TUCSON, Ariz. – Despite there being a full moon in the sky, the action at Tucson Speedway turned out to mostly clean and calm during the first preliminary features of Chilly Willy weekend.
Friday evening’s festivities held no direct bearing toward what occurs on Saturday and Sunday, with Friday’s races providing drivers and teams the chance to dial in their cars ahead of the rest of the weekend. All the action was broadcast via SPEED SPORT TV affiliate Low Budget TV.
Christian McGhee set a fast time of 15.163 seconds in the super lat model class, just short of the overall super late model track record. Following qualifying, the field was broken up into two 50-lap features with the odd-numbered qualifiers in the first race and even-numbered qualifiers in the second race.
The initial main event of the race weekend, as well as the Legends heats and features that preceded and followed, went green all the way. McGhee jumped out in front from the start in his Mike Garcia Racing entry and led the entire way. Nevertheless, it wasn’t entirely a smooth ride.
“My car has been good,” McGhee replied during the victory lane interview. “Actually, if you look in the car, I’ve got two bungee straps on the shifter because we had a couple problems with it popping out of gear every two or three laps.”
Brandon Farrington, who drove for the Garcia team in November’s Turkey Shoot at Tucson, finished a close second ahead of Chilly Willy first-timer Tyler Tanner. Vanessa Robinson and team discovered a flat tire after qualifying and had to start in the back, but raced to fourth in the final order. Nevada teenager Tanner Reif rounded out the top five.
With Friday more than likely being the only event of the weekend taking place after the sun goes down, it had some competitors, including McGhee, thinking about whether to even participate.
“That’s what we were debating on, if we wanted to run this because night and day, what are you going to learn,” McGhee explained. “But we looked at the weather and it seems to be in line with each other for today and Sunday.
“Other than that I’m looking forward to it. I think we’ve got a pretty good piece. We’re going to fine tune it and I know what I need now. Fifty straight laps and I still had a little bit left at the end and tried to click off a lap.”
The occurrences in the second feature displayed a different picture with a similar result in the end. Eddie Vecchiarelli, the second fastest qualifier, started from the top spot with some intense racing behind him.
The first yellow and red flag of the night was momentarily a scary one when Oregon’s Scott Graf blew a motor in dramatic fashion, spinning in a cloud of smoke in turn two as the car briefly ignited in an oil fire as it came to rest on the backstretch.
Ten laps following the cleanup of that incident, more trouble ensued.
Contact between another Oregon racer, Austin Thom, and Californian Dean Thompson sent the latter around coming out of turn four. With nowhere to go, Coloradan Kody Vanderwal took the biggest hit, nearly going airborne. Vanderwal then finally stopped his damaged Port City chassis between turns one and two, motioning his displeasure with Thom.
Thom was sent to the back for involvement in the multi-car tangle, which allowed the father and son duo Bruce and Brett Yackey to challenge at the front of the field. Bruce Yackey was sidelined shortly after with electrical issues, but Brett Yackey stayed glued to Vecchiarelli’s tail for the balance of the feature.
The defending Turkey Shoot weekend winner was able to get inside of Vecchiarelli in the corners on a few occasions, but it was Vecchiarelli holding him off for his first win in his first Tucson start.
“Oh man, that was more work than I was anticipating for tonight,” the Brighton, Colo., driver remarked. “I just ran my line and I didn’t pay much attention to what he was doing. I know he was kind of dive-bombing it in there, but we were just holding our line and made a good drive. Real fortunate to pick up the win tonight.”
Minnesota’s Tristan Swanson was the winner of the caution-free Semi-Pro/Young Lions Legends car 30-lap race while New Mexico’s Jason Irwin won the Pro/Masters Legends car 35-lap show.
The action continues Saturday with qualifying beginning at 12:30 p.m. MT for both divisions, with the fastest two super late model drivers being locked into Sunday’s Chilly Willy 150. A pair of Legends car features, as well as 50-lap dual qualifying races for the super late models that set the remainder of Sunday’s starting lineup, will be part of Saturday afternoon’s program.
Super Late Model Feature No. 1: Christian McGhee, Brandon Farrington, Tyler Tanner, Vanessa Robinson, Tanner Reif, Bryce Bezanson, Brad Kossow, Michael Scott, Hershel McGriff Jr.
Super Late Model Feature No. 2: Edward Vecchiarelli, Brett Yackey, Austin Thom, Dean Thompson, Joe Paladenic, Rudy Vanderwal, Colton Nelson, Bob Cramb, Bruce Yackey, Kody Vanderwal, Chris Eggleston, Trevor Huddleston, Scott Graf.