With a unique combination of racers throughout the western part of the country assembling, the 150-lap Super Late Model Civil War at Rocky Mountain Raceways (UT) came down to two of the Spears SRL Southwest Tour Series title hopefuls down the stretch.
Ricky Schlick, who has turned in some impressive runs in his first full season, made every bid to get around the ever-successful ace Derek Thorn and made it work a quick moment before a caution flew with 11 laps to go. The Claremont, California rookie held on through multiple restarts to claim his first career victory at a track in which he won one of his first Legends car races at in 2013.
“I’m so happy right now to win in the premier division on the West Coast,” an elated Schlick, who earned a $10,000 payday plus a six-foot tall Copper Cupola trophy and a custom watch valued at a combined additional $6,000, told Speed51.com powered by JEGS. “We were really good tonight and we saved our stuff and we were there at the end.”
Although they had a car capable of remaining in the hunt, Schlick had to overcome a couple obstacles. During Saturday practice the family-owned team ran into a problem with the clutch, in which Thorn and members of the rival team assisted in replacing, that limited his time on the track in that final session. Approaching the halfway point, at which teams were given 15 minutes to fuel and make approved changes to their cars, they were able to run right with the leader but knew a tweak or two was needed to beat the hottest driver on the west coast.
“We were a little tight in the center so we freed it up just a little bit and that was just enough right there to make my car rotate right where I needed it to,” Schlick explained. “It was pretty dang cool to get to race against a three-time champion like (Thorn).”
Thorn, a three-time winner at Rocky Mountain, was fast right out of the gate despite his track record and a perfect string of fast time awards in 2017 being broken by Colorado’s Dominic Ursetta. The Campbell Motorsports No. 43 looked to be the car to catch once again until the lead change late in the race.
“With about 15 or 20 to go something in our car changed,” Thorn commented. “Something broke or let go or moved, so we’ll have to go back to the shop and take it apart. The car was pretty solid all weekend for us and didn’t really let us down much, and it just wasn’t like the same car that we had all weekend.”
Ursetta did not have the chance to be a factor in the race as a cut tire while running fifth early in the distance stacked up those behind him and race-ending contact ensued. Thorn’s teammate Carlos Vieira, who redrew the pole for the start, finished third. NASCAR K&N Pro Series West regular Chris Eggleston brought his Super Late Model out and returned home with a fourth-place finish.
Hard-charging veteran Craig Raudman, who surprisingly was making his first appearance behind the wheel at Rocky Mountain, finished fifth after starting toward the back and getting involved in a minor mishap with Idaho’s Eddy McKean. McKean, who had Super Late Model talent Preston Peltier assisting his effort, was as fast as the leaders during a few occurrences but could only achieve a result of seventh place after the contact in the closing stages.
Behind the leaders, saying that the final remaining circuits became a race for survival would be an understatement. The scariest moment of the race was a very brief Inferno when Roseville, California driver Eric Schmidt’s machine expired, leaving fluid and cars scattered everywhere behind him.
A number of competitors challenging for the top spot among the Northwest Super Late Model Series cars in attendance were involved and it became a race to see who would have their car repaired enough to finish best in class. Woodland, Washington teenager Brooke Schimmel used a decent performing car during long green flag runs and some luck to finish ninth and receive top honors among the series.
“Those closing laps I saw a puff of smoke, I saw a bunch of cars go every direction, I hit oil, hit my visor, hit my everything, but didn’t hit anything,” Schimmel described. “We struggled all night after restarts because our car would come in really late in the run, and then we would run up on these guys and then there would be a caution. We could pick off a few of them normally and that’s what was really working for us at the end of the last (long) run. We were rolling up on those guys, passing them on the high side, or diamonding them off and getting them on the low side. I think we made the best of what we really could with the car not reacting the way that we wanted.”
Despite what she defined as a somewhat disappointing result, in the end, Schimmel and team were optimistic about what they learned against some of the best in the business in the region.
“We know how we are judging against our Northwest cars,” Schimmel, a flag-to-flag winner at Meridian Speedway (ID) in July, continued. “When the Spears (SRL) guys roll through they come with some really hard hitters, so to qualify as good as we did we were very extremely happy with that to be within a couple hundredths. To come here with our Northwest group, we know where we’re at so it’s a win I do believe in points for us still fighting for Rookie of the Year.”
Kennewick, Washington’s Brittney Zamora finished 11th after some time spent in the pits but was third overall among drivers from the Northwest, more than likely good enough to hold on to the NWSLMS points lead heading into their final race of 2017 at the Wenatchee Valley Super Oval (WA) on September 23rd.
The Spears SRL Southwest Tour Series still has three dates remaining, with Tucson Speedway (AZ) next up on September 30th. Thorn will enter the event with a slim 34-point advantage on Schlick.
“That’s a big deal for them and we’re racing them for the championship,” a still dispirited Thorn said. “We were able to salvage a top two finish which on most days is nothing to hang your head about, but being as competitive as we are a win is what we wanted. It’s tough when you feel like you get your car where it needs to be all weekend, but when something like that happens toward the end it’s kind of inevitable and nothing you can do about it.”
Schlick, who has a commanding lead in the Rookie of the Year battle, can start thinking about a chance at the overall title as well.
“You know, as it keeps going, we’re going to be on a roll now after this weekend,” Schlick said. “We’re going to go back home and re-set the car up, go to Tucson, and hopefully go win that one too.”
Race fans can find on-demand Trackside Now coverage of Saturday’s race by clicking here.
-By Aaron Creed, Speed51.com Central NY & PA Editor – Twitter: @aaron_creed
-Photo credit: Speed51.com
SLM Civil War Official Results
Rocky Mountain Raceway (UT) – September 2, 2017