Qualifying, Dual Races Set Chilly Willy Field

Tanner Reif celebrates after winning the second qualifying dual race during the Chilly Willy on Saturday. (Sal Sigala Jr. Photo)
Tanner Reif celebrates after winning the second qualifying dual race during the Chilly Willy on Saturday. (Sal Sigala Jr. Photo)

TUCSON, Ariz. – Following Saturday’s Chilly Willy festivities at Tucson Speedway, four drivers have visited victory lane in as many super late model races over the course of two days.

First up on the agenda Saturday were time trials, where the top-two locked themselves in to the Chilly Willy 150 front row starting positions on Sunday no matter their performance in the ensuing qualifying duals.

Tyler Tanner took top honors during qualifying, lapping at 15.326 seconds to earn the pole for Sunday’s 150-lap main event.

“I was surprised that was going to be good enough for the pole, to be honest,” said Tanner. “I got through one and two really good and then when I got into three, I turned the car down and just kind of created a push and got off four bad.  I thought that was going to be the thing to take away our chances at the pole, but when I watched the last couple guys it looked like they had the same issues.”

Despite the fast run, Tanner and team did not relax. Instead, they went to work on an issue they discovered with the car.

“We had a brake rotor that was cracked and we knew about it before qualifying but didn’t have the time to change it,” Tanner explained.

Tanner then used the first 50-lap qualifying dual as a test session to make sure everything was in place for Sunday, and he turned that test into a flag-to-flag victory.

The driver who everyone was keeping their eyes on though was Vanessa Robinson. The Las Cruces, N.M., track regular sliced through the field, ultimately passing Eddie Vecchiarelli, one of the opening night winners, to finish second.

“Really satisfied with how it feels right now,” Robinson said.  “It’s very rewarding to drive up there.  We’re a little loose but we can work on that and actually I think it might be just perfect tomorrow.  The strategy is to avoid all the big wrecks, stay where we’re at, and try to save some tire.”

The second qualifying dual was a different story, mainly because the second fastest qualifier elected not to start since he was already locked in. Christian McGhee, a feature winner on opening night, continued to show impressive speed and remains content heading into the $10,000-to-win feature race.

“Just to be first or second was all we really shot for, considering we worked on race runs all day,” McGhee noted. “I think we have a really good shot at it. The car is good and if it runs like it did last night then I’ll be talking to you in victory lane hopefully.”

The second dual saw a similar battle at the end between a driver who led from the start and one that started from the rear. Teenager Tanner Reif held off multiple challenges from Trevor Huddleston on a few late restarts.

Reif utilized the two 50-lap races on Friday and Saturday to get more comfortable with a rhythm that worked best for him.

“The tire wear on this track is very abrasive so toward the end we had to start using a little more brake coming in, which I wasn’t used to because this is a 604 motor, and get around and rotate,” Reif said. “We finally found a line that worked toward the end.”

Reif once again indicated the lessons learned with the motor combination they chose to run this weekend as a potential difference maker in preparation for the next day.

“I have a lot of confidence especially in a longer race, because we have a lighter car with a smaller motor package,” the 15-year-old continued. “At this track it should save us some tire in the race when most people with bigger motors burn off their right rears or right fronts, so that should set us up for a good late game race.”

Huddleston, on the other hand, was ecstatic despite coming up one position short.  The California-based team only had approximately 14 laps on the car before the green flag after suffering drive shaft issues which, in turn, damaged some other parts.

“This High Point Racing team has been working their butts off,” Huddleston said.  “Unfortunately we’ve had some things that were kind of out of our hands happen to us, random things that don’t happen very often. With as little practice as we did, this car was pretty close, and I’m pretty excited because I know we have a lot more to make it a lot better.”

Tanner Reif’s younger brother, Tyler Reif, captured Saturday’s Semi-Pro/Young Lions feature while double duty driver Chris Eggleston won in the Pro/Masters class.

Sunday’s racing action is scheduled to get underway promptly at 1 p.m. MT with the Semi-Pro/Young Lions running 40 laps and Pro/Masters 50 laps. The eighth annual Chilly Willy 150 will headline Sunday’s action.

Fans can watch every moment excitement taking place at Tucson Speedway at Low Budget TV, a member of the SPEED SPORT Network.

The finishes:

Super Late Model Feature No. 1: Tyler Tanner, Vanessa Robinson, Eddie Vecchiarelli, Brandon Farrington, Kody Vanderwal, Chris Eggleston, Joe Paladenic, Bob Cramb, Colton Nelson, Dean Thompson.

Super Late Model Feature No. 2: Tanner Reif, Trevor Huddleston, Brett Yackey, Bruce Yackey, Bryce Bezanson, Austin Thom, Rudy Vanderwal, Michael Scott, Scott Graf, Christian McGhee (DNS).