Sprint Car Insider – Driver Exclusive. FRESNO, Calif. (September 18, 2018) —>With the season winding down at Delta Speedway the super 600 championship is going down to the wire between Raio Salmon and Nikko Panella. Barred by the one evening her steering arm broke, Salmon felt she had her mulligan and perhaps rival Nikko Panella would have his.
It just about happened Saturday night.
Raio Salmon came into the penultimate round at Delta Speedway just 16 points out of the lead in the Super 600 division. Her and title rival Nikko Panella have been battling at the front of the pack all year long. Apart from Salmons one mechanical misfortune neither her or Panella have finished outside the top 5 more than twice.j
As the event kicked off Saturday night the cooling weather proved to have an impact on track conditions. The usual wide and racy delta Speedway was heavy and hooked up. With so much moisture in the air, it was evident qualifying was going to be vital as passing would be at a premium.
For Raio Salmon, her 11th place qualifying effort was not what she was looking for. Visibly upset, she had to regain her composure and get after it no matter the circumstances because you just cannot script racing. Although she would have her work cut out for her as Panella ran 2nd quick.
The heat Race served as a good confidence booster as she went out and dominated the field wire to wire. However, a zero inversion would bring back the dissatisfaction of qualifying. Thirty laps would be the distance as the super 600 main event rolled out onto the track. Points leader Panella would start second while Salmon would go from 11th.
As the race went green the pressure was on for Salmon. Things looked shaky at the beginning as Keith Day Jr rolled by and put her another spot back. On lap 7 the second and third place drivers flipped and made their departure from the race moving her two spots forward.
It was on lap 21 when the capitalizing moment occurred. Nikko Panella got together with Adam Kaeding and spun out.
This was the break Salmon needed to make up those points.
However, the racing adage that says championships are won on your bad nights would ring true for Panella on this go.
Salmon worked around the 7th position as the laps clicked down. Meanwhile behind her Panella was making Championship moves to salvage his run. When the checkered flag waved Salmon crossed the stripe 7th while Panella made his return all the way back into the top 10.
“We just didn’t make the right moves on the car tonight,” said Salmon. “The track was hooked up and heavy we should have made more aggressive changes after qualifying but we went with what we knew.”
Salmon had mentioned prior to the event that she thought it was possible for Panella to have his misfortune as it had yet to happen this season. This was the night he was pushing the envelope and almost got that paper cut on his tongue but he rallied back when Salmon had an uncharacteristic off night.
“I can’t believe he came back that far,” said Salmon. “I guess he really has done everything to win this title.”
Her crew was quick to remind her that the leader had lapped pretty far into the field so he didn’t charge too far. But the day was done, there would be no going back and hitting restart.
While she didn’t makeup all the points left on the table she did still gain ground. Coming into the final round on October 6th the gal is a mere 12 points. With the final round being held in conjunction with the King of California series the pressure is on to hold strong against the additional competition.
In terms of the King of California Salmon does hold the upper hand with one KofC win to her credit. Can she go out and do it again?
The title is on the line.
Heat Race: 1st
Main Event: 7th
Top 5s: 24
Top 10s: 32
Up next catch Raio driving for $5,000 on the 2nd annual Mark Hagopian Memorial at Keller Auto Raceway Plaza Park, on Friday and Saturday, September 21-22, followed by the Budweiser Grand Prix finale at Lemoore Raceway on September 29.
Raio Salmon would like to thank all of her sponsors: Salmon Motorsports, Pace Chassis, Harry Boudakian Engines, Visalia Window Company, Fresno Window Company, UHL Rubber, and her whole crew for a spectacular year so far.
2nd Annual Mark Hagopian Memorial September 21-22
Keller Auto Raceway Plaza Park
Budweiser Grand Prix September 29
Lemoore Raceway points finale
King of California Rd 15 October 5
King of California Rd 16 October 6
Delta Speedway *track points finale*
Don’t miss any of the updates on Raio’s season as it goes down to the wire.
Be sure to follow along to: Sprintcarinsider.co -Driver Exclusives – for all the latest news, results and information on your favorite drivers all season long.
Be sure to follow Raio personally at:
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.