Salem, Indiana -- In a night of first, 12-year-old Luke Wilhelm from nearby Clio, Michigan, came away with the victory in the inaugural 25 lap feature for the Victory Custom Trailers CRA Junior Late Models on Saturday night at Birch Run Speedway. The newest series sanctioned by Champion Racing Association Powered by JEGS made its big debut on Saturday and with several of the drivers from nearby Birch Run, the stands were filled with family members and friends cheering on their favorite drivers, it was a great beginning for the new series.
The Victory Custom Trailers CRA Junior Late Models is a new racing series in 2019 to focus on a youth movement for short track stock car racing that will see 10 to 15-year-old drivers compete amongst themselves for both experience and recognition in full size late models with an economical drive train and suspension alternatives. Saturday’s race was the first of eight scheduled events for the series in 2019.
“It’s really cool to win the first ever series event,” remarked Wilhelm in victory lane. “We have a lot of family and friends here and it was great to win in front of them. This is going to be a fun series and I’m looking forward to racing in it this year!”
The day started with an orientation meeting for the seven Victory Custom Trailers CRA Junior Late Models teams who participated in the first ever series event. That quickly went to the track with the first of two practice sessions. Some teams had tested prior to Saturday’s event on the 1/3-mile track at Birch Run, while others made their first ever laps on that track and in a full-size late model. The first practice saw all seven cars make improvements. The second practice session also served as group qualifying with 14-year-old Chase Bruda claiming the first ever MPM Marketing Fast Qualifier Award.
The racers participated in an on-track autograph session to start the evenings festivities. From there the first of two heat races rolled off as the drivers were participating in their first ever races in full size late models. 11-year-old Katelyn Hettinger got the win in the first heat with a great pass of 12-year-old Charlie Keeven. Burda raced from his fourth place starting position to get the win in the second heat race over Luke Wilhelm.
Luke Wilhelm grabbed the early lead at the drop of the green flag for the Victory Custom Trailers CRA Junior Late Models 25 lap feature from the pole after the three car inverted start. The action up front was tight between Luke Wilhelm and 13-year-old Jonathan Shafer. Shafer and Wilhelm made contact coming out of turn four on lap four when Shafer spun and clipped the right side of Burda’s and then collecting Keeven. 11-year-old Zach Wilhelm also received heavy contact on his right front in the aftermath of the incident. The event was red flagged after the initial yellow came out.
All drivers were okay, but Shafer, Keven and Zach Wilhelm’s nights were over because of damage to their cars. Burda’s car received repairs so he would be able to continue.
Luke Wilhelm grabbed the lead on the re-start and never looked back leading the final 22 all green flag laps and winning by a little over a second. Burda came from the tail on the restart to battle his way through the field to get a second-place finish with no body parts on his cars right side. Burda received the AR Bodies Cool Move of the Race for his run through the field to get a second-place finish.
Hettinger would finish in third place. 13-year-old Evan Varney did a great job avoiding several incidents and brought home a fourth-place finish.
The next Victory Custom Trailers CRA Junior Late Models event will be at Anderson Speedway on Saturday, June 15th. More information on the Victory Custom Trailers CRA Junior Late Models is available at www.cra-racing.com.
-CRA Racing Press Release & Photo