The Grassroots Vintage SK Shootout Series wrapped up their 2016 Summer Season just a couple weeks ago, with Matt Rolfe finishing out the season as the newly crowned champion.
With two weeks remaining in the season, Bill Martin controlled things atop the standings, however a penalty in a different division landed Martin in hot waters as he would be forced to sit out the final couple races of the season despite holding a 25 point lead.
The division headed to Martinsville in Week 9 for a 100-lap feature event. Ty Majeski picked up the pole for the event, but after a 7-car invert, it brought rookie Christopher Alcares to the front of the field to lead them to the green flag.
A pair of cautions slowed the race early during the Martinsville event, but when the lap 15 restart got underway, Alcares wasn’t waiting around. He jumped out to an early lead as the race would go green flag the rest of the way, and during the middle portion of the run his lead had built up to nearly 6 seconds. Ty Spearman eventually moved up into 2nd and began cutting into that lead as the laps wound down, but he would only get it down under 5 seconds by the finish. Alcares brought the field around with ease to pick up the checkered flag, and his first career SARA victory after leading every single lap on the night.
Despite missing the race, Martin held the points lead by a single point heading into the final race due to drop races coming into effect. But it was Rolfe that would control the standings in the season finale.
When the division got things started at South Boston for the final race of the season, it was Joe Schaffer that grabbed the pole, but would fall back into the pack with an 8-car invert, bringing Matt Eddy to lead the field to the green for the 150-lap main event. Eddy got the initial jump into the lead, but it was Dale Owen that took over the top spot on lap 7 just prior to the race’s first caution on lap 8.
After another quick yellow, Owen continued to lead the field on the lap 21 restart and began to stretch a gap out in front. A 40-lap green flag run broke out. Halfway through the run, Owen’s lead stretched out to nearly two seconds over Evan Sorensen before Rolfe made his way up into the runner-up spot, but the gap out front continued to climb before the next caution flew on lap 60.
With one extra set of tires available during the event, many of the leaders elected to head down pit road to get their stops out of the way, but Owen would remain on track and continued to lead the field. When the caution flew shortly after though, Owen then gave up the spot to get his tires, but the strategy would backfire on him as he would be collected in an incident on the ensuing restart while he was trying to climb his way back to the front.
Alacres took over in the top spot for the lap 86 restart, leading laps in his second straight race, while Tim Bills moved up into the runner-up spot after starting back at the tail end of the field, with Rolfe moving back up to 3rd. As the race started working it’s way up to lap 100, Rolfe would get tangled with a lapped car on lap 98, knocking him out of contention for the win but he would continue on to finish 10th.
Back out front on the final restart, Alcares still held onto the lead but had a charging Bills right on his rear bumper. Alcares would surrender the top spot just a couple laps later however, handing the lead over to Bills on lap 111. The race would go green the rest of the way and it allowed Bills to charge out to a 3-second gap by the time he came around to pick up the checkered flag for the victory. The win would be his 2nd career SK win, and 7th career SARA victory.
Alcares would follow up his win in Martinsville with a 2nd place finish at SoBo after leading 32 laps. Conner Blaise picked up his 3rd podium finish of the season in 3rd, with Clay Snider picking up his best finish of the season in 4th, and Matt Eddy rebounded from falling outside of the top ten early to finish in 5th.
With the season completed, officials would tally the final points standings and Matt Rolfe, despite his 10th place finsih, would score enough points to overtake Martin atop the standings. Rolfe would end the night 26 points ahead, to pick up the 2016 Summer Season Grassroots Vintage SK Shootout Series championship. The title for Rolfe would make him become the first driver in the league to win a title in all four current SARA divisions, and it would be his 6th career SARA championship. Rolfe’s championship season consisted of 11 starts, 3 wins, 6 top fives, 10 top tens, and 66 laps led.
The best points battle however consisted of the Rookie drivers, as Christopher Alcares, Conner Blaise, and Evan Sorensen would each head into the night with a chance to become the Rookie of the season. When the night was complete, the points couldn’t be any closer for them…literally. All three drivers would end up with 68 rookie points out of a total of 80 possible points, and all three drivers would earn Rookie of the Season honors.
Although Martin wouldn’t be able to contend for the championship late in the season, he had done enough damage in the Qualifying Dash standings to score that title, picking up 18 Dash points on the season. Rolfe edged out Alacres by a single point after Martinsville to score the Triple Crown championship.
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