POST FALLS, Idaho – Canadian Trevor Emond scored a hard-fought victory over Owen Riddle and Alex Lessor in Sunday’s 15th Annual NAPA Auto Parts Idaho 200 en route to becoming the first driver from North of the border to win the Gem State event.
Lessor led the race’s first few dozen laps only to relinquish the point to three-time Idaho 200 champion, Gary Lewis. Once in front, Lewis set a blazing pace that had him working traffic and putting cars down a lap up to 12th place Jay Sauls just as the halfway break came.
During the break Lewis was content to leave his car as is with just a tire change and fuel to get him to the end of the race. His competitors were scrambling around him to fine the right adjustments to contend with the Snohomish, Wash. driver.
No one counted on racing luck to make an appearance early in the second-half and change the outcome of the event.
Lewis took the second-half restart and sailed the car into turn No. 1 with the lead over Lessor, Emond and Riddle. Holding the point to lap 105, Lewis appeared to be back to the groove that had him leaving his competitors to battle for second-place during the first 100 laps.
Then racing luck struck Lewis.
As he entered turn No. 4 Lewis hung a right to get out of the racing groove then slowly glided his SuperGraphics Chevrolet onto pit road with a flat right-front tire. While his crew was able to make the tire change under green that only set their driver back three laps, Lewis and his chances for a fourth Idaho 200 went flat just as quickly as his tire.
Lessor snatched the opportunity Lewis left him and drove to a 10-car length lead over Emond and Riddle through lap 108. Emond took an underneath look on Riddle, made the inside line work and moved into second-place by lap 109. On the next lap Emond caught Lessor, moved to the high side of the track where his car seemed to run effortlessly, then blew by the race leader to lead lap 110.
Lessor settled into a race pace that didn’t overwork the tires while keeping Emond in his sights. As Emond flew by the flag stand to begin lap 119, Lessor cut his lead to a few car lengths as the pair headed down the backstretch. Emond left the door open on the bottom grove; Lessor seized the chance and assumed the top spot once more.
Emond fell back to the clutches of Riddle who while not flashy all day, was consistently in the top-5 running order from the start of the race.
Riddle challenged Emond for second-place but at every instance Emond had an answer to keep himself in the spot. Lessor, while aware that his chief rivals were battle for position, could not put distance between himself and the duo that eventually gave up racing each other in favor of trying to catch the race leader.
As lap 164 went up on the scoreboard, Emond had used the second groove to close to Lessor’s right side door panel, and then made the line stick to move back to the top of the running order. Lessor no sooner got into the runner-up position before he had a rear-view mirror full of Riddle who had found a second wind in his Ford.
As the top-3 raced their way to the final handful of laps, it appeared that lapped traffic would give Riddle and Lessor one more chance at Emond who was methodical in getting through the field, but in doing so allowed his chief rivals the chance to close to within a few car lengths.
Emond moved by Nicole Behar to put the seventh-place driver a lap down and In doing so had nothing but clear track in front of him over the final 20 laps en route to the victory.
Riddle held off a hard-charging Lessor over the closing laps to capture a runner-up finish.
Teammates Shelby Thompson and Braeden Havens rounded out the top-5 running order.
Emond, in scoring his historic victory, heaped praise on his crew for making the Idaho 200 what it was.
“I have to thank my guys for all the work they’ve done to the car. We haven’t run it since last fall in Las Vegas. We battled electrical problems in the car and in the last few weeks the guys stripped all the wiring out of it and redid it. It ran well, no I’d have to say it ran awesome today,” Emond said. “This is our second big race win of the year (Emond won the GET Rich 212 at Montana Raceway Park back in May) so we’re on a bit of a roll.”
Riddle, who was approaching heat exhaustion as the break began, was happy to score a top-three finish.
“It was real hot inside the car today. I got out at the break, got a ton of water in me, changed my shirt and then just spent the rest of the break trying to get cooled off,” Riddle explained. “With no cautions coming out in the second-half that really helped me as air kept flowing through the car. Under cautions in the first-half it seem liked the air just stopped getting in the car, which made it hard to work with. We had a good race with Alex there in the end and we’re happy to come out of here with a runner-up finish. Trevor had a great car today so congratulations to him on the win.”
Lessor, who has battled motor problems in recent weeks, was also content with his race results.
“To finish a race for our Bob’s Alley Speed team is big when looking at the troubles we had with motors and all,” he said. “I had some adjustments in mind that we made at the break but I think we didn’t go as far as we should have with the sway bar turns. I didn’t want to push it because the car handled so well, but in hindsight another turn or two could have made the difference here this afternoon.”
– By Doug Pace, Speed51.com Correspondent. Photo credit: Speed51.com
15th Annual NAPA Auto Parts Idaho 200 Unofficial Results
1) Trevor Emond
2) Owen Riddle
3) Alex Lessor
4) Shelby Thompson
5) Braeden Havens
6) Ryan Wells
7) Nicole Behar
8) Agni Howell
9) Dan Garber
10) Justin Popple
11) Joey Bird
12) Zach Moran
13) Gary Lewis
14) David Garber
15) Jay Sauls
16) Jason O’Neil
17) Tom Plybon
18) Clint Habart
19) Garrett Evans DNS
20) Josh Roberts DNS
21) Les Harding DNS