(Featured Image by Cameron Hageman) *Please see editors note*
Sprint Car Insider – Driver Exclusive. FRESNO, Calif. (May 30, 2018) —> The Restricted 600 class in California continues to prove it’s one of the most competitive classes nationwide. This time around, Madera, California’s, Jake Smith, rose to the occasion during the 17th Annual Tachi Palace Nationals at Lemoore Raceway.
By the time the Tachi Palace Nationals rolled around in 2017, Jake Smith had already amassed three wins. Night one of the 16th Annual Tachi Palace Nationals would serve as win number four of a stellar early season surge. Although he was unable to capture the overall crown last year, coming back to an event he’s had success at would bode well for his confidence, and it showed.
Smith showcased his will to win on night number one in an impressive charge. Night two, on the other hand, would bring the Lemoore crowd to their feet. In a pressure packed duel with Bryson Bettencourt, the two would put on one of the most exciting races of the season, and closest finishes in recent memory. Smith was challenged hard, put to the test, but would not be denied.
It all began Friday Night. Smith would clock in 8th quick with a 12.069, just .116 off of quick time. He raced through his heat with a solid runner up finish, and rolled off for the 25-lap main from the 5th spot. As the field approached lapped traffic around lap 9, Smith had to make up a 1.5 second gap on leader Katey Syra. By lap 15 the two were side by side and Smith went for the move. Just as he made the pass, the yellow came out. When the field went back to green the two leaders battled for another six laps. Smith made the pass on Syra stick on lap 21 and never looked back. Once again the young man found himself in victory lane on night one of the Tachi Nationals, however for the first time in 2018.
Night two would be the night no one will soon forget. Coming into the final as high point driver, Jake Smith held a mere single point advantage over Bryson Bettencourt who managed to move up to the runner up spot on night one. The pressure was on.
Racing on the eve of his birthday, he took it upon himself to earn his present, and a piece of history.
Saturday night started with a late qualifying attempt and a giant statement from the 28. He went out and put his name straight to the top of the board with quick time. However, Bettencourt had no plans of relenting his challenge, he clocked in third quick. Both would make it through their heat and into the dash.
Bettencourt would come out swinging by picking up the dash win and landing on the pole for the main. The stage was set for battle. The 25-lap feature took off with Bettencourt on the pole and Smith, third, in practically a winner take all showdown.
When the green flag dropped the two drivers left all they had out there on the racetrack. Smith led early. Bettencourt ran him down. The two traded positions, and Bettencourt led the mid stages of the race. He built a small gap but Smith would not back down. He reeled Bettencourt back in and took the lead late. But it wasn’t over. As the white flag dropped Bettencourt would mount one final attack. They came into turn three and four and the 15B never lifted. He pushed as far as it could go. The two came off the corner, Smith to the outside with the momentum, Bettencourt on the inside with a nose in front of Smith.
It was a drag race to the finish. Wide open down the front straightaway they drove, side by side, all the way to the stripe.
It was impossible to tell from the naked eye who took the checkered.
Then, every fan on their feet, collectively looked up to the scoreboard. The 28 sit atop, by just 0.006, or, six one-thousandths of a second.
Just like that it was all over.
Jake Smith avenged his 2017 loss of the overall, added his name to the history books, and became the star of what will surely be remembered as one of the greatest races in Lemoore’s history. The legends of the past built a legacy in Lemoore, but the stars of the future gave it another page. Another page no one will soon forget.
Official 2018 Tachi Palace National Standings: Restricted 600 –
- Jake Smith 157
- Bryson Bettencourt 146
- Guage Garcia 136
- Dylan Bloomfield 125
- Eli Bookout 122
**Editors Note – Since the Restricted Class Champion did not get the credit he deserved in Victory lane, due to some unforseen circumstances involving the race preceding the Restricted 600 main event, this article is dedicated completely to him. I am sorry for not providing the moment you deserved at its due time. I take full responsibility for not giving you that moment and I hope you accept this as an honest attempt to gain the undivided attention a champion should receive.
I would like to formally congratulate Jake Smith and his entire family, as well as his sponsors, and supporters on their accomplishment. You deserved to be recognized in front of the crowd that you brought to a standing ovation. While this is no consolation to that moment, I wish you continued success on your 2018 campaign.
I would also like to add how special it was the way all of the drivers in the winner’s circle handled themselves. You all acted with class and sheer professionalism, it was profound, and reflects remarkably on the character of each and every one of you. You should be proud. Congratulations to you all once again.
Jerry Cox (JJ)
***END OF NOTE***
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JJ Cox -
Lead Contributor of Sprint Car Insider.
Sole Proprietor of Prodigy Race Promotions.
Current Freelance Announcer with educated broadcast experience.
Media Relations Advisor.
Fresno State Bulldog - Broadcasting and Public Relations.
Grew up going to 50+ Sprint Car races a year and Raced Motocross for 10 years.
Die Hard Dirt Race Fan
Just a rolling stone.