BAKERSFIELD, Calif. — Budweiser Night at Kern County Raceway Park delivered a pair of NASCAR Late Model shootouts with Ross Strmiska becoming the eighth Pro Late Model winner this year while David Mayhew scored his 13th victory in a banner year for the points leader.
Both INEX features had first-time winners with Ricky Schlick taking Legends and Ryan Vargas taking Bandoleros, while Billy Lay scored his fifth NASCAR Mini Stock win.
Mayhew’s win was yet again a narrow victory over Eric Richardson after the pair traded the lead on multiple occasions in a great battle. Mayhew’s win inches him closer to contention for the NASCAR California state title as well.
“Those guys are tougher each week,” Mayhew said in victory lane about Richardson. “On that last restart I don’t think I even lifted on the top in one and two.”
Lance Wilson led the opening two laps before a caution lap two when second place Johnny White crashed hard in turn four with a failure on the right front of the car. Richardson and Mayhew used the restart to sweep past Wilson on the outside line.
Richardson paced Mayhew closely through traffic when the yellow came out on lap 23 for Josh Horn spinning on the frontstretch. Richardson picked the inside and Mayhew rocketed into the lead on the restart. Richardson stayed in tow and on lap 28 took the lead back.
The final caution came out on lap 43 when Trevor Schlundt and Greg Szot spun in turn two battling for fourth, and Richardson again chose the inside line on the restart. Richardson edged forward, but Mayhew drove deep into turn one on the outside line to clear him for the lead.
Mayhew led the final seven laps to take the .180 second win over Richardson, Wilson, Gary Elmore, and Szot.
NASCAR Pro Late Models have yet to have a repeat winner this year, but the race started off with top points drivers Kevin Thompson and Tim Smith racing side-by-side. Thompson led the first two laps but then lost the lead to Smith on the third lap.
Donny St. Ours moved into second a few laps later and gave chase to Smith. Smith built up a nearly three second advantage before St. ours suddenly reeled him in and took the lead on lap 30 in turn one. By that point, Thompson had retired to the pits with engine trouble handing third to Ross Strmiska.
Smith found a way to get back to St. Ours on lap 47 and the two went side-by-side. In turn three, the pair spun with St. Ours hitting the wall. Strmiska snaked through the incident to take the lead.
The final restart for the three-lap shootout saw a wounded St. Ours try to go three-wide up the inside, but Strmiska proved too strong. Strmiska cruised to the win in his debut, topping St. Ours and Smith in the final rundown.
“Sometimes its better to be lucky than good,” Strmiska said. “The car was good but we need to be better next week (for the SRL event). I got behind Thompson for a few laps and learned a lot. When I saw those two racing, I was hoping something would happen and it did!”
Billy Lay won his fifth NASCAR Mini Stock race of the season to add to his points lead, taking the lead back from Racin Vernon for the final time on lap 27 in a physical battle between the two championship contenders.
Lay ended up stretching his lead to 1.054 seconds by the finish over Vernon with Dylan Baker scored third across the line. Vernon was disqualified in post race inspection for being underweight, moving Justin Fine into third.
Ricky Schlick won his first KCRP feature event in taking the INEX Legends 30 lapper. Schlick led all but the opening lap of the race. A caution on lap 16 closed up the gap between Schlick and points leader Buddy Shepherd, but Schlick was able to get a .729 second advantage at the finish, with Parker Malone third. Schlick set the track record and won the dash for a clean sweep of the night.
Ryan Vargas landed his first INEX Bandolero win at Kern Raceway and did so after a back-and-forth race with points leader Tyler Bannister. After a spirited race, the two came together hard on lap 12 and Bannister stalled with damage from the incident. Vargas was able to pull away from rookie Colton Page in earning his first win.