Last Wednesday night, the MRD Pro Late Model Series made the trip to the Lucas Oil Raceway for their Week #2 event, where 25 drivers would come out for the 100 lap feature race. After qualifying, Cody Kelley was the man on top of the speed charts to pick up his 3rd career pole, just ahead of the event’s previous winner, Bill Martin, who would join him on the front row.
Kelley would bring the field around for the green flag and jumped out into the lead early, while Martin settled in behind him. James Linkiewicz would move up into the 3rd spot on the initial green flag, moving Justin Brooks back to the 4th position. The top four would remain the same through the first couple of cautions and the first 20 laps of the race.
But as the drivers near the front of the field were battling as they worked towards lap 20, contact for the 3rd spot between Linkiewicz and Brooks would set off an incident out front that would collect a majority of the pack behind them. Brooks would get loose exiting turn two, and would make contact with Linkiewicz forcing him down the track. But Linkiewicz was unable to save his car after the contact and he would slide back up in front of the field, leaving them no where to go and collecting a number of drivers behind him.
After the big wreck, Kelley remained out in the lead for the next small run of the race. He was able to quickly jump ahead of Martin for the top spot, but Martin would remain on his bumper as they pulled away from the cars behind them. Jacob Linkieiwcz benefitted from his brothers incident to move into the 3rd spot after the restart where he would hold off Parker Traves for the spot over the course of the run, while Todd Sipe also moved into the top five to run in the 5th spot.
At the front of the field, Martin would peek his nose to the inside of Kelley for the race lead, but was unable to make his car stick as Kelley would power back in front on the outside. Another battle for position in the top five began to shape up as Matt Rolfe was looking to the inside of Sipe to try to move into the top five. He would also peek his nose to the inside to try and gain the spot, but would get loose making the move on lap 36, before getting tapped from behind as he tried to save it, but would go around to bring out the next yellow.
Under this caution, the field decided it was time to head down pit road for tires, but some strategy would shake up the running order. Martin, Traves, and a couple of other drivers would all take two tires, to get ahead of Kelley who took all four. Anthony Celentano stayed out for a couple of laps under yellow to gain some bonus points before handing the lead over to Cody Leland who also stayed out. On the restart, Leland led the field to the green, but was quickly swallowed up by Martin who would grab the lead by the next time they crossed the stripe.
Over the next 40 laps, the field had a hard time getting any green flag runs in as a number of yellows would slow the race down through the middle portion of the race. But it would set up a lap 84 restart, and a 16 lap dash to the finish.
Martin would choose the outside on the restart, putting Traves to his inside, with Kelley and Rolfe right behind him for the green flag. Martin pulled into the lead as they headed down into turn one, with Traves getting in line quickly behind him. But the battle was on for the 3rd spot as Rolfe and Kelley would run side-by-side for the position. Rolfe held the advantage off the restart, but Kelley would quickly put the pressure on for the spot and looked to the inside. Rolfe didn’t give up though as he would fight back on the out side.
The two drivers would run side-by-side for the next 12 laps before Kelley would finally take the spot away. But by that time, his chances at catching the leaders were long gone as Martin and Traves had pulled away from the battle. Traves was able to keep pace with Martin over the first few laps after the restart, but eventually Martin would show his strength and pulled the gap out to a full second by lap 93, and would double that before crossing the line for the final time.
Martin would end up bringing the field around for the checkered flag, leading the final 58 laps of the race en route to the victory. The win for Martin would be his 17th career SARA win, and his 5th victory at the Lucas Oil Raceway in just 9 starts across all divisions. Traves would come around to pick up a 2nd place finish, while Kelley would have to settle for a hard fought 3rd after leading the first portion of the race. Rolfe would end up finishing 5th while Jarrett Lawrence would round out the top five.
After two races, and his victory on the night, Bill Martin took over the points lead by just 5 points over 2nd place. On this upcoming Wednesday, the Pro Late Models will return to the track when they visit Lanier for a 125-lap event.