It was certainly an interesting week for XCAL. This time we were at South Boston, located in Virginia, just sixty miles east of that oval racing mecca: Martinsville.
Taking the green flag for 250 laps was our pole sitter Aaron Hillibush, with a lot of competitive drivers, including Mark Arthur, Richard Hollyday and Brock Colson in pursuit. His lead would be short lived as he was hooked by Hollyday and sent into the wall, knocking out the toe and sending him clear back to 10th.
The first caution of the race came out with a lapped car getting hooked on Mark’s bumper and going into the wall. The next 40 laps saw a back-and-forth battle between the top two of Mark and Brock dotted by intermittent yellows, until the wreck on Lap 48 which would change the dynamics of the race like no one was expecting. As Mark Arthur, now a lap behind due to damage, caught-up to the lapped car of Brandon Cruz Monsivais, chaos ensued. Monsivais had hit the wall just moments before, got loose up high, and as Mark was coming up the track, he got clipped and sent both drivers into the wall. This set off a chain reaction which collected many of the top drivers in the field, including Brock Colson, Richard Hollyday, Petey J Zehler, Luke Turpin, and many more. Aaron Keith managed to narrowly escape the carnage, and in an interview during the resulting caution, stated that “This race is survival of the fittest, XCAL style.” And indeed it would be, with at least two more major wrecks taking out even more drivers.
“This race is survival of the fittest, XCAL style.” – Aaron Keith
On Lap 79, the #89 of Daniel Smallwood got loose and piled into the wall, nearly taking out Petey Zehler, who would manage to hold on to the car and continue to lead the field through the caution. The others behind him, however, weren’t as lucky. Derek Colson, Sam Clark, and Spencer Burns, would all be involved sustaining various amounts of damage.
The following green flag run showcased Petey’s car and his driving skills. In 20 laps, he pulled-out a lead of almost 1.5 seconds, and Sam pitted in the next round of pit stops sending him to the back of the field, leaving him with a lot of ground to make up. The next 50 laps were dotted with cautions which allowed all the cars to finish their pit stops, consisting of just fuel. After a brief stint as the leader, Derek pitted on Lap 188, giving Alex Crapser the lead for the first time. In a post-race interview, he stated that his plan was to take it easy and keep the car clean. He did a remarkable job of it, with only a little nose damage to show for 200 laps of short track sim-racing.
With 218 of 250 laps of the race over, an interesting finish was shaping up. Petey and Alex were racing for the lead, with Blake Barney close behind. On the next restart, Petey was hanging tough around the outside, pinching Alex down low and keeping him from getting a run off the corner. A convenient caution came out, with Petey leading the pace laps, having had a bumper ahead of Alex when the caution came out. Tempers were running high, with a lot of heated arguments toward the end with the drivers racing as hard as they could for position. Ultimately, Petey crossed the line first, with Alex and Ryan following close behind. Using a daring fuel strategy and just plain driving the wheels off the car, Petey kept his car relatively clean and had a lot of things going for him the whole race.
Other notables were Kyle Vincent Gilbert and James Lehman — both of them new to XCAL — finishing sixth and P14 respectively.