OCALA, Fla. — Defending Arctic Cat All Star Circuit of Champions titlist Chad Kemenah kicked of the season with an amazing run from 17th to claim Thursday night’s opener at Bubba Raceway Park.
But most of the slim crowd left talking about the havoc they’d just witnessed instead of Kemanah’s electrifying performance.
Coleman Gulick and fast-timer Ian Madsen rode out hard flips, Danny Dietrich ended up on Trey Stark’s hood and a half dozen other cars left the battlefield with suspension damage after countless spins and crashes.
But Kemenah’s convincing win over series owner Tony Stewart and Dave Blaney, making his maiden run in the Pete Grove No. 70, gave the enthusiastic crowd a dose of great racing as well.
It took four tries to get the first lap in, but when it was finally scored, polesitter Parker Price-Miller was leading front row companion Stewart, Carson Short and Ian Madsen. Madsen soon shot to second and was drawing in on Price-Miller when they hit lapped traffic on lap seven. But Gulick’s end-over-end flip in turn one before the lap was completed brought the first red flag of the night.
Rico Abreau shot to fifth on the restart as Price-Miller edged away from Madsen. They hit the back of the field again on lap 12 and a lap later, with Stewart, Madsen and Short all fighting for second, Madsen took a flier at the end of the frontstretch after he and Short tangled.
Price-Miller now had Stewart, Mark Smith, Abreau and Blaney behind him when green reappeared but by halfway, Kemenah had cracked the top five and began picking off the leaders like ducks in a shooting gallery. By lap 22 he had the lead and was gone.
“I always expect to win, even when I start way back there,” said the smiling winner. “They always give me a capable car and this one was pretty close to a perfect car tonight. At the end the track was pretty well gone. It got slick and you had to hit your marks perfectly but the car never wavered on me. It was absolutely perfect!”
A lap after Kemenah took command, Tyler Clem spun to draw yet another yellow, with Dietrich and Stark tangling on the restart. Sheldon Haudenschild and Paul McMahan then got together with three to go, after which the third running Mark Smith spun in turn two on the restart, collecting Abreau in the process and cutting the mobile race car count to 10.
At that point, officials called for another fuel stop, with the break followed by an uneventful four lap run to the checkers and Kemenah’s 34th ASCoC win.
Price-Miller was fourth ahead of Short, Wayne Johnson and Greg Hodnett, who had been involved in one of the early melees. John Hunter Mackinson, who found a loose wheel on the last fuel stop, was eighth ahead of Haudenschild and Caleb Helms.
“If that one caution hadn’t come out, I think I could have put Parker away,” said Stewart. “But I never got another chance and besides, nobody was going to beat Chad tonight. He came from way back and none of us had anything for him.”
“I’m happy to start out like this,” added Blaney. “Chad was flying and while the track got slippery towards the end, it was good racing between the yellows.”
Ian Madsen, set to make a run at the World of Outlaws rookie of the year title, turned fast-time of 11.393 seconds on a super-fast surface that saw some 13 drivers best the old track record.
Short, Smith, Cale Conley and McMahan shared heat wins with Haudenschild easily winning the B main.
Chad Kemenah, Tony Stewart, Dave Blaney, Parker Price-Miller, Carson Short, Wayne Johnson, Greg Hodnett, Hunter Mackison, Sheldon Haudenschild, Caleb Helms, Mark Smith, Rico Abreu, Kerry Madsen, Paul McMahan, Trey Starks, Danny Dietrich, Tyler Clem, Max Stambaugh, Ian Madsen, John Garvin, Coleman Gulick, Jordan Mackison, Tim Shaffer, Cale Conley.