The 2018 APC United Late Model Series Presented by Grisdale Racing Products season was pushed back a day due to weather, but would prove to be worth the wait as a full field of top Pro Late Models from around the province thrilled the near capacity grandstand. The Kleen-Flo 100 at Sunset International Speedway, the first race of the tour’s fourth season, saw a little bit of everything under the lights on a Sunday night of the long weekend.
Bennett GM Pole Qualifying started the evenings competition as groups of five were turned loose for five lap sessions to set the starting lineup for the 100 lap race. 28 cars were in attendance, meaning a last chance qualifier was required. The top 18 times were taken from qualifying, with the last 10 going to the last chance race. Brandon Watson, the 2017 series champion, would start his title defence with a pole and a new track record with a time of 14.037. Three drivers beat the old track record, with JR Fitzpatrick and Treyten Lapcevich qualifying second and third respectively.
The last chance race was dramatic as drivers fought for a spot in the 100 lap show. Jerry Artuso would lead all 15 laps, locking himself into the event along with Steve Laking, Tom Gibbons, and Shawn McGlynn. Andrew Gresel, Mat Box, Patrick Freel. and Paighton Jacobs used provisionals to make the 26 car field. Despite a last lap ditch effort, Branden Verhoeven would fail to qualify for the race as well as rookie contender Jade Franklin.
The Kleen-Flo 100 saw JR Fitzpatrick lead the field to the green flag after he pulled the first starting spot in the pill draw. Billy Schwartzenburg took the lead off the start and would lead the opening four circuits before Fitzpatrick regained the spot on lap five. The race would get into a rhythm as drivers raced for spots all the way through the 26 car field.
On lap six the caution flag would fly for the first time as Rick Spencer-Walt was sent for a spin. The driver would continue with no damage as JR Fitzpatrick continued to pace the field. Just after the restart, Shae Gemmell would enter the top five, shuffling Jamie Cox to the sixth spot. After a run to lap 19, the caution flag would be displayed again as Lane Zardo was sent for a spin. Lap 20 saw Brandon Watson take over the top position, just before the yellow flag was shown again, this time for a spin by the 89c of Shawn Chenoweth.
Lap 22 saw JR Fitzpatrick regain the top position, making use of the restart. Between laps 35-38, Fitzpatrick and Watson battled side by side for the race lead as they worked closer to the tail of the field. 45 laps into the race, Shae Gemmell advanced to a podium spot as he moved past 2017 Rookie of the Year winner, Treyten Lapcevich. Junior Farrelly worked his way into the top five on lap 56, as Billy Schwartzenburg began to slide back.
JR Fitzpatrick found himself in an unfortunate spot on lap 62 as he could not clear lapped traffic and Brandon Watson was able to move around him for the race lead. Fitzpatrick would be forced to make use of the chrome horn as he began to try and work his way back to the rear bumper of Watson, all while the two weaved through heavy traffic.
A caution on lap 93 setup a wild finish, as Watson would be contested heavily. On the restart there was trouble for Dale Shaw and Jake Sheridan as they tangled in turn one, ending the night for both drivers. The second attempt at a restart featured a great side by side battle between Fitzpatrick and Watson, before Watson took sole possession of the spot. With just four laps to go, Andrew Gresel gave Fitzpatrick a shot and moved into second and set his sights on the race leader. Watson would be able to hold on for the win, his eight career series victory. Gresel, Fitzpatrick, Walt, and Gemmell would round out the top five finishing positions.
The tour heads to Flamboro Speedway on June 2nd for the Interstate Batteries 100, the second event of the nine scheduled on the 2018 calendar. Action gets started at 6:00pm with Bennett GM Pole Qualifying. More information can be found on www.FlamboroSpeedway.ca and www.APCRacingSeries.com
-APC United Late Model Series Press Release
-Photo credit: Dave Franks Photography