It was the best start to the 2020 racing season that Preston Peltier could have hoped for, winning the Chilly Willy 150 Sunday afternoon at Tucson Speedway (AZ). The west’s first Super Late Model race of the year is also the very same race that got away from the California veteran driver just two years prior.
While the fast pace of the race, with only two yellow flags, played into Peltier’s wheelhouse of saving his car to strike in the late laps, it was far from an easy victory. Before race day, Peltier had bent his front end in prelim racing the previous day.
Having successfully repaired the No. 48 car, after rallying in his qualifier Saturday, Peltier set to work seizing the lead in the opening laps, before being overtaken by Mark Neff on Lap 18. Following a halfway break, Peltier took the lead back on Lap 77. But Neff was not done, even after clipping the wall, battling side by side to Peltier’s outside for seven laps before Peltier took the lead for good with help from traffic on Lap 115.
Peltier’s win comes after making a late decision to attend the Chilly Willy just days prior.
“We had an awesome car here all weekend. Got it roughed up in the heat race yesterday, bent some suspension parts. We put it back together, and she’s still good. This is my kind of race, you got to save some tires and strategize a little bit. I felt like this place owed me one because I had a way better car than Chris (Eggleston) the year I finished second; it’s about time we win,” Peltier said on the Low Budget TV broadcast.
Despite nearly getting shuffled out of the racing line a few times by lapped cars, Peltier still felt confident he would’ve been able to fight back and still claim the $10,000 check.
“Even if we had fallen back a little bit, I still think we could’ve gotten back up there, mixed it up, and still pulled it off.”
Behind Peltier, Mark Neff and Kole Raz stole the show over the final 20 laps after first going three wide with Austin Thom, banging doors multiple times, and with greater intensity as the laps wound down. In the end, it was Neff who held on to the runner-up spot.
“Man, I’ve never worked so hard for a second-place finish. It was a lot of fun, a tough battle. Preston pulled away and we were three-wide forever. It was awesome, I got to thank the guys for the great car, just wasn’t quite good enough, couldn’t make it last 150 laps.”
Despite taking part of the second-half of the race to save tires, Kole Raz did not have quite enough speed and grip to put Neff and Peltier behind him.
“We started reeling them in after we backed it off there. I thought we had something for the top two, but I was just happy to be up here battling after starting tenth. This team works hard, we had a rough few days, a lot of bad luck, but we were able to finish up with a podium finish.”
Austin Thom held his ground to finish fourth over Ron Norman who wheeled home in fifth. Kody Vanderwal, Paul Banghart, Luke Hall, Eric Holmes, and Stephen Blankenship rounded out the top 10.
-Story by: Connor Sullivan, Speed51 Northeast Editor – Twitter: @Connor51CT
-Photo credit: Speed51