Ryan Kuhn received great news on Speed51’s “The Bullring” Monday morning when he was announced as one of the 15 semifinalists for the Kulwicki Driver Development Program. Less than 48 hours later, the Massachusetts Late Model racer drove Alan Kulwicki’s iconic Hooters paint scheme to victory lane in Tuesday’s Western Super Series race presented J2Racing.parts at Bristol Motor Speedway.
Kuhn started the race from the fifth position and capitalized as some of the best sim racers in the country made rare mistakes. After applying pressure to Late Model Stock Car driver Layne Riggs, Kuhn took over the lead just prior to the halfway mark of the 100-lap race when Riggs made contact with the outside wall.
Riggs reclaimed the top spot on Lap 65 following a restart, but his time out front was short lived. Two laps later, Riggs made hard contact with the outside wall after contact with championship contender Thomas Axsom.
Kuhn inherited the lead for the ensuing restart after Axsom was penalized for his role in the Riggs accident. From there, he had to survive a late green-white-checkered restart to score the victory.
“I capitalized on a lot of mistakes tonight, got to the front pretty smooth and there was great clean racing up at the front and then the second half got pretty wild,” Kuhn said. “I made a mistake on a late restart, got my doors blown off by Layne (Riggs), and I made sure not to make that mistake again. It feels good to capture this win, a lot of mistakes by a lot of great drivers tonight, a few caught up in wrecks, and I just capitalized on all of them. It is just a product of Bristol.”
Kuhn ended the night with a Polish Victory Lap made famous by Alan Kulwicki.
“It means a lot to me, Alan Kulwicki is a role model to all of us. It is unbelievable to be a part of the 15 [semifinalists] and hopefully I can make it to the final seven at the end of the month.”
Thomas Axsom battled through controversy after being sent to the rear for causing the lap 65 caution, but drove his was back to the front to finish second.
“I got a little hot when I got up to second and I saw the bottom and said ‘I’m going for it.’ It was a bad idea; I should have just rode when I passed my teammate,” Axsom said. “Should have rode and I did not, I got a hot head and that is what happens, but I bounced back and was just trying to get as many spots on Parker (Retzlaff).”
After a week off, the series visits the virtual Milwaukee Mile in two weeks to continue the championship battle.
“I haven’t ran Milwaukee in a Super (Late Model) in years, so definitely going to have to start the testing tomorrow,” Axsom said. “I am really into these Western Super Series points because it has been a couple years since I have won anything big so this would be a pretty big accomplishment with some of the big names in here.”
Dustyn Mombourquette made his Western Super Series Elite debut after being brought up from the prelude series, grinding his way to the front for a third-place finish.
“My first time in the Super Series and coming home with a third is literally the most unreal feeling. It is one of those times where you are just left speechless,” Mombourquette said. “The biggest thing I found was to just be smart. My game plan was to just keep my nose clean and stay off the wall and complete every lap. There is no way that I thought I would have been sitting here on the front straightaway behind two of my good friends Axsom and Kuhn.”
The Western Super Series presented by J2Racing.parts goes into the off week with the points battle tighter than ever. The Milwaukee Mile will play host to an 80-lap race on March 17.
Race fans can watch every Western Super Series race live and on-demand by visiting www.speed51.com/westernsuperseries.
-Story by: Kyler Hope, Speed51 Northwest Correspondent
-Photo credit: Speed51