KALISPELL, Mont. – Four-time NASCAR Northwest Tour champion, Garrett Evans, had one of just a handful of bucket list dreams to check off in his illustrious career-winning a Montana 200. After posting a win in the C-Main, just missing a transfer position in the B-Main that would have locked the East Wenatchee, Wash. driver into the 200-lap main event, this year looked to be another uphill climb for Evans to reach his goal.
Starting on the pole for the Last Chance Qualifying race, Evans raced to a lead and never looked back to capture the 20th starting position in the main event field. From there he drove to the front of the pack and reached the top-5 running order by lap 50. With adjustments made during the break, Evans passed BJ Tidrick early in the race’s second-half and never looked back en route to capturing his first career Montana 200.
Evans becomes the first driver to win the C-Main, LCQ and Montana 200 in the same weekend since the race started back in 1991.
Owen Riddle led the 26-car field to the green flag and held the point through much of the first-half. The Naches, Wash. driver was pressured by fellow Yakima Speedway alum; Tidrick, during the course of the race’s early going but Riddle was able to withstand the challenge.
The night’s major incident, contact between Eric Schmidt and Shelby Thompson which collected the front-running cars of Taylor Riddle, Jim Pettit II, Nicole Behar, Joey Bird and defending Montana 200 champion Jonathon Gomez resulted in a jumble of cars that would challenge for the race’s victory. The lap 10 incident forced all involved to the pits with all seven done for the evening.
Riddle used the break during the red flag to asses his car and on each lap got faster and faster once the race went back to green. By lap 85 Riddle had lapped the field up to the 13th place car of Jeremy Doss.
A spin by Austin Reed brought out the yellow flag at lap 90 setting up a double-file restart. Tidrick took the high side and used it to his advantage as he scored the lead exiting turn No. 2. Riddle fell back to second-place only to be challenged for that position by Trevor Emond and Evans. Going three-wide through turns 3 and 4, Riddle was squeezed between Emond and Evans resulting in left-side damage. As the final eight laps roared towards the halfway break Riddle began to fall through the field, being scored 13th when the yellow was displayed for the break.
During the break Riddle’s team determined that the damage was too severe and they withdrew for the night.
Evans took the high side on the double-file restart for the final 100 laps, held Tidrick to the bottom of the track as the field entered turn No. 1 on the green flag, then swept past the race leader down the backstretch into turn No. 3 to take the point on lap 105.
After missing the Montana 200 starting field in 2013, Evans was determined to make his lead count as he went through the second-half with little pressure. The night’s final yellow flag, coming on lap 193 for a spinning Thornton, set-up a single-file restart and one last chance for Tidrick.
Tidrick, who had lost the power steering in his Ford Fusion at lap 140, could not get around Evans Chevrolet over the final seven laps and was relegated to the runner-up spot.
Bodie Morton, Jeff Jefferson and Braeden Havens rounded out the top-5 running order at the checkered flag. Morton and Havens joined race winner Evans as drivers transferring out of the LCQ race then going onto score a top-5 Montana 200 finish.
Ever the veteran, Evans wheeled his car slowly around Montana Raceway Park’s .250-mile oval and calmly pulled into victory circle to claim his historic trophy. No flash or burnouts needed from the 58-year old driver, he said.
“We worked real hard to win this race. I have wanted to win the Montana 200 for a long time and to do it is very special. I have to thank Doug Beteral and Better-All Auto Sales for his support.”
Tidrick, who was driving for the first time behind the wheel of car owner JC Wofford’s Ford, was all smiles with his second-place finish after battling 60 laps without power steering, he explained.
“We just didn’t have anything for Garrett on the last restart. Not having the power steering on this track is a tough deal so we’ll take this one and try and run a few more for JC later this year. We have a good car here that’s for sure.”
Morton was the highest finishing local driver in the race and heard it from the crowd as he exited his car.
“To have the support from the fans is really cool,” Morton said. “I can’t believe how good our car was tonight in going from the back of the field all the way up here to third.”
2014 Montana 200 Finishing Order:
1- Garrett Evans
2- BJ Tidrick
3- Bodie Morton
4- Jeff Jefferson
5- Braeden Havens
6- Shane Mitchell
7- Jeremy Doss
8- Trevor Emond
9- Jaime McClennon
10- Austin Reed
11- Kelly Admiraal
12- David Garber
13- Giles Thornton
14- Andy Brown
15- Mike Longton
16- Alex Lessor
17- Owen Riddle
18- Ryan Wells
19- Gracin Raz
20- Eric Schmidt
21- Shelby Thompson
22- Jonathon Gomez
23- Joey Bird
24- Nicole Behar
25- Jim Pettit II
26- Taylor Riddle
By Doug Pace, Speed51.com Correspondent. Photo credit: Speed51.com