Forty-One Super Late Models took to the 5/8-mile Evergreen Speedway (WA) on Thursday afternoon to ready their efforts for a potential $25,000 payday after the conclusion of 200 laps on Saturday night. While the four hour practice session did not result in any major altering plans for competitors, those that could be the key players at the green flag did begin to emerge.
Most Recent Summer Showdown Winners Quickest
When a racer has a facility figured out one year, they can often be tough to beat the next. That was the case in practice with the last two event champions showing the way at the end of the evening.
2016 winner Tayler Riddle paced the charts with a best time of 22.103 seconds. Participation in a race last month on the 5/8-mile allowed the team to test their Super Late Model for this weekend and the speed found has boosted their confidence. Nevertheless, the Naches, Washington driver knows that it is not a direct tell-tale for success.
“So far we’re faster, but you never know what everyone else is on for tires or their program,” Riddle told Speed51.com. “You’re always trying to fine tune and get the feel you want. You can never be too good.”
Riddle additionally has the feedback on his side from his older brother Owen, who is a proven winner in major events in the west but is searching for his first Summer Showdown victory. Owen clocked in sixth quickest, but made adjustments such as a gear change to get there.
“That actually helps a lot when Owen and I both race so we can compare stuff and talk to one another,” Tayler Riddle continued. “We unload with a pretty similar baseline so it’s pretty beneficial. This track is definitely where if you have the speed then you can work on the feel, but you struggle if you have the feel but don’t have the speed.”
Second fastest was defending winner Preston Peltier. The Colorado-based team picked up on their best time with a late sticker tire run. Despite what might seem on the surface as a continuation of a stellar performance a year ago, the nuts and bolts behind it are a night and day contrast.
“To be honest with you, we went back to what we were doing at the (Snowball) Derby and it seems to be working out pretty good,” the prestigious December event’s fast qualifier remarked. “We struggled with it being really tight and rolling in the center earlier in the day, worked on it quite a bit, and I think we are pretty dang good right now.”
A significant difference is the fact that the car Peltier is running is completely new with no similarities to the winning machine from 2017.
“What we used to do last year doesn’t work with this new car,” Peltier indicated regarding the Hamke Z-Rail chassis. “There’s nothing the same – no geometry, no heights, no nothing. Different springs, different bumps, different shocks – the only thing that is the same is me.”
What has helped is a teammate in the fleet for Peltier in this year’s running. Eddie Vecchiarelli, a Grand American Modified standout at Colorado National Speedway, is piloting an identical car and setup.
Vecchiarelli is competing in a Super Late Model for the first time in several years and laid down the 13th quickest lap of the day. With the fellow Colorado racer picking up on characteristics efficiently, Peltier has not had to do much coaching and remains zeroed in on his own effort.
“He’s got his own group of guys here,” an impressed Peltier began. “I’m just sharing a little bit of information, what the dos and the don’ts I know from my experience at this place. The rest is up to him and he has been doing a great job. For him to come to this race to be the first one back in a long time says a lot. I think he’ll do well.”
Returning Veterans Turning Heads at Their Home Track
No matter how much experience racers have, if they are out of the seat for a lengthy amount of time, it normally takes at least a few races to readjust. Two drivers with past success at Evergreen have put that motion into fast forward.
The only race held to date in 2018 on the 5/8-mile was the Mark Galloway Memorial 150 last month. In an interesting turn of events in the closing laps, Robb Touchette, returning from an 11-year hiatus, inherited and held on to the top spot to gain the victory in his first time back on the configuration.
Touchette is aware though that being patient and fortunate without the best car may not be enough with the caliber of racers that have converged on this particular weekend. Luckily, the Lake Stevens, Washington driver has a good amount of expertise on his side.
“The car is pretty good; the driver still needs some work,” Touchette admitted. “They are doing some stuff on the car and Tony (Eury Jr.)’s here trying to coach me up a little bit on how to get around the place (with the Fury Race Car). I’m kind of all out of excuses now.”
Lex Johnson is another driver who came out of an unofficial retirement to return to Super Late Models a year ago. The track regular in past years has led many laps on the 5/8-mile, but has yet to bring home the win since his return. His podium result and knowledge gained in May regarding the strategy that can play out has him optimistic about what it takes for 200 laps.
“That run last month was pretty good because there was a 100-lap run at the beginning and was a great preview for this,” the Monroe, Washington hometown driver noted, referring to the break at halfway for Saturday. “It told us what the car is going to do on those long runs. I think we’ve got a pretty good piece for them.
“The level of competition out here this weekend obviously is quite a bit higher. We’re always looking for a little bit of speed. It’s going to take some heads up driving, tire conservation with this track definitely being rough on tires, to give ourselves a shot at the end.”
Johnson has a two-car effort for this weekend with veteran racer Willie Allen behind the wheel of the second team ride. The Tennessee driver has picked up on navigating his first time on the speedway quickly, allowing Johnson to focus solely on trying to dial in his own car on newer tires for a good qualifying run on Friday.
“He came out and tested here last week and he was on it right off the bat,” Johnson commented. “He knew exactly how to get around this place. Now it’s just dialing the car in for his style of driving.”
Qualifying Draw: Does When You Go Out Make a Difference?
On Thursday night, a racer and crew appreciation dinner was held. During those festivities, each driver drew for when they will qualify on Friday afternoon.
A lot of factors could play into whether there is any key distinction between going out early or late.
“Last year it actually rained in the middle of qualifying and this track’s always fast when it’s green so all the guys who went after picked up like two tenths,” one of the local favorites, Tyler Tanner, mentioned. “I think the late draw is good if it’s the same for everyone, but you never know what can happen. Hopefully we catch it right.”
In the Summer Showdown’s instance, nobody gets locked in to the feature with a stellar qualifying run, as Friday night qualifying heats will set the lineup for Saturday. However, many will be gunning to break the track record of 21.764 seconds set by Derek Thorn in 2016 as well as the $1,000 bonus that is awarded.
“It seems like the top five to 10 cars all have good speed in them in the long run, but anything can happen in this race,” Tanner, who turned in the third fastest time, added. “Even the 20th place guy from qualifying could win it. Qualifying doesn’t matter all that much other than the check and the ego contest.”
Northwest racing legend Garrett Evans spent most of the day working with another Super Late Model racing luminary, Freddie Query, on getting his son Jan acclimated in his first Evergreen appearance. The East Wenatchee, Washington driver, whose first win at Evergreen came in 1985, drew early in the order and offered a similar take to Tanner.
“I think it depends on the weather and if we have a cloud cover,” Evans said. “It’s been pretty cool this week and if it stays the same it won’t make a difference.”
Action on Friday will get underway at 11:00 a.m. PT with the first of two practice sessions for the Super Late Models. Summer Showdown qualifying will take place at 4:30 p.m. to set the order for the 25-lap qualifying heats shortly after racing starts for the evening at 6:30 p.m.
Fans not able to make the trip or even those watching in the stands can follow along with Speed51.com’s Trackside Now coverage on both Friday and Saturday.
-By Aaron Creed, Speed51.com National Correspondent – Twitter: @aaron_creed
-Photo credit: Speed51.com
Thursday Practice Times
|38||22L||John Lathrop Jr.||24.013|
|40||35||Brian Cottrell||No Transponder|
|41||39||Pete Harding||No Transponder|