Parker Retzlaff entered Tuesday night's Southern Super Series race at Stafford Motor Speedway with a 20-point lead over Thomas Axsom in the championship battle. At night's end, the real-wold ARCA racer extended his points lead with his third victory of the current season.
In order to get to victory lane, Retzlaff needed to fend off a charge from 2019 Speed51 Elite Modified Tour champion Brandon Wilkinson.
“He (Wilkinson) was driving into the bottom and the apron like that, I was scared I was going to get turned," said Retzlaff, who finished second in Saturday's eRattler 250. "I started driving harder which made me lose time actually and I just barely got it. I was really scared he was going to turn me for the win but I am glad he was a lot more respectful than that and I thank him for that.”
When asked about the points battle, Parker replied calmly.
“Anything can happen, we are just going to stay as consistent as we can.”
Wilkinson led the first majority of the race until he lost the lead to Retzlaff on the final 33-lap green flag run.
“Parker and I race together a lot, a little too much here for the past five or six years, but I know he is running for a championship and I am friends with both him and Thomas (Axsom)," Wilkinson said. "I wouldn’t do anything to put him at risk of losing more than one spot. I couldn’t bring myself to wreck him and I think that Is what I was going to have to tonight, but I gave it all I had to make him second.”
When it came down to the final laps, Retzlaff and Wilkinson had 2.5 seconds on third-place finisher Alex McCollum. The last thing the lead duo wanted to see was a caution.
“Definitely did not want a caution, my spotter Ryan Blanch did an awesome job giving me everything I needed to know," Wilkinson said. "He was giving me lap times throughout the whole race so I could match my pace with Parker as he came through the field. He got under me once and I chopped him, but I did not want to do it again. I gave him his lane and we were dead even after that.”
Alex McCollum qualified first, but the invert put him in the sixth starting position for the main event.
“I was able to get the pole, car felt really good, heard they helped Richard make a gear change so that helped a lot," McCollum said. "Our handling was a little tight at the beginning, but overall it was a really good race.”
McCollum battled through adversity at Stafford after being involved in an early caution and was able to fight his way up to third. However, he was not able to close the gap on the leaders during the closing laps of the race.
“I felt like if we had a yellow, I had a shot, but with me spinning and the no tire rule I was hurting a little bit," McCollum admitted. I was in Discord with Wilkinson and was more focused on that battle because I wanted him to get the win. Patience is for sure the key but I kinda was a little impatient tonight, I gave a door and a few bumpers, but made sure I did it clean and not wreck anyone because I do not like racing like that, but I had to get to the front.”
A full race replay from Tuesday night's race can be viewed for free at www.speed51.com/westernsuperseries. The Western Super Series presented by J2Racing.part and EPYK Media heads to The Bullring at Las Vegas Motor Speedway next Tuesday, March 31.
-Story by Kyler Hope, Speed51 Northwest Correspondent