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Return to the Top__Penultimate Round at Lemoore Raceway Serves as a Return to Victory

T. Worth kofc win.jpeg

(Photo by Cameron Hageman) Sprint Car Insider, LEMOORE, Calif (September 10, 2018)   Highlighted by an intense 30-lap Non-Wing feature that went down to the wire, Saturday’s penultimate points race ushered a long-awaited return to victory for drivers with some serious credentials.

The 2018 racing season has been largely dominated by the same contenders across three of the four divisions. In the Jr. Sprint class, Dalton Parriera, of Hanford, had won all but a single race. In the Non-Wing division, Tyler “Tj” Smith lead the points by a resounding  117 point margin with 7 wins to his credit. In the Super 600 wing division, Joey Ancona, held an almost insurmountable point lead with six trips to victory lane.

Now the Restricted division, on the other hand, has been a battle to the finish nearly every weekend. Taking it a step further, a battle between fresh faces every weekend, to look through the 2018 winners column in restricted is like reading through an entry list of the class anywhere else.

debem wins kofc
Caleb Debem wins his 3rd KofC race of 2018. PC: Cameron Hageman

Being a King of California Race,  the Elk Grove Ford Jr. Sprint Class brings another prominent contender to town. Austin Wood came to Lemoore Raceway with the second largest total of wins across the class with four. Having just captured his fourth win the previous evening at Keller Auto Raceway at Plaza Park, he was poised to give Dalton Parriera a run for his money.  Absent from the last few rounds, including that of Friday Night at Keller, the series contenders didn’t know what to expect of Caleb Debem. In fact, Debem was the only one to dethrone Dalton Parriera at Lemoore Raceway before Cash Lovenburg did so just two weeks ago.

 

As the 20-lap Elk Grove Ford Jr. Sprint feature came to the green flag it would mark the second week in a row that Dalton “the Sheriff” Parriera would not be able to march to the front. Just as the Jr. Sprint race two weeks ago, this one went wire to wire under green. It was Caleb Debem who drove away from the field. He held a dominating 1.9-second gap over 2nd with 5 laps to go. Austin Wood, current runner-up in King of CA. points was breathing down the neck of points leader, Parriera. Their battle was for third as Cash Lovenburg had checked out from them as well. As the two points contenders started to battle they reeled in Lovenburg for 2nd and battled down to the wire. Caleb Debem drove to his third King of California win of the season, and second at Lemoore Raceway. Cash Lovenburg and Austin Wood ended up battling for the second spot coming three wide with a lapped driver to the finish. Lovenburg would hold the advantage as Wood came home third and Parriera landed off the podium for the first time this year.

In the Joe W. Lewis Snap-On Super 600 Class, Joey Ancona has lead Raio Salmon atop the King of California standings all year long. Salmon is no stranger to victory lane but this season she has made driving to the winners circle routine. On this night, she started from the pole and looked to go 30-laps in front of the field to capture her 6th win of the season and 3rd at Lemoore Raceway.

raio wins lemoore

From the drop of the flag, Salmon took command of the race. A couple of cautions would continue to bunch the field and keep 2nd and 3rd within striking distance. Points leader  Joey Ancona was right behind her the whole time. She had to move upstairs to fend off Ancona and a charging Ben Worth. On Friday night at Keller, had the race been 31 laps, Worth would have won, from nearly the back of the pack. He was once again surging Saturday night and getting faster as the laps wound down. With only five laps to go, they had brought Salmon’s gap back down to .6 seconds when she hit lapped traffic.

However, it was too little too late, Salmon remained composed as she drove to her, career high, sixth win in a single season.

raio with kofc trophy

In the restricted class, patience was the key both nights over the weekend for the driver many would have predicted to dominate this season. Corey Day started his season off the way any micro sprint driver would dream of by capturing a driller at the Tulsa Shootout. After sweeping last years California Cup in dominating fashion, many would have picked him to be the class favorite from the beginning.

Although Day didn’t make it to victory lane between April and August, he still built a commanding points lead that displayed his dominance in a different facet. Looking at the box scores from the entire season Day had only scored less than top 5 points once. In a class with drivers so young, and gaining experience, that kind of consistency speaks volumes.

Friday night at Keller he sat behind Brandt Twitty, before striking at just the right time. Patience would again be the key to his success on Saturday night. Caeden Steele jumped to the early advantage while Day was midway through the pack. By lap 13 Corey Day found himself in second and looked to run down the leader. However, the driver behind him had different plans. On the very same lap, Bryson Bettencourt, of Visalia, found some moisture on the top side of the race track and made the pass on Day stick. With Bettencourt now in 2nd and Day battling hard with him, Steele opened up almost a second over the two. Then the caution would wave with nine laps to go.

corey day lemoore victory lane kofc

The caution for Jade Avedisian would bunch the field back up and give the drivers another shot at running down the race leader. After taking second back from Bettencourt it did not take Day long to march ahead to the top spot. At the end of lap 16, he completed the pass for the lead and never looked back. Corey Day took home just his third King of California victory of the season. His win Saturday night marked a weekend sweep, and his first win at Lemoore since last October.

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The thrill of victory. PC: Cameron Hageman

In the Joe W. Lewis Snap-On Non-Wing Class, Tyler “Tj” Smith, has been the dominating force since he got rolling in the early part of the season in both King of California and Lemoore Raceway. With 8 prior King of California victories coming into Saturday, five of them in a row, and seven victories at Lemoore, Smith had taken on a David v. Goliath like role on the field. With the chance to complete yet another weekend sweep, and seal the King of California title two-rounds early, the 2017 Super 600 champion returned to Lemoore and put a stop to the run of domination.

tucker sprint car
Tucker Worth dawns familiar colors in his sprint car.

Tucker Worth, of Coalinga, has been off running sprint cars for the majority of 2018. With a rare weekend off he decided to dust off the 600 and come to give it a whirl. He would end up starting from the pole of the 30-lap feature with Smith starting four rows back in 8th. As the green flag waved Worth displayed that he hasn’t missed a beat. As for Smith, his assault on the pack began immediately.

By just lap 5, Smith was already into the top 3. Next driver in his sights was Austin Stone, one of the few other multi-time winners on the season. On lap 8 Smith caught the back of Stone and found a line around him. With 22 laps remaining the showdown was on.

Another caution waved on lap 10 for Chance Damron. Now with 20 laps remaining on the books, the top two on the night were now at the front of the pack. During the next green flag run, Tucker Worth took his number 33 to the top of the racetrack and railed his way to a .415 second advantage at the halfway point. With the win in sight, the leaders hit lapped traffic on lap 18. Dense lapped traffic made navigating around the backmarkers difficult. While Worth had amassed a significant gap, his room to breathe was dissipating quickly through lapped traffic. Smith shrunk the gap and Worth then stretched it right back out to .424 on lap 24. Then things got dicey.

Lap 24 Worth hit a lapped driver coming out of turn four and lost the entire gap he had once again built up. With just five to go the 14 of Smith was hot on his heels and applying the pressure. They sliced and diced through lapped traffic until they got the white flag and one more mistake almost cost Worth the entire race. The white came out and Worth dive bombed into turn one and two as he could hear Smith breathing down his neck. Worth tried to slow the car down but slammed into a lapped driver in the middle of the corner. The entire crowd let out a collective gasp as the wheels came off the ground. It looked like Smith was going to capitalize but Worth stayed on the throttle.

With that move, Worth was willing to win it or wear it. He hung it out and stayed in the gas never letting the 14 get in position to throw the slider on him in the last turn. Tucker Worth brought his number 33 home to victory for the first time at Lemoore Raceway since the 2017 season. He sleighed the Lemoore Raceway dragon of 2018 and showed the Lemoore faithful, there is a formula to beating the dominant force.

With Worth’s return to victory, it was apparent that the theme of the night was making the long-awaited return to victory lane.

T. Worth kofc win
A long-awaited return to Victory Lane. PC: Cameron Hageman

Lemoore Raceway is back in action in two weeks for the Budweiser Grand Prix regular season points finale on Saturday, September 29, 2018. The final point’s race of the season is set to show us who has been the dominant enough over the course of the season to earn the 2018 Track Championship.

Don’t Miss a Minute of the Action. Make sure to follow us on

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Twitter: @LemooreRaceway and @tzone_lre

and of course our website www.lemooreraceway.com for more details and information.

 

NEXT RACE: September 29, 2018 – Budweiser Grand Prix

Track Championship Finale.

 

 

 

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JJ Cox View All

JJ Cox -
Lead Contributor of Sprint Car Insider.
Sole Proprietor of Prodigy Race Promotions.
Current Freelance Announcer with educated broadcast experience.
Media Relations Advisor.
P.R Practitioner.

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.

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