Last Thursday night, the Sim Auto Racing Association’s top division was back on track for the 10th race of their season. Entering the night, it was Cody Kelley who sat on top of the RB Performance Super Late Model Series points standings, as he looks to chase down three different league titles.
Kelley has been the driver to beat all season long in multiple divisions in SARA competition during the Spring Season. He’s been on top of the Sportsman Street Stock standings all season with three victories, and he’s dominated the Pro Late Model division as well with a commanding lead in the points with five wins as well. But his stiffest competition has been in the Super Late Model division where Ty Spearman has been on his heels throughout the season, and with just three races remaining, Kelley would be looking for another strong run as he continued his chase for three SARA titles.
When things got under way at Thompson last Thursday, it was Spearman who took the pole for the event, while Kelley qualified back in the 4th spot, with 21 total cars taking the grid for the event.
When the green flag flew for the World Series 100, Spearman was quick on the gas and jumped out into the lead, with Tim Bills dropping in quickly behind him from his 2nd starting spot. Kelley used the outside line to move into 3rd on the start with Matt Rolfe and Trey Jarrell running in the top five in the early running. It didn’t take long for Spearman to show that he would be the car to beat in the early laps as he began to pull away out front by ten car lengths in the opening laps, while behind him Bills was trying to hold off Kelley.
It took just six laps for the first caution to fly however, and it would bunch the field up for an early restart. Spearman led the field back to the green flag and again jumped out ahead of Bills. Rolfe was able to use the outside to get ahead of Kelley on the restart, but Kelley was putting pressure on him right away for the spot as the two leaders were beginning to pull away. But just as Kelley began to make his move, another quick yellow would fly for a couple of cars getting together further back in the pack.
After another couple of quick cautions, Spearman continued to lead the way for the lap 31 restart and jumped back into the lead, and Bills continuing to run behind him in the 2nd spot. Jarrell had made his way up into 3rd, using the previous restarts to his advantage while Kelley ran in the 4th spot, with Jacob Linkiewicz making an appearance into the top five.
In the opening laps of the run, Spearman had pulled out to about five car lengths into the lead, and most of the field had fallen in line single file. Just outside the top five, Mickey Kudlicki made his move to the inside of Rolfe to take over the 6th spot. Just behind them, Mike Belanger and Clay Snider ran inside the top ten, while the 10th spot was up for grabs with a number of cars looking to take that spot away from Alex Bergeron. On lap 41, Bergeron would get loose and slid up, allowing Derek Robinson to take the spot away. Just behind them however, a couple of cars would get together to bring out the caution once more.
During the caution, a majority of the field would head down pit road for a round of stops, which would shake up the order for the next restart. Spearman took just two tires to win the race off pit road, while the rest of the front runners all took four tires. But Spearman would have to start back in the 4th spot, as a couple of drivers stayed out to gain track position including Linkiewicz who would start on point, with Robinson and Matt Eddy joining him in the top three.
Linkiewicz got a good jump in the outside groove on the restart to pull into the lead, with Spearman right on his bumper from the 4th spot to quickly move up into 2nd. But behind them with the field bunched up, it would led to some contact between Eddy and Jarrell as they battled out of turn two for the 5th spot. Jarrell would end up facing backwards in front of the field which led to his race ending early, while some of the other early front runners would also get caught up in the incident. Bills and Rolfe would end up in the infield, with Kudlicki also getting turned around, but all three drivers would continue on with minimal damage. Just before the yellow had flown for the incident, Spearman had made his move under Linkiewicz for the lead, and would be scored with the lead for the following restart.
Spearman again jumped out into the lead with his fresh tires, but behind him Kelley was quick to move up into 2nd and would track down the leader and the top would battle up front. And it looked to be a battle of different tire strategies as Spearman looked to have the car to beat during the first half of the race and was on two tires, while Kelley was looking to get by with four fresh tires. Shortly after Kelley pulled up to the rear bumper of the leader, another caution would fly on lap 62, which would lead the turning point of the race.
During the caution, despite pitting just a few laps earlier, Spearman would head down pit road once again while the rest of the field stayed out. Reports from pit road said that Spearman headed into the pit due to something in his eye that needed attention, resulting in him handing the race lead over to the series points leader for the lap 69 restart. Spearman was able to rejoin the field, but would have to restart back in the 11th position with just 31 laps to go.
On the restart, it was Kelley who jumped out into the lead for the first time all night, with Linkiewicz falling in line behind him. But at this point, it was clear that Kelley now had the car to beat as he began to pull away out front. Linkiewicz was also pulling away in 2nd as Snider and Robinson ran inside the top five, with Bills right on Robinson’s bumper in 5th. Just behind that battle, Rolfe worked his way back up to 6th, but Spearman was on the move and charging quickly as he got by Rolfe and was working his way under Bills for the 5th spot.
But after using his tires up working his way back through the field, Spearman was unable to find grip in the lower groove as he battled for 5th, and his car would go around into the infield off of turn four on lap 79. He was able to avoid contact of any kind, but the caution would fly once more and Spearman would again have to restart deeper in the field for the final 15 laps of the race.
The final restart on lap 85 again saw Kelley jump back out into the lead, and he quickly put a gap between himself and the rest of the field. Linkiewicz remained in the 2nd spot, while Robinson was able to move past Snider to take over 3rd. But as the laps began to wind down, Snider began to catch Robinson for the spot, and Rolfe and Kudlicki were right there behind them looking to get by as well. But by lap 90, again Spearman was working his way through the field and for by Kudlicki for 6th, and then set his sights on Rolfe for 5th.
Out front, it was still Kelley in the lead with a sizable lead over Linkiewicz, but the battle to watch was for the the top five. Spearman continued to look to the low side of Rolfe for 5th, but Rolfe would get the run off the corner in the high lane keeping Spearman behind him. On lap 94, Snider made his move for the 3rd spot as he peeked a nose under Robinson, and at the same time Spearman made another move under Rolfe. Just as the battle heated up inside the top five, it would be cut short as one final caution came out for a self-spin on lap 95, and the race would finish under the checkered and yellow flags.
Kelley would cross the line first as the race winner, for his 4th Super Late Model victory of the season and his 16th career SARA win. Linkiewicz would finish in the runner up spot, while Robinson would hold off Snider for the 3rd spot. Snider finished 4th, and Spearman would be scored ahead of Rolfe for 5th after having to charge through the pack twice in the late stages of the race.
With the victory, Cody Kelley continues his title hopes and extends his points lead out to 68 points over Spearman with just two races remaining in the Spring Season. The league has the week off, but all five SARA divisions will return next week, with the Super Late Models finishing off the week at USA on the 16th.