On Wednesday night, the MRolfeDesigns Pro Late Model Series hit the track at USA International Speedway for their season opener. A staggering amount of cars showed up for the race as a league record 49 drivers attempted to qualify for the feature event.
Ty Majeski set a new track record with a lap of 20.002 seconds to pick up his 52nd career pole in Time Trials. The top ten cars advanced into the Qualifying Dash, and an 8-car invert dropped Majeski back while Scott Schrader was inverted to the front. Schrader led the first half of the Dash before Tim Bills got by, and Bills went on to pick up the Dash victory. Only the top 25 cars from Time Trials made the field based on times, with a couple provisionals handed out to make a grid of just 31 cars, sending 18 cars home early.
Schrader led the field to the green flag to start the 100-lap event, and jumped out to the early lead. A couple cautions early allowed Schrader to hold off the cars behind him, until Tim Bills was able to make his move to the inside just a couple laps after the lap-21 restart, to take over the top spot on lap 23. After another restart on lap 41, Bills continued to lead and started pulling away as the field set out on a 40-lap green flag run. As some heavy hitters such as Casey and Cody Kelley, Ty Spearman, and Ty Majeski all battled behind him, Bills pulled out to over a two second gap before the caution flew again on lap 80.
During the caution, a majority of the field headed down pit road, however a couple cars stayed out such as Tom Wetmore who had pitted earlier in the event, and Jason Williams who decided not to take any tires at all. Of the cars that took tires, Majeski came out 3rd with two right side tires, and Bills restarted 4th with all new fresh rubber. Another late caution allowed Wetmore to hang on out front, but he had to try and hold off the field one last time with a restart at 7 laps to go. Wetmore got the jump out front, while Bills was stuck having to fight with Casey Kelley for 2nd, and by the time those two settled things out, one last caution flew with just a couple laps left to seal the deal for Wetmore. He led the field around to the checkered and yellow flags to pick up the victory after holding off the field with old tires, for his 4th career SARA win.
Casey Kelley gained the advantage on the late restarts to pick up a 2nd place finish after running inside the top three all night. Despite probably having the fastest car on track, leading a total of 57 laps, Bills had to settle for a 3rd place finish. Spearman battled his way up into the top five prior to halfway where he ran for the remainder of the race and was able to finish in 4th. Joe Schaffer rounded out the top five after having to come from the back on a couple occasions from some early troubles, but rebounded to finish in 5th.
Just outside the top five, Windell Stratton picked up a 6th place finish after running up and down the top ten for most of the night. Despite not pitting for new tires during the race, Williams was able to avoid falling back too much on the late restart and managed to salvage a 7th place finish. Mike Alexander picked up an 8th place finish, recovering from a spin during the first half of the race before working his way back through the field. David Krikorian ran inside the top five for the first portion of the race before falling off during the long green flag run, but was able to make up some of those spots to finish in 9th. Dale Owen rounded out the top ten as he also had to come from the back a couple times before working his way up into a 10th place finish.
Despite his 3rd place finish, Tim Bills picked up some extra bonus points and leads the points standings after one race, and will lead the field into next week’s race at Irwindale.