Late Charge Lifts Reutzel At East Bay

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Aaron Reutzel en route to victory at East Bay Raceway Park. (Steve Bischoff photo)
Aaron Reutzel en route to victory at East Bay Raceway Park. (Steve Bischoff photo)

GIBSONTON, Fla. — The 2020 Winternationals concluded with a new winner’s name being added to the prestigious list of past winners of the King of the 360s.

Texas racer Aaron Reutzel honored the memory of fellow Lone Star racer Ronald Laney, winning the memorial race named in Laney’s honor.

Reutzel was among the six drivers locked in to compete in the 40-lap feature, due to the points accumulated on Thursday night. The standard format calls for points to be accrued through Thursday and Friday action, but, for the first time in 18 years, one of those events was rained out, forcing track officials to honor points from a single night.

Thursday winner Mark Smith, along with top finishers Terry McCarl, Dylan Westbrook, Carson McCarl and Brock Zearfoss joined Reutzel in the elite group.

The remaining 47 competitors were lined up in five heat races with the top two finishers advancing to the A-main. A pair of B features brought eight more into the field and the final spot was dedicated to the winner of the Wetherington Tractor Service dash, setting the stages for 25 racers.

The top six drivers drew for their starting spots and Reutzel, who chose fourth, pulled the No. 1 box to set himself on the inside of two-time defending champion Terry McCarl for the start of the race.

At the green flag, it was McCarl who would move to the early advantage. A lap three caution for a stalled Max Stambaugh bunched the field. On the restart, Mark Smith shot past Reutzel for second and held the spot as the next caution flew for a Jason Sides spin.

Riggins displaced Reutzel four laps later in the early stages of a long green-flag period. Smith closed the gap on McCarl, attempting a pass on lap 13 and finally completing it on lap 14. Meanwhile, Reutzel found something to his linking on the high side of the race track and started the march to the front. He pulled into second by the 20th lap. Four laps later, he shuffled past Smith to take the lead.

On lap 26, a red flag was displayed for a Derek Hagar flip. McCarl slipped into second and the red flag reappeared when Washington racer Trey Starks climbed the backstretch wall on lap 28.

On the restart, Reutzel moved out to a lead but encountered lapped traffic with seven laps to go. Despite finding slower cars in his groove, Reutzel was able to adjust and maintain the effort necessary to pick up his win.

Reutzel had appeared at East Bay earlier in the week to compete with the All-Star Circuit of Champion, winning the opening night feature. He is the two-time defending series champion of that series.

Jim Young made it a clean sweep in the mini sprints with his second triumph, while Paul Seburn won the micro sprint feature.

The finish:

Aaron Reutzel, Terry McCarl, Mark Smith, Brock Zearfoss, Eric Riggins Jr., Tim Shaffer, Dylan Westbrook, Sam Hafertepe Jr., Brett Wright, Danny Martin Jr., Jason Sides, Parker Price-Miller, Cale Conley, Danny Sims III, Ben Brown, Carson McCarl, Cory Eliason, Trey Starks, Derek Hagar, Max Stambaugh, Dustin Gates, Matt Kurtz, Johnny Gilbertson, Dale Howard, Danny Smith.