In his young Late Model racing career, Jake Gille has been close to capturing the checkered flag on Friday night of National Short Track Championships.
Two years ago, Gille led the first half of the 47 lap feature, only to see a flat tire end his chances of winning. Last year Gille was again among the contenders in a 48 lap feature, eventually settling for a top three behind race winner Alex Papini.
This year, the youngest of the three racing Gille’s would not be denied. The Machesney Park resident made his big move on a mid-race restart, slipping ahead of leader Dana Czach just past halfway en route to his victory in the 49 lap event. The win was Gille’s second Late Model win in his last three attempts.
Behind Gille, the battling was furious, with seven-time Rockford Speedway track champion Bobby Wilberg eventually winning the multi-car battle for the second place. Wilberg, Czach, Mitch Garfield, Dale Nottestad and Tom Gille all traded punches for the second spot late in the race. Wilberg jumped to second after a late restart and was not challenged thereafter. Czach and Garfield put on a thrilling battle for third place, with Garfield, the 2012 Rookie of the Year, outlasting Czach, the 2014 Rookie of the Year. Tom Gille finished fifth, putting a father-son combo in the top five.
Jefferson Wisconsin’s Jason Thoma pocketed his first ever National Short Track Championship, winning the 40 lap Sportsman feature thanks to his strong effort in the second half of the race. Thoma, who started deep in the field, used early restarts to his advantage in advancing forward through the field. Johnson Creek Wisconsin’s Kyle Chwala led most of the race’s first half and appeared to be unbeatable until the halfway point when Thoma closed in. Thoma advanced to the lead on lap 22 and never looked back. Chwala settled for second, with Daryl Gerke in third. Machesney Park’s Chad Smith was fourth, while 2014 track champion Brett McCoy rounded out the top five.
The most thrilling finish of the night was in the American Short Tracker feature, which was a non-stop 40 lap race that featured a photo finish. Janesville’s Devon Dixon jumped to the early lead and appeared to have the race in hand. As the race continued, Durand’s Ryan Nelson jumped into second spot and began his pursuit of Dixon. As the race passed halfway, Nelson would track down Dixon and the two racers would begin a high-speed game of chess over the race’s final laps. On the white flag lap, Nelson made his move, going to the bottom of Dixon in turn one. The move paid off for Nelson, with Dixon unable to make a comeback as the checkered flag flew. The win was Nelson’s first of the year and first NSTC American Short Tracker win. Dixon settled for second, with five-time track champion George Sparkman in third. 2014 track champion Kelly Evink came home fourth, with last year’s NSTC winner Nick Cina Jr fifth.
Bobby Frisch ended his strong season with a strong run in the Roadrunner 40 lap feature event. The 2014 Roadrunner track champion collected his seventh win of the year in style, blasting to the lead early in the race and never letting go of the top spot. Adam Cartwright finished in second place, his second top two in as many Roadrunner races. 2014 Wild Wednesday champion Dennis Smith Jr finished the race in third place. 2013 NSTC winner Terrance Robinson was fourth, while Jason Van Hise rounded out the top five.
In the 25 lap Bandit Challenge, Dave Schmidt bit back at the track that has bit him in the past. Last season, on this race’s opening lap, Schmidt flipped his car on the frontstretch. Schmidt’s car was damaged, but his pride was not, as the Cudahy Wisconsin driver returned with his twisted race car to finish that race. This year, Schmidt advanced forward while also capitalizing on the misfortunes of drivers ahead of him en route to the race lead. The four-cylinder finale was shaping up to be a terrific finish, but the race was cut short on lap 21, after a scary crash in turn three involving Derek Dobbs and Tracy Wallin. Both drivers were able to get out of their vehicles under their own power, but the track was blocked and clean up proved extensive, bringing a premature ending to the race. Schmidt took the win, ahead of Steve Dickson and Charlie Frisch.
Josh Thiering ended the night with his third Figure 8 win at NSTC, leading most of the 10 lap main event on his way to the checkers. Dave Lumsden Jr finished in second, with Nick Schneider third.
– Rockford Speedway Press Release
Photo Credit: Mark Melchiori