This is what .093s looks like as Southerland edges Battenfield at Irwindale.

The second week of the NASCAR Late Model Series season saw a lot of great racing at Irwindale Speedway, with many drivers utilizing different lines making for some great side-by-side racing at the Southern California oval.   Even though there was side-by-side racing in abundance actually making the pass proved to be a challenge.  Sim-racers using the high side took the speed advantage coming out of the corner, while drivers using the lower two grooves would try to get the edge through the center and clear before the exit of the corner, so they could maintain speed without having to pinch the car on a lower exit.

Battenfield leads the 12 car field to the green.

In the 1707 strength of field race, twelve drivers took the track with one thing on their mind: make it to the front and try to grab that elusive victory.  The start of the race saw Blake Southerland drop to the rear of the field to let the crowd thin out.  Rocky Battenfield jumped to an early lead breaking clear of the side-by-side action going on behind him.  By Lap Four most of the cars were single file with Southerland starting to make pace to the front, and one driver  – Wes Smith – pulling to the bottom and hitting pit road with a unknown problem; he would return (much later) and finish 35 laps down.

The race went incident-free until Lap 29 when Anthony Celentano and Acie Dowling Jr got together going into Turn One collecting Niel Brimble in the bargain.

Celentano (#7), Dowling Jr (#4) and Brimble (#8) get together on Lap 29.

A lap later and Southerland was up to second, trying to cool his tires down to make a run at Battenfield, with the rest of the field running single file as handling problems began to plague many of the drivers.

By Lap 47 Battenfield had a mirror-full of Southerland.  Six laps later – with seven to go — Southerland made his move and for the next several laps the twosome would exchange the lead at the line with neither driver gaining an edge over the other.  On the final lap Battenfield drove it in deep in Turn Three and drew even with Southerland through the center of the corner. Battenfield’s car tightened-up but he kept his foot in the throttle, coming inches from the wall but it was not enough as Southerland beat him to the line by 0.093 seconds, making for a spectacular finish to one spectacular race.

Only four other cars managed to stay on the lead lap, led by Clay Snider who came home third some six and a half seconds behind the top two.  Fourth went to Tyler Ducharme another two seconds behind with Britt Dover and Celentano completing the top six.  Marshal Smith came in seventh a lap down followed by Brimble two laps down with Dowling Jr, Gareth Gonder and Wes Smith rounding-out the field.

Week 3 brings the Late Model Series to the high banks of Bristol Motor Speedway, where bumpers and tempers will be in full effect.

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