5 closed in, Gandee would hold on for the stage win.
As the race entered into its final stage, slowly but surely the field was seeing much less of a difference in speed. This showed in the early running as Gandee and Lewis did see to open a little of a gap, but Dukes, Wigent, Jerry Robertson, and Shad Swatsworth were as close as the group had stayed all night. Lewis would smack the turn 2 wall hard with 43 to go, giving second to Dukes, and falling into what would be a hard fought battle for 3rd with Wigent. Gandee wouldn't see his advantage change over the second he held on Dukes as the run went on. Lewis and Wigent would swap positions several times all the while slowly closing the gap on the front 2. Further into the run, much like stage 2, Gandee began falling back to the field, all while Wigent and Lewis closed on Dukes. With 23 to go, the top 4 were under a blanket. The margin for error being so small, any mistake could be disastrous. Coming out of turn 2, Dukes would get loose nearly collecting Wigent. The issue would cause Lewis to lose momentum, and as both drivers realized now would be a good time to pit to make up for the lost time Lewis and Dukes would get together coming to pit road. The incident would become a tragedy for Lewis who would find himself in the barrels in the opening to pit road effectively ending his chances. With the pit stops cycled around, Wigent emerged as the race leader with Gandee just car lengths behind. The pit road incident left Dukes several seconds back with Robertson sitting a half second off his rear bumper. The gaps remained at a stalemate as laps counted down. Gandee would get close enough to take a stab at the race lead but just wouldn't have enough down the stretch to keep the pressure on. Wigent led the final 21 laps, holding Gandee at bay to pick up the win by just under a second. Gandee came home in 2nd as Dukes held off Robertson for 3rd. Jerry Robertson held the pressure on, but would have to settle for 4th as Shad Swatsworth finished off the top 5.
Dukes' stage win helped the 1 team salvage a great points night, only losing 4 points to race winner and championship contender Wigent leaving the points difference at 24. Ryan Lewis' unfortunate end saw him drop to 62 points in back but holding onto 3rd with 4 races remaining. Gandee re-emerged into the 4 spot after notching yet another 2nd place finish for the 4th time this season. He sits only 13 points behind Lewis in 3rd but just 6 points over Swatsworth in 5th. Swatsworths' solid season continues notching his 7th top 5, behind only Dukes in that category. Though falling to 5th, Swatsworth remains right in the muck of the battle for 3rd in the standings. Next week is the final road course on the schedule and the fastest as its off to the finger lakes of New York and Watkins Glen International.
Outlaw Racing News
Dukes Untouchable at The Glen, Notches 3rd Win
Watkins Glen, NY - Perfection. No matter how you look at it, nothing else seems to sum it up quite as well. From start to finish, from wire to wire, Dukes seemingly held the race in the palm of his hand. Leading all but a single lap, Dukes flashed his brilliance yet again in the fuel conservation game while also laying down laps good enough to not only hold his lead but extend it. Dukes would handily take the checkered flag for win number three on the season to further his championship lead.
The result wasn't one that came with much surprise. Dukes looked easily the best thru qualifying laying down a blistering lap over a half second clear of his nearest challenger. Though the race began with a quick caution and Dukes being the only driver not to pit, this would be the closest anyone got to the number 1 team. Over the final 6 laps after the restart, Dukes would open up a near 3 second advantage over Pacey Wigent before stamping his 4th stage win of the year. All the while the second stage was much the same. With the races only caution coming in the first, stage 2 went incident free. Forcing the field into a fuel conservation mode to go the 9 laps without a trip to pit road. Dukes would put on a masterful show, with a precise use of pace and patience, pushing out to a 5 second plus advantage before claiming his 5th stage win of the season.
Two down, one stage left. A final 19 laps to see if anyone could put a challenge to the lead, and from the drop of the green it looked promising. Wigent would take Dukes 2 abreast into the esses before Dukes would surge ahead at the top of the hill. Slowly Dukes would build his advantage yet again as much of the field attempted to breakdown the final stage into a one stop race. This was a task not easily accomplished even by veteran standards, and the overall pace of the race showed that. Dukes looked comfortable out front even as pressure started to mount from behind. Wigent had forgone the fuel saving and quickly closed on Dukes, erasing what was a 4 second lead in a matter of laps. As Wigent closed to within a half second, the 0 Chevy hit pit road with 11 laps to go. Shad Swatsworth, who had been a top 3 contender all night, stretched his fuel to pit with 10 to go. In a master stroke, Dukes went even further using fumes to power his chevy to pit road with 9 to go. With essentially a stages' worth of laps remaining, Dukes would exit pit road just a second and a half behind Wigent, whose short pitting allowed him to gain time. Over the course of the next lap, Dukes would steeply cut into Wigents' lead as Wigent would let Dukes by coming to the bus stop. From there the masterpiece only had to be concluded. Wigent would pit soon after giving up the top spot. Swatsworth with a lap fewer on fuel would hit the ultra conservative mode as Dukes was able to sail away. A no contest in the final 7 laps, Dukes cruised to his 3rd win of the season by a huge margin, putting the final exclamation point on the night. Swatsworth would prove to have enough, crossing the line under power in 2nd, while Wigent would close a lot on 2nd would have to settle for third after having to call upon a two stop strategy. Jake Phillips picked up his season best finish of 4th for his second top 5 of the year and Sam Wade rounded out the top 5 at the Glen.
Showing up and showing out, while also putting a slow down on Pacey Wigents' momentum coming into the night, Dukes put on an absolute clinic at Watkins Glen. Though it may not look like much, but a 10 point pick up over Wigent is just what the doctor ordered after hemorrhaging points to Wigent the previous 3 weeks. The points lead sits at 34 points, but with the rest of the season in question it'll be a matter of wait and see what the future holds. Meanwhile with Ryan Lewis and Zach Gandee exercising provisionals tonight, the ever consistent Shad Swatsworth took full advantage. Pocketing yet another top 5, Swatsworth moved just ahead of Ryan Lewis into 3rd in the standings by just a point, while Lewis and Gandee fall one spot each.
Outlaw Racing News
Vote Calls for Seasons End, Dukes Crowned Champion
Watkins Glen, NY - After a league wide vote, with a new game to set forth on, it has been officially decided that after Week 10 in Watkins Glen, the season will conclude and become official. Therefore, Aaron Dukes will be declared Champion of Season 5. Pacey Wigent finishes 2nd, 34 points behind Dukes. Shad Swatsworth sniped 2 spots in the final race to finish the season 3rd in points. Ryan Lewis behind a solid season finished 4th. Zach Gandee finishes the season up 5th in the standings.
Aaron Dukes continued to be a stalwart of consistency, all while polishing off yet another championship campaign. Dukes put together a statline worthy of a championship, behind 3 wins, 5 stage wins, 9 top 5's, and a pole. Led the league in stage wins, and top 5's.
Pacey Wigent came up short of bringing the comeback full circle. With a plethora of peaks and valleys throughout the season, Wigent really turned it on in the late weeks. The only driver to go Back to Back all season, just unable to bring it home in the end. Behind his runner-up performance was a series leading 4 wins, 3 stage wins, 7 top 5's and a series leading 4 poles.
Shad Swatsworth continued his improvement through the ranks, becoming a beacon of consistency along side of Dukes. Posting a top 5 in every race but two, but was just unable to call victory lane home this season. Yet by the end, Swatsworth surged in the late season to snag the number 3 spot behind 2 stage wins, 8 top 5's, and 2 poles.
Ryan Lewis finished the season 4th, dropping a spot late in the season. Not quite the attendance we would have expected, but when Lewis was at the track he was the consummate contender. A name always in consideration for the checkers, he proved that with his 2 wins on the year to go along with 4 stage wins, 4 top 5's, and 3 poles.
Zach Gandee much along the lines of Lewis, not able to be at the track as often as one would've liked but was a contender most nights then not. Though Gandee didn't collect a win this season, he still picked up 4 stage wins, and 4 top 5's. Of those, Gandee was runner up 3 of those 4 top 5's.
Outlaw Racing News
Wade Steals Season Opener for First ORS Win
Fontana, CA - In shades of just last season, once again the conclusion of the season opener at Auto Club came down to fuel mileage in the last few laps. Once again, featuring a late race pass of the leader who had a stretched out lead, dominating much of the final stage of the race, and once again a new face emerged in victory lane in ORS to steal the glory. Last season Jerry Robertson shocked the field, and tonight that man was Sam Wade. Outlasting the best of the rest, carrying the final fuel run 10 laps, and snatching victory from the claws of defeat in the final laps. Sam Wade starts the season off right with his first ORS win.
Before the scintillating finish, there were a number of drivers showing speed in the early race. Though the normal front runners strutted their stuff like Zach Gandee, Pacey Wigent and pole setter Ryan Lewis, other drivers began moving in on their turf. The likes of Mike Montgomery leading a solid portion of stage 1, Matt Liptrap after a hiatus of a few seasons, came back strong running easily among the top 5, and eventual race winner Sam Wade who had to fight hard for top 5's last season, made himself at home with the front pack. Though green flag pit stops shook up the front of the field. Montgomery came out ahead, keeping the rest of the field at bay on his way to his first stage win in ORS.
As stage 2 rumbled on, the more familiar names rose to the top with Gandee and Lewis leading much of the stage, as the top 5 began separating themselves from the pack. Even whilst trading positions throughout the run, Aaron Dukes, Wade and Liptrap helped create a one and a half second cushion to 6th. With green flag stops to once again split up the stage, a handful of drivers elected to gamble with 2 tires to surprising effect. Once everything cycled out, Ryan Lewis and Pacey Wigent found themselves well ahead of the rest, Lewis resting on a 5 second advantage back to Gandee on 4 tires in 3rd. Gandee fought hard for the final 7 laps, overtaking Wigent but would come up just a lap short. Lewis would hold off the hard charging Gandee to snag the green checkered flag.
For the final 38 laps, Gandee looked to be the man to beat. Leading in the early part of the final stage, Lewis seemed to be right there with him before coming to the first round of green flag stops. Montgomery had reemerged as a front runner, while Richard McGinnis also found himself up towards the top 5. Pit stops is where this race was won and lost. While Lewis' pit crew let down the number 9 team, Gandee was more than happy with his, pushing Gandee out to an early 2 second gap after the first round cycled around. Wigent, Liptrap and Montgomery looked to run the 48 Chevy back down, but Gandee flexed his muscle in the 2nd stint, maintaining his lead and growing it even. As the 2nd round of pit stops approached, 2 members of the top 5 got together. With Liptrap off sequence from Wigent a miscommunication saw the 28 Ford and the 0 Chevy get together as Liptrap was trying to come to pit road. Though costing Wigent some time, while trying to figure out what had happened, Wigent found himself in the infield grass spinning toward the inside pit wall effectively ending his night. With the misfortunes behind him Gandee started his 3rd stint with a sizable 5 second lead as much of the field was now pretty spread out. Liptrap and Montgomery were still among the top 5 along with Lewis and Wade. Crunch time was upon us with a huge pit cycle coming up. Much of the field would see their 3rd pit stop of the stage fall just on the outside edge of making this their final stop. As the 3rd pit cycle began most of the front runner were forced to pit coming to 11 to go. Only two drivers were able to stretch the 3rd sting that extra lap to pit with 10 to go, Sam Wade and Aaron Dukes. Suddenly the pace of the race slowed dramatically. Even though Wade came out of the pits 5th and Dukes 8th, some 15 seconds behind Gandee, everyone of the front runner went into serious fuel conservation mode. Dukes and Wade still even had to save to make the checkers but being a lap closer to the good, saw the duo quickly close the gap to the front. Liptrap would be the first to give in to fuel pitting with 3 to go. Then came Lewis while several others also gave in. Gandee went for broke staying out as Wade would make the pass for the lead with 2 to go. Gandee could do nothing but watch his race slip away as the 48 Chevy sputtered out of turn 2 on the final lap, giving up 2nd to Dukes. Wade had more then enough of a lead in the final 2 corners, finishing the race under power, and taking the checkered flag to notch his very first win under the ORS banner. Dukes went from 8th to 2nd over the final run to finish 6 and a half seconds behind Wade. Gandee coasted across the line to salvage a podium finish on the night. Lewis came back to come home 4th as McGinnis rounded out the top 5.
Auto Club yet again produced an anxiety filled but thrilling finish. Wade will lead the points onto week 2, by 4 points over both Lewis and Gandee. Stage points put both drivers ahead of Dukes who falls in place in 4th 5 points out. As Mike Montgomery is 5th in the standings just 10 points back. Next week is off to the Midwest, for some best side, high side racing and the Kansas Speedway.