Lucas Oil Raceway was the host of last night’s MRD Pro Late Model Series week 11 event, where 20 drivers would show up for the 100-lap race. Coming into the night, the pressure was off for some drivers as Bill Martin had already locked up the championship, but there was still plenty of racing to do on the night.
In qualifying, Cody Kelley would pick up his first career SARA pole when he took the fast time with a lap of 22.710 seconds. James Linkiewicz would start in the 2nd spot, and Martin would start in 3rd. At the drop of the green flag, Kelley was quick to jump out front to pull into the lead.
In the early laps, Kelley looked to have a strong car as began to pull away in the lead and lengthened the gap out to over a second, just 5 laps into the race. As he continued to pull away, Linkiewicz was facing plenty of pressure from Martin for the 2nd spot as Martin would run right on his bumper, looking for a way by, as Michael German was right there with them in the 4th spot. Behind them, there was a battle for the top 5, as Evan Sorenson was running in the position but Jeff Hoggard was looking to get by. Hoggard would work his way to the inside for the spot on lap 14, but the two would make contact which sent both cars around, and collecting a couple others further back in the pack.
During the caution, most of the field would head down pit road to take new tires, but German and Todd Sipe would stay out on track to take over the front row. Martin would use a two-tire pit stop to gain some track position and would restart 3rd, just ahead of Kelley and Linkiewicz. On the restart, German was able to hang onto the lead with the older tires, but Sipe would begin to fall back on the outside. Martin and Kelley were able to get by Sipe, but when Linkiewicz thought he had cleared him, the two would get together, sending Linkiewicz into the wall and onto his roof as cars behind them looked to avoid the wreck.
On the lap 26 restart, German led the field back to the green flag, but this time the older tires wouldn’t hold up as well as Martin was quick to take the lead from him on lap 28. German would eventually get shuffled back to 6th, as Kelley, Anthony Celentano, Rolfe, and Bragg would all get by and into the top 5. A pair of cautions would come out shortly after, leading the field up to the lap 47 restart.
Martin led the field back to the green flag, with Celentano and Bragg in the top 3 with him after others had pitted during the previous caution. Martin would begin to pull away as the run went on, and Bragg was able to move up into the 2nd spot ahead of Celentano. But once again the battle was on for the top 5, as Steve Rosner was looking to hold onto the 4th spot. German was looking to take over the spot, but Rolfe and Kelley were right there behind him looking to move up as well. Both drivers would get by German, and set their sights on Rosner. Rolfe looked to the inside of Rosner for multiple laps, and Kelley was right there, even peeking a nose in three wide a couple of times as the battle when on. As the battle picked up, German was also able to close back in, and with all four cars running so close, there would end up being contact between German and Kelley, sending Kelley around. He wouldn’t hit anything, but the caution would come out for the final time on lap 65.
Once again the field would head down pit road for tires to set themselves up for the final run. Martin would win the race off pit road and led the field to the green flag, ahead of Bragg, and Kelley who would actually move up after his spin with some pit strategy. Martin would jump into the lead, and began to pull away from Bragg as he brought his lead out to over a second just a couple laps into the run. Kelley was able to hold pace with Bragg throughout the run, but as the laps winded down, Bragg began to inch away from him and hang onto 2nd.
Behind the top 3, Rosner was hanging onto the 4th spot, as he and Rolfe were battling side-by-side once again. Rosner would eventually pull ahead to hang onto the spot, and then German would put the pressure on Rolfe for the 5th position as well. German would look to the inside for a number of laps, and would eventually work his way into the top 5 on lap 88.
Out front, Martin had built himself nearly a 3-second lead, and wouldn’t be touched. He would end up leading 71 laps en route to his 5th victory of the season, and his 12th career SARA victory. Bragg would end up finishing in the 2nd spot, which is his best career PLM finish, and Kelley would end up on the podium in 3rd. Rosner would finish off his strong run with a 4th place finish, and German would round out the top 5.
Next week, the division will wrap up their season with a 125-lap event at South Boston.
With the victory, and drop weeks coming into effect, Martin’s points lead would actually shrink down to 137 points. But Martin’s 5th victory is another stat to be added to his strong championship run.
For full results and standings, click HERE.