Fitzpatrick Finally Finds Checkered Flag
The APC United Late Model Series Presented by Grisdale rolled into Sunset Speedway on Saturday for the Stewart’s Equipment & Kubota 100, event number eight of the nine-race championship season.
The first order of the day was qualifying, and all the drivers were eyeing a top-ten starting position, as well as the track record of 14.037 seconds, set by Brandon Watson, of Stayner, in May of 2018.
In the first qualifying group, it was Josh Stade, of Chelsley, who set the early fast time with a lap of 14.323 seconds, while title contender Pete Shepherd III, of London, timed in second. In the second group, Danny Benedict, of Orono, was the fastest of the group, but was only able to grab the second spot from Shepherd.
In the third group, it was Sauble Speedway winner Jake Sheridan, of Mt. Brydges, who claimed the provisional pole with a lap of 15.310 seconds, as Ryan Kimball, of Norwood, claimed second, bumping Stade to third.
The final group hit the track last, and the sun peeked out, but 2015 Champion Dale Shaw, of Guelph, was able to rip a lap of 14.261 seconds, while defending series champ Jo Lawrence, of London, was second with a lap of 14.308 seconds. Sheridan wound up third, with Kimball in fourth, and Stade winding up fifth.
Matt Pritiko, of London, Benedict, Watson, Conner James, of Hamilton, and Shepherd rounded out the top-ten and qualified for the invert.
Once the field was shuffled inside the top-ten, it put Benedict and James on the front row. Stade and Kimball made up row two, with Shaw and Sheridan in row three. Row four contained Lawrence and Shepherd, with Watson and Pritiko filling row five.
Benedict was able to capture the early lead, but Stade was on the charge and on lap five, Josh was able to poke his car out front. Benedict fell into the clutches of Kimball, who passed him for second on lap eight, while Stade had opened up a gap of over one second.
Stade continued to stretch out the advantage, and Benedict wasn’t done with Kimball, as he pressured ‘Flying Ryan’ for the runner-up spot. There was also a line of cars all nose to tail behind Kimball, including Shaw, Sheridan, Shepherd, Lawrence, Watson, and Pritiko in eighth. Jordan Howse, of Hillsborough, and James rounded out the top-ten.
The first yellow of the event flew on lap 26 when Gord Shepherd, of Barrie, came to rest against the turn one concrete wall.
On the green, Stade checked out again, while Kimball tried to keep Shaw at bay. The pair raced door-to-door for about eight laps before Shaw sealed the deal and took second. Benedict was also able to bypass Kimball to moved to third. At the halfway point Stade had opened up a two second lead on Shaw, who was followed by Benedict in third, and Shepherd in fourth, but all eyes were on former series champ J.R. Fitzpatrick, of Ayr.
Fitzpatrick broke a motor in practice, and the team had to install a new powerplant in the car before starting at the back of the field. After rolling off 22nd on the grid, Fitzpatrick sixth at the 50-lap mark. He was followed by Watson, Howse, Shae Gemmell, of Dorchester, who started 18th, and Pritiko who rounded out the top-ten.
On lap 52, the second yellow of the night would fly, as Treyten Lapcevich, of Grimsby slowed in turn four, setting up another restart and eliminating Stade’s comfortable lead.
Lapcevich was unable to get the car re-fired in the pits, and despite coming in second in points would take a hit in the championship chase, finishing many laps down.
Stade was able to set sail again, while Shepherd and Benedict were battling for third, and Fitzpatrick and Sheridan were dueling for fifth right behind them. Shepherd finally claimed third, and Fitzpatrick dispatched both Sheridan and Benedict to move to fourth with less than 40 laps to go.
On lap 71, the third yellow of the night flew as Dustin Jackson, of Sault Ste. Marie spun off turn two, erasing another comfortable lead for Stade, and putting him back in the clutches of Shaw, and now Fitzpatrick for the next restart.
On this restart, Shaw hung tough on the outside, leading laps 72 and 73 before finally clearing Stade to take control of the lead, but Stade fought back, and pulled back to the inside of Shaw. Stade poked his nose out front again on lap 78, with Fitzpatrick and Shepherd still in the mix.
On lap 79, Jackson spun again in the same spot off turn two, to bring out yellow number four of the night, but while circling under yellow, disaster struck for Stade, as a broken suspension part on the left front would end his shot at his first career win, and turned the lead over to Shaw.
Shaw choose the outside and got a great start to pull in front of Fitzpatrick, who was being chased by Shepherd and Watson, with Gemmell and Lawrence battling for fifth.
On lap 83, the championship would take a major swing, as point leader Watson stopped in turn four, bringing out a yellow and setting up another edition of Shaw versus Fitzpatrick. Shaw was able to take the lead again, but Fitzpatrick would face a major challenge from Lawrence, the defending series champion, who was able to challenge for lap after lap on the high side, but was unable to pull off the pass, falling back to third.
Fitzpatrick went off in search of Shaw, and he quickly reeled Dale in before executing a perfect bump-and-run in turn two on lap 98 to take command away from Shaw.
Fitzpatrick held on for the final two circuits to claim the fourth win of his APC United Late Model career, and his first victory at Sunset Speedway.
Shaw finished second, while Howse made some late moves to finish third after starting 13th. Kimball fought back to finish fourth, with Lawrence winding up fifth.
Shepherd finished sixth, with James seventh, and Gemmell eighth. Pritiko and Sheridan rounded out the top-ten.
Unofficially, Watson is still the point leader heading into the Quick Wick Championship races at Delaware on Saturday, September 25th, and will have a 10-point lead on Shepherd, and 13 points Lapcevich.
Zardo Zips to Quick Wick Win
A solid field of Quick Wick Super Stocks were on hand for the Saugueen Shores Transmission 50 lap feature race, event number four of the five-race championship campaign at Sunset Speedway. With just two races to go in the title chase, the top nine drivers were separated by a mere 10 points, with all of them still in title contention.
Nic Ramsay, of St. Thomas, was able to set a fast-time early in the qualifying session, before Paul Boundy, of Bowmanville, went to the top of the qualifying chart with a lap of 15.851 seconds in the second group of cars to hit the track. When the third group wrapped up, it was Pete Vanderwyst, of St. Thomas, who bettered the mark with a fastest lap with a time of 15.787 seconds.
The fourth group was next and Nick Troback, of Hamilton, stopped the clocks with a lap of 15.784 seconds, the fastest lap of this group, to move to position one on the board, heading into the final group, the fastest cars in the earlier practice session.
Lane Zardo, of Brampton, was able to go over 2/10ths of a second faster than Troback to jump to the top of the board with a lap of 15.557 seconds. Dwayne Baker, of Stayner, who entered the night just 2 points behind point leader Ray Morneau, of Windsor, turned a lap of 15.686 seconds to wind up second. Gerrit Tiemersma, of Newmarket, who entered the night third in the championship qualified third.
Trobeck hung on to wind up fourth, with Vanderwyst in fifth. Ethan Constable, of Barrie was sixth, with Boundy in seventh. Paul Pepper, of North Bay, wound up eighth, with Marlie Owen, of Port Hope in ninth, and Dennis Cybalski, of Hamilton, rounding out the top-ten.
Following the inversion, Cybalski was on the pole, with Troback joining him on the front row. Row two was made up by Vanderwyst and Pepper, with Zardo and Constable in row three. Row four contained Tiemersma and Baker, with Boundy and Owen rounding out the top-ten.
The first yellow of the race flew on lap three when Vanderwyst cut down a right front tire after contact with Troback, who held second, with Cybowski as the early leader.
The field would get a few more laps in before another yellow flew, this time it was for a tangle between Roy Wilkie, of Kincardine, and Mike Weeda, of Bolton.
Cybowski took command again, but it was Zardo on the charge after restarting third, and on lap seven, Zardo took the lead and started to build a cushion over Cybalski, and Baker, who had picked up five spots to third.
The next yellow flew due to a lap 12 multi-car incident involving Owens, Tiemersma, Vanderwyst, Carson Nagy, of Mt. Hope, and Jason Parker, of Port Elgin off turn four.
When the green flew again, Zardo picked up where he left off, as Baker slid through to second, but yellow number four would fly on lap 22 when Cory McAllister, of Durham, stopped with a flat right front tire. Yellow number five happened in less than a lap when Frank Davey, of Innisfil, stopped in turn two with a flat tire.
Baker hung tough on the outside and led lap 23 before Zardo took control again, and as the race reached the halfway mark the order was Zardo, Baker, Trobeck, Cybowski, and Constable in the top-five, with Justin Collision, of Cambridge, Davenport, Brandon McFarran, of Action, Vanderwyst and Ramsay rounding out the top-ten.
On lap 38, the sixth yellow of the evening would slow the field and McFarran and Vanderwyst tangled in turn three and four, sending them both to the back again, and moving Pepper into the top-ten.
The field would get three more laps in before Johnny Morrison, of Barrie, spun at the end of the front stretch, giving Baker another crack at Zardo for the lead and a shot at the win.
On the break with nine to go, Baker was able to lead lap 42 by a nose, but Zardo was able to take control back on the bottom lane before another yellow would fly for Cybalski spinning in turn four on lap 44. This would set up another late race restart, and gave Baker one more opportunity to try to steal one away from Zardo.
It would be another short run before McAllister spun on the backstretch on lap 47, slowing the field for the ninth time in the 50-lap affair.
Just one lap later it was yellow number 10, as Troback was hit by Collison, sending both to the back for the lap 48 restart.
Baker was able to nose out front on lap 49 on the next restart, and the pair stayed side-by-side all the way to the line, as Zardo won by less than half a car length, with Baker finishing second in a thrilling finish. For Zardo, despite a number of solid finishes, it was his first career Quick Wick Super Stock feature win. Constable had a quiet, yet solid, third-place result, with Tiemersma coming from the back of the field for a fourth-place result, and Ramsay finishing fifth.
Parker, Trevor Colliver, of Lucan, Davenport, Owen, and Cybowski rounded out the top-ten.
Without the ‘home track’ points factored in, Baker should regain the point lead, with a narrow three-point margin over Zardo heading to Delaware, with Tiemersma, and Constable also in the title mix.
The final race of the year for the Quick Wick Super Stocks will be Friday, September 24th, at Delaware Speedway as the highlight of the Friday night action for the Quick Wick Championship Weekend. It’s also part of the Pinty’s Fall Brawl weekend, which will present 3 days of racing at the legendary London-area ½-mile.