By BOBBY SWEENEY
LAKE CITY, FL – Erick Rudolph came out on top of a wild Short Track Super Series event at All Tech Raceway, claiming the $10,000-to-win feature with a late pass of Mike Gular.
“We don’t get to a ton of STSS races, we’re a little out of their realm geographically,” Rudolph said. “The first two races went alright for us, but tonight it just came to us.”
Andy Bachetti was the early leader in the 50-lap Sunshine Swing finale, with Billy Pauch slotting into second during the opening stages. Pauch wasn’t comfortable in second, keeping pressure on Bachetti through the opening handful of laps. Pauch’s first swing at the lead came on lap 7, pulling alongside Bachetti before slipping into the clutches of third place Billy Dunn. One mistake by Pauch handed second to Dunn on lap 13, with Pauch then falling to Stewart Friesen, Matt Sheppard, and Larry Wight.
On lap 15, Friesen drove under Dunn for second, but as soon as that pass happened, leader Bachetti clipped the back of a lapped car and spun. The caution flew, but Bachetti did a 360 spin and rejoined the field in eighth spot, fortunate as Bachetti would’ve restarted last had he stalled. Because the lap wasn’t completed, Friesen had to give the spot back to Dunn, with Dunn in control for the following restart.
With rubber beginning to form in the middle lane, Friesen was stuck low restarting second. This allowed 12th-starter Mat Williamson, Anthony Perrego, and Wight to slide by, while Dunn drove away up front. Under a lap 18 yellow, Friesen went to the pits from fifth for a new tire, restarting tail as the race neared the midway mark. By halfway, Dunn held a slim lead over Williamson, but thick traffic was ready to interfere with Dunn’s lane.
A lap 26 yellow for a flat kept Dunn out of traffic, but didn’t keep Williamson away from Dunn. Following a couple more quick cautions, Williamson darted under Dunn for the lead on lap 31, but Dunn immediately slowed with a soft right rear. On the following restart, Mike Gular got a monster bite to drive from fourth to second, disposing of Sheppard and Erick Rudolph.
Once in second, Gular was matching Williamson’s pace, hanging approximately a second back from the Behrent’s #3. A lap 39 yellow for Kyle Coffey and Billy Decker slowing set up another double-file restart, and Gular took full advantage, getting under Williamson and securing the lead. Williamson then came under fire from Sheppard, losing second to the defending Short Track Super Series Grand Champion. Two laps later, an extensive red flag flew as David Schilling removed some catchfence from turn one following a hard flip, stopping action on lap 41 of 50.
The lap 41 restart saw the race flipped on its heels, as Sheppard shoved the nose entering turn one and slipped to sixth, and Gular skated out of the rubber in turn two. The result was Rudolph driving from third to first, and Friesen back to second from the rear.
“It was a long race and the track locked down a lot harder than we all thought, but that unpredictability is what makes it fun,” stated Rudolph. “I had a few people tell me under the red that I still had some tread left, so I turned off conserve mode and let it eat.”
Gular slipped to third with Billy Pauch Jr. behind, and Dillon Groover from 26th. Meanwhile, Sheppard and Williamson were out of the top five.
Rudolph had a hefty lead built up with a handful of circuits remaining, but a lap 47 yellow nixed that. Despite second place Friesen having a 18-lap newer right rear tire, Rudolph was able to drive away in the final laps, scoring the $10,000 payday at All Tech Raceway.
With finishes of first, first, and second on the final night, Friesen became the first All Tech Raceway Sunshine Swing champion, coming up one spot short of a clean sweep.
“It was a gamble either way on the tires,” noted Friesen. “We gambled soft and it worked well for about ten laps before it took rubber. I saw how much tread Rudolph had at the end and knew there was no way I was going to get him unless he did something stupid, so we can’t complain. A couple days at the track with two wins and a second is always good.”
Gular looked poised for his second career Short Track Super Series win to go along with his Orange County Fair Speedway win, but the lap 41 restart canceled the celebration plans.
“I knew I had to beat Sheppard into turn one, and we both over-drove it,” a dejected Gular said. “We both washed up and those two got by us. Its disappointing to be going away like that then have the red come out and lose it, but confidence was real low coming into tonight so it was a good shot in the arm.”
Pauch Jr., finished in the fourth spot with Sheppard completing the top five.
Sunshine Swing Short Track Super Series All-Tech Raceway Lake City, FL Saturday February 8, 2020
MODIFIED FEATURE FINISH (50-LAPS) 1 Erick Rudolph 2 Stewart Friesen 3 Mike Gular 4 Billy Pauch Jr. 5 Matt Sheppard 6 Larry Wight 7 Dillon Groover 8 Mat Williamson 9 Brandon Grosso 10 Ryan Watt 11 Billy Decker 12 Matt Stangle 13 Billy Dunn 14 Kyle Coffey 15 Rick Laubach 16 Kyle Weiss 17 Demetrios Drellos 18 Alex Yankowski 19 Anthony Perrego 20 Robert Dutton 21 Danny Johnson 22 Billy Van Pelt 23 Jordan Watson 24 Jim Rasey 25 David Schilling 26 Andy Bachetti 27 Peter Britten 28 Danny Heiber
Did Not Qualify (Receive Mike’s Racing Heads $50 Tow Insurance): Nick Mady, Rusty Smith, Justin Haers, Scott Van Gorder, Todd Neiheiser, Ryan Riffe, Clay Tatman, Scott Hitchens, Jeremy Smith, Tyler Siri, Darwin Greene, J.R. Hurlburt, Marshall Hurd, Russell Morseman III, Darren Smith.
‘Sunshine Swing’ Final Modified Points (Top-10): 1) Stewart Friesen 295; 2) Mat Williamson 258; 3) Matt Sheppard 255; 4 – Tie) Billy Pauch Jr. & Erick Rudolph 223; 6) Larry Wight 221; 7) Billy Decker 208; 8) Anthony Perrego 207; 9) Billy Dunn 204; 10) Brandon Grosso 184. http://www.dirttrackdigest.com/New17/?p=35641