Dylan Zampa Nabs $5,000 Madera Prize

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Dylan Zampa celebrates his $5,000 victory Saturday night at Madera Speedway. (Jason Wedehase Photo)

MADERA, Calif. – Fourteen-year-old Dylan Zampa made his Nut Up Pro Late Model debut on Saturday night and promptly scored the biggest win of his career, topping his 18-year-old brother for the $5,000 victory at Madera Speedway.

The pair went side-by-side over a dramatic final 10 laps before wet weather ended the event prematurely.

Tanner Reif triumphed in a shortened opener for the 51FIFTY Jr. Late Models that attracted 20 drivers between the ages of 10 and 16. Both the Mini Cups vs. Bandoleros and Modified Super Toyotas were unable to run their features.

A grinding crash for the lead between Carlos Vieira and Blaine Rocha on lap 39 in the Nut Up Pro Late Model feature opened the door wide-open for the Zampa battle. Fast-time qualifier Vieira and Rocha slid off of turn four with Rocha spinning across the track into the inside wall with significant damage. Vieira drove away from the crash but with portions of Rocha’s nose piece lodged into his car. He was relegated to the rear for having it removed by officials.

Rocha had led all the way after starting outside Orange Show champion Parker Malone on the front row of the 26 car feature. More than 30 cars attempted to qualify, with the field narrowed by a B-main earlier in the afternoon.

Dylan Zampa, the runner-up finisher in the 2018 51FIFTY Jr. Late Model standings, slowly negotiated his way to second after starting sixth. The first caution waved on lap 18 for a spin. The caution waved again on lap 21 for Ryan Hart spinning and dropping fluid in turn one. Rocha picked the inside line against Zampa, pinning him into the dry sweep at the top of the first corner.

Through a series of mid-race cautions, Rocha continually maintained the lead over the rookie. A significant crash slowed the festivities when 2007 Altamont champion Ryan Philpott hit the turn one gate head on. He was uninjured and racing resumed after a brief red flag for clean up.

Zampa spun his tires on a lap 36 restart, which allowed the tenth starting Vieira to shoot the gap up into second. Vieira immediately clamped down on Rocha. Two laps later they slid through turn four before Rocha was hooked and hit the inside wall backwards.

The incident thrust Dylan Zampa into the lead, picking the inside against Logan Zampa. They staged a side-by-side battle over the next 10 laps with multiple lead changes. Logan led lap 39, before Dylan led lap 40. Logan edged forward for lap 41 but Dylan managed to lead until lap 45. Logan swung wide in turn four and Dylan danced to a one car length advantage until lap 49.

Dylan’s advantage was nullified by a caution for Malone spinning out of turn four. The race never restarted as a heavy sprinkle saw officials count caution laps to carry the race to lap 56 just past halfway. The halfway break began before the sprinkle turned into persistent rain showers to end the evening. That gave Dylan Zampa the $5,000 victory.

Jason Aguirre was third over Buddy Shepherd and Ross Strmiska.

Thirteen-year-old Reif won his second 51FIFTY Energy Drink Jr. Late Model Series race with a late race maneuver to take the victory.

Twelve-year-old Cody Kiemele swept around Jay Juleson to lead lap one. The caution waved immediately for a brief spin in turn three. Juleson looked pinned to the outside on the restart with a line of strong cars attempting to overhaul him including Bakersfield’s Seth Wise. A caution on lap six for a stalled car gave Juelson a break from the battling.

Joey Iest rocketed from fourth to second on the restart when Juleson was slow to get away. Iest tucked under Kiemele before Kiemele spun to surrender the lead and bring out the caution.

Iest took over the point with Tyler Reif advancing to second after starting sixth. Iest and Reif built up a five car length lead over the pack but then Reif suffered a solo spin in turn three. The pack of mostly rookie drivers all managed to avoid Reif’s stalled car.

Tanner Reif used these restarts to charge past both Wise and Juleson to get up into second. His brother spun again on lap 25 which allowed Tanner an opening to challenge Iest. Iest held off this attempt that included Reif sliding sideways off of turn four and nearly going around. He saved it and then was saved by a caution period. This next restart was Iest’s undoing with Reif taking the lead on lap 30.

A caution on lap 32 for Tyler Reif having another spin set up the final restart of the event. Tanner Reif motored away from Joey Iest for a .187-second advantage with Wise, Kabe McClenny, and Kayla Eshleman the top-five. The lap 41 checkered flag was intended to be the halfway break, but the race never restarted due to weather.