Anyone with any doubts that a victory in the 25th annual Coors Light Montana 200 meant the world to Owen Riddle need only watch his body language Saturday night after he climbed from the car in victory lane at Montana Raceway Park.
Flashing a huge smile, Riddle crouched down on his knees and spent a good thirty seconds breathing a few long sighs of relief. His first words, after being asked what it meant to win the 200, were simply “Great. Great!” And after another long exhale, he said “Great” one more time.
Riddle, 29 from Naches, Washington, scored what is easily his largest career victory in the Inland Northwest’s biggest race, held annually at Montana Raceway Park in Kalispell, Montana. It was his first major Super Late Model victory in over a year and fulfilled the potential shown when he finished second in his first 200 back in 2011.
Riddle became just the third driver to win the race wire-to-wire after starting on the pole. He is also the 19th different winner in the 25 years of this event. All that said, nothing came easy to Riddle Saturday night. While he would lead every lap of the race he was stalked constantly throughout the event by some of the very best drivers in the region.
First, it was his brother Tayler who, even as Owen would say after winning the pole Friday night, seemed to have the fastest car all weekend. Owen and Tayler would cross the line 1-2 at the halfway break, leading a five car pack that finished under a blanket before coming to pit road for four fresh tires.
The second half weeded out a few challengers. Tayler had a lot of trouble getting going in the second half and would spin to bring out a caution. Jeremy Doss had a strong car all night but a torn up right front fender and a bad restart early in the second half cost him a few spots early in the run. Four-time 200 winner Gary Lewis seesawed all night in the running order and cut a tire down after re-entering the top-five late in the race.
All of that though only served to bring Northwest legend Garrett Evans to Riddle’s bumper. For the final 70 laps of the race, Evans was never more than a car-length or two off the lead.
A few late cautions turned out to be the difference. Riddle had begun to overheat the tires in traffic, allowing Evans to begin to duck inside of the leader. It seemed like a matter of moments before Evans would take the lead and be gone, but a big crash down the backstretch on lap 181 would red-flag the race for 10 minutes. Another big crash on the restart brought out another red-flag.
Riddle was aided by the extra time to allow his tires to cool and ultimately by Doss, who occupied Evans in a battle for second down the stretch. Evans finally got clear of Doss but could only cut half the deficit to Riddle by the time the checkered flag flew.
“This is just our third race this year,” said Riddle moments after receiving the trophy and the $15,000 check. “And it’s the first race we’ve finished. We’ve had some crummy luck. Crashes and mechanical issues.”
“That last red flag really did help us out. Garrett was running us down pretty good. Between him and my brother, they gave me all I wanted tonight.”
Evans came up short of the win after claiming his first 200 last year, but the 59-year-old champion and promoter extraordinaire tacked on a runner-up in Montana just a few weeks after a second place run in the Evergreen Summer Showdown.
“I’d really like to that everyone at Montana who puts this race on,” Evans started off his post race thoughts by saying. “I really look forward to coming to run this race every year. Great fans. I’ll definitely be back next year. We gave him [Riddle] everything we brought. We were just a little too free after that last yellow.”
Doss gave Riddle a champagne shower in Victory Lane after rounding out the podium in his second trip up to Montana. He told Speed51 after the race that his problem all night was not having enough bite up off the corner.
Fourth went to Tayler Riddle, who made a nice recovery in the second half of the race. Rounding out the top-five was NASCAR K&N Pro Series West Rookie of the Year points leader Gracin Raz. The next major race in the Inland Northwest will be on August 1 for the Idaho 200 at Stateline Speedway (ID). Speed51.com will have Trackside Now coverage for that event.
(powered by 51's Third Turn)
| 1||10||Owen Riddle||200||200|
| 2||64e||Garrett Evans||200||0|
| 3||75||Jeremy Doss||200||0|
| 4||15r||Tayler Riddle||200||0|
| 5||15g||Gracin Raz||200||0|
| 6||37||Mike Longton||200||0|
| 7||73||Gary Lewis||200||0|
| 8||62||Chance Overholt||200||0|
| 9||5||Ryan Wells||200||0|
| 10||1K||Mitch Kleyn||197||0|
| 11||23||Brandon Sickler||197||0|
| 12||89||Bobby Hodges||185||0|
| 13||16||Blake Williams||181||0|
| 14||93||Dave Garber||181||0|
| 15||53||Alex Lessor||181||0|
| 16||20||Shelby Thompson||181||0|
| 17||83||Braeden Havens||181||0|
| 18||1||Agni Howell||178||0|
| 19||8||Kevin Goe||176||0|
| 20||09||Clint Habart||173||0|
| 21||46||Hannah Newhouse||155||0|
| 22||24||Joey Bird||116||0|
| 23||15||Adam Kinkel||107||0|
| 24||56||Tyler Corpron||98||0|
| 25||66||Jeff Smyth||30||0|
| 26||64||Brock Denney||24||0|
-By Tim Quievryn, Speed51 Southeast Editor – Twitter: @thethirdturn
-Photo credit: Speed51.com