One year after seeing a Summer Showdown win slip away, Tayler Riddle found redemption in the 2016 edition of the race on Saturday night. Riddle blasted out of nowhere in the final 20 laps and took advantage when Preston Peltier stumbled to claim the $25,000 check at Evergreen Speedway (WA).
It was the biggest victory of Riddle’s racing career, joining a growing list of marquee wins including the Tucson Chilly Willy, Wenatchee Evans Memorial, and Yakima Fall Classic.
The topsy-turvy finish that saw Riddle claim the win capitalized what was a wild day and race at Evergreen. The drama began just two minutes into first practice, when Riddle’s brother, Owen, got turned around trying to pass a slower car and was collected by Peliter and Jeff Knight. Owen, the defending Montana 200 winner was a pre-race favorite. But the damage to his machine proved too severe to repair even after 10 teams came to offer help, and he loaded up. That allowed the combined Riddle team to focus purely on Tayler come race time.
Peltier and Knight were both pretty severely damaged in that incident as well, with Peltier receiving a messed-up nose and bent rear clip. After driving all the way from North Carolina, the team did not pack in the towel, and thrashed for the next three hours, barely making the start of their qualifying heat.
But the damage to Peltier’s car never slowed him as he dominated the qualifying heat. And when early race leader Derek Thorn was spun by Garrett Evans, sending both to the rear of the field, Peltier inherited a lead that he would hold until lap 193, making the story of the race almost certainly about his comeback run.
Peltier’s machine though had a more invisible Achilles’ heel than the bent metal and that was a fault in the electrical system. The team changed batteries at the halfway point, hoping they could make the rest of the distance. But with seven laps to go, their luck ran out. Coming down the frontstretch with a straightaway lead on the new second-place machine of Riddle, Peltier’s car began to lay down. He was in third place by the next lap.
That’s what left Riddle up front for just the final few circuits. He had weathered the attrition of a race that saw eight red flags and run from fifth forward after the final restart to just pass Thorn for what looked like the runner-up spot before the unlikely ascension to the lead. By the time he was the leader, there was no chance for anyone to catch him.
Thorn, who Friday set the track record in qualifying, finished second ahead of Knight, who himself quietly completely his own remarkable comeback in a new LFR Chassis staffed in-person by Tony Eury Jr.
Peltier, who could just shake his head and give an ironic laugh about his luck, was the first competitor to give Riddle a congratulatory handshake. Riddle, a soft spoken driver, was more than happy to then climb the stage and get the massive $25,000 check in front of a cheering Standing Room Only crowd.
“It’s unbelievable,” said Riddle. I can’t begin to thank everyone enough from my sponsors to my crew. Everyone worked their butts off and this feels awesome. I know it’s not like me to really save the tires, but it worked out this time.”
“This win is still a little bittersweet. My brother wrecked his car in practice, but I got to win the race.”
Thorn had to settle for second, saying his mid-race spin certainly never helped but was not the difference between getting a win and finishing on the podium.
“We ran up front and then he had to go to the back,” said Thorn. “It was what it was. Had a lot of fun racing the 48 [Peltier], but could never get by him and then the 15 [Riddle] got by us. These races sadly are sometimes just about getting to the end of the race in one piece. It’s nice to get two podium finishes in this race in a row and I look forward to getting one spot better next year.”
The Montana 200 is the next big-money race in the Pacific Northwest, running on July 16. Speed51.com will have live coverage of that weekend as well.
— Story and Photos by Tim Quievryn // 51’s Third Turn // @thethirdturn
Summer Showdown Results:
|28||22||John Lathrop Jr||44|