Last Thursday night, the GM Parts XPerts Super Late Model Series took on the Stafford Motor Speedway for the third event on the full points schedule. The race also marked the first Triple Crown event of the season as the field would battle it out for 150 laps.
In Time Trials, the top three cars were separated by just .003 seconds, but it was Bill Martin that came out on top for his 42nd career SARA pole. The top ten cars advanced into the Qualifying Dash, and a full 10-car invert dropped Martin into the pack while Darrell Hamlin was inverted to the front. Hamlin led the pack to the green in the Dash but slipped up to allow Andy Shuck to get by, and Shuck went on to pick up the Dash win.
In the feature event, Hamlin brought the field around for the green flag and jumped into the lead, but Shuck was putting the pressure on for the top spot once more in the early laps. Shuck would take over on lap 7, while Hamlin was stuck on the outside and shuffling back through the field.
As the opening green flag run continued for nearly 50 laps, the field settled in early on and it let the battle out front play out. Shuck continued to lead up until lap 25 when Joe Schaffer Jr. made his way by into the lead, and from there he would extend the gap out front by over two seconds by the time the first caution flew on lap 49.
A couple of back-to-back cautions set up a lap 61 restart, and while Schaffer jumped ahead, contact behind him inside the top five took out many top contenders. Contact between James Linkiewicz and Trey Jarrell sent Jarrell around in front of the field, while Linkiewicz, Martin, and Matt Rolfe each got caught up and their races would end early.
This caution set up pit strategy for the night, as Schaffer decided it was time to head down pit road for new tires, and gave up the lead to Windell Stratton on lap 64. Schaffer, Krikorian, and others all headed down pit road to take four tires, and came off pit road to restart no better than 10th.
On the lap 68 restart, Stratton quickly jumped out into the lead, but as another long run began, the drivers with new tires started working their way back towards the front, Krikorian led the charge up into the top five, before Schaffer got by him and they chased down the leader. Schaffer took the lead back on lap 86 and again started pulling away out front and looked to be well on his way to victory up until the final caution of the race flew on lap 125.
This caution gave the rest of the field that hadn’t pitted yet an opportunity to get their fresh tires for one final 20-lap dash to the finish. Stratton came out as the first car on new tires to restart 4th, ahead of Jarrell, Tim Bills, and Derek Holzhausen. Some contact on the restart up front allowed Jarrell to gain the advantage, and quickly moved up into 2nd, and then made his move under Schaffer for the lead.
With Jarrell out in front with 15 laps to go on new tires, he would set sail on his way to victory. Jarrell extended the lead out to over three seconds as he came around to take the checkered, after leading only the final 17 laps of the race. The win for Jarrell was his first since April of 2015, and his 13th career SARA victory.
The rest of the top four cars were all cars that were able to take tires late in the race as they were able to charge to the front during the final stretch of the race. Holzhausen started at the back of the field and ran in the back half of the top ten for most of the race, before surging late in the race to finish 2nd for back-to-back top five finishes. Tim Bills narrowly avoided the lap 62 caution with minimal damage and was able to hang around the top five the rest of the race and picked up spots late to finish in 3rd. Windell Stratton also started near the back of the pack and led 22 laps during the pit cycle, but wasn’t able to make it back to the top late but managed to finish 4th. Krikorian ran inside the top five all race long and managed to hang on for a top five finish after sliding back late to those with newer tires.
After having the dominating car on the night and leading 87 laps, Schaffer was also bit by tire strategy and slipped back to finish in the 6th spot. Scott Dunlap moved up into the top then during the pit cycle and then maintained the track position which led to a 7th place finish. Tom Wetmore and Brian Tedeschi each were involved in a couple incidents on the night but finished out the drivers on the lead lap to finish in 8th and 9th respectively. Ian Layne had a quiet night outside the top ten for most of the race before moving up in the late stages to finish in 10th.
After three races, Joe Schaffer had a solid points night and leads the standings by 37 points as the division heads into this week’s race at Martinsville.