With the season well underway, we bring you a round-up of the XCAL Racing action to date. -Ed
Mark Arthur Wins Fast-Paced, XCAL Inaugural
The flags flew and the suspense broke as XCAL’s inaugural season kicked off with its first race of the season at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
The XCAL Trailer Made Brands Street Stocks took to the track for 250 laps around the 1.5 mile speedway in the full oval configuration. The many surprises during the speed-weeks leading up to race day began in the heats with Richard Hollyday winning the pole. XCAL’s interesting qualifying system is designed to having many different drivers winning poles throughout the season, and this was the proof in the pudding. Winning your heat with the fastest individual time gets you the number one starting spot, which is what Hollyday accomplished in the final heat of the week.
There was a lot of talk throughout the week of drivers being warned to prepare for a long, grueling race given the number of yellows seen in practice races. However, this would not hold true. After five cautions in the first 60 laps, a slew of long green flag runs finished the final 190 laps with just three more interruptions.
One of those interruptions unfolded with 33 laps to go after the field was bunched-up following a spin by William Perry. Fourth-placed, Brandon Monsivais got loose after running into the back of a stacked-up Ryan Borges in third place. Monsivais began to spin and was tapped by Aaron Keith which set off a multi-car incident, claiming race-winning hopefuls, Michael Cosey Jr. and Spencer Prete.
With Cosey and Prete out of the picture and under 30 laps remaining, Rolling Thunder Racing teammates Aaron Hillibush and Mark Arthur ran away to the top two spots. Team RTR’s strategy worked perfectly as they hung around the tail of the lead lap all race long — sometimes 12-13 seconds off the pace — to avoid any incidents. With 70 to go and on a fuel strategy, they made their moves to the front and stayed there.
Hillibush led Arthur until seven laps to go when Mark bumped the #19 out of the lower groove and took the lead and the win for himself. After the race, Arthur gave props to the race strategy set forth by his team and a small mistake made by his teammate on the last pitstop.
“Aaron slipped up and they kind of changed two of his tires, where the old tires were so much faster,” he said.
The winner also gave a shoutout to his newly “signed” sponsor Icy Hot, which has been a running joke around the garage. “I picked up Icy Hot as a late sponsor after Aaron talked about giving me a backrub after the last race, so I’ll have to thank him for that.”
Arthur, who ran with ATCD last season, had one win last season at Thompson and takes the points lead going into USA Speedway next week.
Other notables: Brock Colson, last year’s winner of the TMB ATCD Cup finished 4th.
Prete Holds-Off Hard Charging Arthur at USA
After a win in the opening round of XCAL’s 20 race season, Mark Arthur was the favorite to go back-to-back at USA International Speedway. This was not just the consensus among the fans: Throughout the virtual garage area drivers were pointing to that #12 machine as the one to watch. However, a twist would throw a wrench into what was considered fate for the Charlotte winner.
With Arthur on the pole and Fat Heads Racing teammates Michael Cosey Jr. and Spencer Prete starting second and third respectively, there was never a doubt that Arthur would at least be challenged at some point during the race. Both Prete and Cosey are high on the list of favorites to win XCAL’s inaugural cup this year.
Once the green flag flew Arthur jumped-out and led the first 51 laps, many under quick cautions for a few single car incidents, most triggered by Bump N’ Run teammates Josh Morgan, Daniel Smallwood and Kirk Mills. Arthur brought his Chevrolet down pit road for fuel on Lap 52 during a caution with Prete and Cosey staying-out to run one-two. They would swap the lead back and forth for 33 laps before finally pitting on a Lap 84 caution, jumbling the running order and enabling Jarrod Davis to take the top spot for six laps. Once green flew again, Arthur made quick work of Davis, regaining the lead with a little bump ‘n run maneuver.
The middle of the race saw Prete, Arthut and Cosey repeatedly swap the lead, many lead changes coming under caution as their fuel strategies differed, giving the top spot to the car needing less fuel once the yellow lights flashed.
The final third of the race gave the fans what they paid to see: Excitement. With 69 laps remaining, the caution flew for a spin by Sai Andra that also collected Kirk Mills. During the yellow, Arthur stopped to top-off his fuel and just barely beat his teammate, Aaron Keith, out of the pits. Obeying XCAL’s directions, he went to pass Keith to fix his position on the track but made the mistake of not staying on the apron until the backstretch. Mark was black-flagged and pitted once the race went green. His chances of winning two straight were now looking grim, if not impossible.
As Mark made his way down pit road, the accident-stricken vehicle of Joshua Morgan had a bumper match with the mean Canadian, Randy Girouard. After exchanging a few bumps and a few words over the drivers audio channel, Morgan followed Girouard into Turn One in the high groove and drove into his quarter panel, slamming the #10 car into the wall. This prompted Girouard to cut across Morgan’s nose under the resulting caution, accidentally collecting Randy Heffner in the bargain. Both drivers were hot . . . and immediately dis-qualified from the remainder of the race by XCAL officials.
With all of this chaos unfolding around him, Arthur managed to serve his black flag and thanks to the caution, stay on the lead lap.
When the race went green again Spencer continued his late race dominance even as some familiar faces made their respective ways up through the field. Rolling Thunder Racing teammates, Aaron Hillibush and Aaron Keith, pulled their Charlotte strategy again: started in the rear of the field and staying there for the majority of the race to avoid being collected in any accidents. Again, this strategy paid-off as both machines were scored inside the top 10 at the 60 to go mark.
The last 50 laps saw a long green flag run, with Arthur charging to the front before two late-race cautions with less than 15 would setup a green-white-checkered finish with Prete, Cosey and Arthur the top three.
With everything on the line when the green waved for the final time with two to go, the leaders entered Turn One. Starting on the high side of his teammate, Cosey tried to tuck-in behind Spencer only to be swiftly booted by Arthur. Cosey flew up high but was able to save it and retain third place. Arthur charged but fell short as he got sideways off Turn Two and could not make up the distance lost.
After the race, Spencer commented on his game plan all race long. “My plan from the beginning was to ride along and mind my own race and things would cycle through at the end.”
Arthur, so close to pulling the double, could only sigh in disbelief. “I knew it would come down to strategy,” he said. “It was a stupid, bonehead mistake. I was lucky enough to put it in there hard and the caution came out while I was on the pit road, but didn’t have enough to get back up there.”
While the leaders were racing hard for the win, nine of the top 10 cars changed position on the last restart. Hillibush was able to muscle his way past Brock Colson for fourth, pushing Colson up high in the corner. Colson then was dive-bombed by the #03 of Richard Hollyday who got them both loose off of Turn Four coming to the checkers. Chaos broke loose as P5 through P11 piled-in with Aaron Keith emerging, spinning sideways across the line for fifth. Brandon Cruz Monsivais followed into the pile for sixth while Christopher Moody slid across his roof and was awarded a spectacular seventh. Colson ended-up going from P4 to P10 in the final two laps to move him out of the top three in points. Quite a finish, quite a final turn.
Rolling Thunder Racing stole the show again on the team side with second, fourth and fifth place finishes with Fat Heads Racing closely behind with first, third and 13th place finishes.
Winter Makes Its Presence Known at Thompson
It was a first for XCAL Racing this week, as continuous snow canceled and delayed heats, caused broadcasting problems and reduced final practice to a mere 10 minutes. Between severe weather conditions and a new tire released by iRacing less than 48 hours from the scheduled start of the first heat, drivers had their work cut out for them at this week’s 5/8 mile oval.
As a low pressure system remained stationary off the coast, snow continued to batter the speedway on Tuesday. The first heat race was initially delayed and then postponed until Wednesday, and the second hear was canceled outright. Overnight drivers were unsure if qualifying would be possible the next day, and several drivers offered their services behind the wheel of the track snow plows.
As Wednesday came around the snow lightened, but still persisted enough to delay all three heats slightly. The XCAL officials, after working through the night to find a solution to the weather problems remained pro-active throughout the day and managed to get-in enough heat races to make qualifying official.
As the sun rose Thursday anticipation was high. After a week off the XCAL drivers were ready to go, and the weather didn’t dampen anyone’s spirit. A minor setback occurred when it was announced the truck carrying the HD cameras and satellite feed dish had become stranded and would not be able to make it to the track in time. The amazing staff at Maxspeedtv did a wonderful job using the standard definition track cameras, and managed to get a broadcast of the entire race up via tape delay soon after the conclusion of the event.
Mother Nature made one last effort to spoil the show, reducing final practice to only 10 minutes, but the track crew was prepared and Spencer Prete led the field to the green on schedule.
After jumping out to an early lead, Prete’s momentum was slowed when Spencer Burns spun after contact with Joshua Borje-Bonkowski, bringing out the yellow on Lap Five. An uneventful restart lead to another caution on Lap 25 when Borje-Bonkowski made contact with Sam Clark’s machine sending him into the outside wall. Drivers in the rear of the field used this as an opportunity to top-off on fuel, while the front runners hung on to valuable track position.
On the Lap 33 restart Brock Colson managed to slip around Michael Cosey Jr. for third and set-off in pursuit of Mark Arthur in second. By Lap 43 Colson had reeled-in Arthur and successfully took the spot away. With all the racing behind him and a clear speedway ahead, Prete was able to extend his lead until catching a slew of lapped cars around Lap 60.
Using the lapped cars to his advantage, Colson caught up to Prete before making a green flag pit stop on Lap 63. While slowing to enter the pits however, Colson was hit in the rear by Borje-Bonkowski who had been running the lower lane entering Turn Three. Colson managed to correct it and the race remained green.
Colson’s pit stop moved Arthur up to second, and eventually first, as Prete pitted on Lap 66. However, his stay at the front would be brief, as Arthur pitted a lap later, enabling Spencer Burns to inherit the lead.
The next yellow flew on Lap 83 when William Perry spun off Turn Two directly in front of Prete who scrapped the #70 car’s rear bumper going past. Due to the abundance of green flag pit stops, Burns found himself two laps ahead of the field as this occurred. He pitted under yellow and managed to retain the lead, as only Randy Girouard was close enough to lead a lap while Burns was on pit road. Girouard, in turn, would have to come in for fuel and hand the lead back to Burns.
The race restarted on Lap 96 with Burns getting a great jump on what was almost a single file line-up. By the next lap however Prete was to his bumper, giving Burns a tap entering Turn Three. The tap actually slowed Prete down enough to enable Arthur to slip past on the high side and take second spot away.
It only took Arthur just two laps to catch Burns, and with a little more than a “tap” entering Turn One, he sent the #006 up into the marbles and — eventually – the wall. Still, Arthur got the worst end of the deal, spinning low into the grass alone. Burns took back the lead as Colson made a tremendous move to avoid the spinning cars and moved into P2. Michael Cosey Jr. made it through the melee unharmed and moved to third while a slightly damaged Burns continued in fourth.
The next bout of action took place on Lap 132. Still leading, Prete pulled-off to make his pit stop at the exact moment the yellow came out for Sam Clark spinning from contact with Burns. Richard Holiday got a piece of the incident and continued on while Arthur drove around to the lead. For his part, Prete casually rolled through the pit lane without stopping and opted to come in the next lap with the rest of the lead lap cars.
The restart came on Lap 141 with the front row consisting of Burns and Aaron Hillibush, each running a different fuel strategy and having stayed out of the pits during the caution, while Prete’s excellent last minute pit decisions allowed him to restart third.
When the caution flew again on Lap 157 Burns and Hillibush pitted while Michael Cosey Jr. exercised some pit strategy of his own, staying out and becoming the new leader. The restart would saw Cosey Jr. leading Burns, Prete, Arthur and Colson back to the green. Eventually Burn’s damaged car would be too much for him to handle and he dropped back through the field, and out of the top five.
Lap 171 saw the yellow fly again for top 10 runner Dustin Adam’s self-spin in front of Hillibush. Although Hillibush made solid contact with Adams, he managed to continue on. On the other hand, Holiday could not get slowed, and plowed into Adam hard enough to end both drivers chance of victory at Thompson.
Cosey Jr. lead Prete & Co to the green on the Lap 178 restart, as drivers throughout the field continued battling for position. Fuel was on everyone’s mind as every car in the field still needed to make at least one more pit stop. That opportunity would came on Lap 189 when David Nannen spun all on his lonesome. All the leaders duly pitted, but Cosey Jr. dropped out of the lead after a lengthy pit stop, filling an almost empty tank.
In contrast, Prete was first out of the pits and so lead the field to the restart on Lap 196. Arthur ran close on his bumper as Get Out of The Way Motorsports drivers Colson and Jackson Lewis fell to fourth and fifth being after being passed by a recovering Cosey Jr. It would not be long before the yellow would fly again, however, as Jarrod Davis hit the wall in Turn Three and collected Blake Barney. This yellow set off a string of restart crashes that would solidify the leader’s pit strategy on fuel.
The first attempt in a string of restart fails occurred on Lap 209. With Prete still leading Arthur, back in the pack Kirk Mills made contact with Davis, sending him around and resulting in minor damage to the cars of Blake Barney, Richard Holiday, and William Perry.
The second attempt at a restart came on Lap 216 and never made it to the line. Hillibush decided it was “go time” on the restart just as Noah Luzzi hit the brakes to avoid the car in front of him. The resulting contact sent Luzzi around in front of the field , which scrambled to avoid his revolving car. Randy Hefner, Aaron Keith, and Jackson Lewis, amongst others, all suffered damage but continued on.
The drivers would line up a third time, this time on Lap 221, but third time was no charm. This time Arthur drove underneath Cosey Jr. who was trying to pass Arthur on the outside, preferred line. Arthur got loose down and slid up the race track into Cosey Jr.’s door. The contact sent Arthur around in front of no less than a dozen cars – all of which avoided contact with Arthur . . . and each other. However, the contact with Cosey Jr. bent a tie-rod on the #12 car, and Arthur would not be able to recover. Cosey Jr. continued unscathed and restarted second . . . again.
The fourth attempt would came on Lap 227. Hungry for every position they could get, the drivers were (again) unable to complete a lap before the yellow flew again when Keith drove underneath Girouard and slid up, producing similar results to what happened when Arthur tried the same move on Lap 221. The contact sent the #10 of Girouard around, and the field did a wonderful job of missing him.
The final caution of the night came on the next restart as it seemed the drivers just couldn’t get settled down after an evening of relatively few yellows. With 19 laps to go a large melee involving Girouard, Burns, Clark, Davis, Barney, and Brandon Cruz Monsivais slowed the pace one (mercifully) final time. When the smoke cleared it was Prete, Cosey Jr., Colson, Lewis and Hillibush in the top five.
The last restart of the night occurred with 12 laps to go with Prete pulling-out in front of Fat Heads Racing teammate Cosey Jr. for the final time. Cosey Jr. made his best effort to stay with Prete, but was unable to mount a challenge in the closing laps. Colson finished third, earning his first podium of the year and second straight top five finish.
Other XCAL notables: Mark Arthur finished 11th after suffering late race damage. Aaron Keith finished sixth for the second straight week. Aaron Hillibush scored his third straight top five finish. Top five points contender Alex Crapser started the event 170 laps down after having to leave the speedway to buy a new battery — and finished P24.