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2017 Wild West Shootout – Recap of the First 3 Races

2017 Wild West Shootout – Recap of the First 3 Races

Saturday, January 7th

It was a mid-60 degree day in Southeast Arizona, as over 130+ of the best Late Models, USRA Modifieds and X-Mods gathered to compete on Night 1 of the 2017 Wild West Shootout!  I arrived to Arizona Speedway around 3:30pm local time, to discover the track was damp and appeared to have been well-prepped.  You could feel a hint of anxiousness and anticipation, as hundreds of racers, family and crew gathered from all over the country, including Canada, to race at the small 3/8ths high-banked dirt oval, located between Queen Creek and San Tan Valley.  No one quite knew what the night would bring, but that simply added to the excitement!
Arizona Speedway offered mid-60 degree weather on Saturday, January 7th

Qualifying & Heat Races

It appears the X-Mods will regularly be the first division to hit the track each night, as they will be asked to begin the packing process, with their hot lap sessions.  USRA Modifieds followed, as they completed their hot lap sessions as well.  Late Models are following a slightly different format this year, as they are being split-up into groups, based on pill draws.  These groups not only identify who they will be competing with in heat race action, but also during group qualifying, which serves as the hot lap sessions.  Hot Laps and Qualifying went-off without a hitch on Saturday, seeing Iowa’s Jason Rauen turn the quickest overall lap at a blistering 15.013 seconds around the small 3/8ths mile, out of the 2nd group of cars to hit the track.
Iowa’s Jason Rauen went overall Quick Time on Saturday, turning a 15.013 second lap!
USRA Modified heat races opened the night’s racing action, as the track was already starting to dry and show a hint of rubber, following hot laps and group qualifying.  There was some bent sheet metal in heat racing action, but a majority of the racing was clean.  The track had enough moisture on the top and bottom, allowing for plenty of side-by-side racing and giving drivers room to pass.  This was especially important, since the Modifieds are following the “traditional” passing points structure.  Cody Laney, David McDonald, Fito Gallardo, Ricky Thornton Jr and Dustin Strand were all Heat Race winners on Saturday.  Arizona native, Ricky Thornton Jr proved to be the “high point man” on the night and would start the 25-lap main event from the pole position!
USRA Modifed heat races took place while the sun was still out.  Notice the hint of rubber already on-track.
Late Model heat races were later in the evening, following X-Mod heats, as the sun had almost completely set and the track’s lighting system was in full-force.  There was quite a bit more rubber applied to the surface at that time, as the bottom half of the track had completely slicked-off and taken that familiar black “shine”.  Moisture remained in the high groove, however and would prove to be the fastest line.  David Breazeale took advantage of his outside pole starting position and powered to win Heat Race 1 over “The Hurricane” Earl Pearson Jr and Jason Krohn.  Ricky Thornton Jr flex his muscle in Heat Race 2, as he executed a perfect slide job on Jason Rauen in the final turn of the last lap, to win.  Rauen settled for 2nd in his heat, followed by “Mr. Smooth” Billy Moyer Sr.  “The Smooth Operator” Bobby Pierce handily won Heat Race 3, over “The Sandman” Rodney Sanders and Tyler Erb.  North Dakota’s Dustin Strand backed-up his USRA Modified heat race win by winning Late Model heat race 4.  Kyle Beard showed smoke on exit of turn 4, but he was able to coast across the finish line in 2nd, as Chad Mahder barely nipped Justin Kay at the line for the 3rd and final transfer spot.  Heat Race 5 provided a great battle between Brandon Overton and “The Iceman” Jimmy Mars, as they finished 1st and 2nd, respectively.  Bobby Hogge was able to hold-off a charging RC Whitwell for 3rd.  Chris Simpson won Heat Race 6 handily over Mike Marlar and Oregon’s John Duty.
Arizona Speedway track crew allowed the Heat Race winners to “draw” for their main event starting positions by firing a cap gun with numbered blanks.  Essentially, the driver would spin the revolver, then fire a blank.  That blank was then identified with their numbered starting position.  Mississippi’s David Breazeale continued to impress, after firing the #1 blank, signifying that he would start on pole for the 30-lap main event, while Bobby Pierce would start alongside him on the front row.
This setup 3 B-mains for the Late Models, with the top-2 finishers getting their “ticket” to the main event.  Terry Phillips easily won B-main 1 while “The Wild Child” Scott Ward held-off Arizona’s Jake O’Neil and transferred to the feature.  Justin Kay sought the revenge he was after, following his heat race, as he won B-main 2 handily over Garrett Alberson.  RC Whitwell cruised to win Late Model B-main 3, punching his ticket to the main event, along with Collen Winebarger.
Track surface was dry and slicked-off following Heat Race and B-main action, with the only moisture remaining up high 

Main Events

USRA Modifieds

Arizona natives Ricky Thornton Jr & RC Whitwell shared the front row for the 25-lap Modified feature

As previously stated, Ricky Thornton Jr earned the most passing points on the evening, awarding him the luxury of starting on pole for the 25-lap, $1,000-to-win main event, with fellow Arizona native, RC Whitwell accompanying him on the front row.  Thornton Jr wasted no time, firing-off from the pole position and getting the early lead, with Whitwell in hot pursuit.  Track conditions were interesting, as the bottom of turns 1 & 2 was preferred, while it was the high side of turns 3 & 4 that was the fast line.  Thornton Jr proved why he is one of the best Dirt Modified drivers in the country, as he expertly ran the ever-changing groove and negotiated lapped traffic to perfection.  RC Whitwell had his hands full with 9th place starting Dustin Strand, who had moved-up to challenge for 2nd place.  The race was ran well, with only a few minor cautions slowing the pace.  However, a major turn of events occurred with 2 laps remaining, as 2nd place RC Whitwell slowed abruptly on the entrance of turn 3, forcing 3rd place Dustin Strand to avoid contact by spinning and bringing out another caution.  3rd place running Philip Houston also suffered a flat right front tire around the same time, shuffling the running order late in the race.  Whitwell later explained that he suddenly lost power, though the exact cause was never revealed.  This allowed 7th place starter Fito Gallardo to lineup directly behind Ricky Thornton Jr on the ensuring green-white-checkered restart, but Gallardo had nothing for the 20RT.  Ricky Thornton Jr led all 25 laps on Saturday, cruising to his first feature win of 2017 and collecting the $1,000 payday!  Fito Gallardo ran a clean race and settled for 2nd, while Shane Sabraski, Shawn Fletcher and Justin Kay rounded-out the top-5!
Ricky Thornton Jr claimed his first feature win of 2017 on Saturday, leading all 25 laps!
Fito Gallardo got his 2017 USRA season off on the “right foot” on Saturday, finishing in the runner-up spot!
Shane Sabraski “survived” the late race attrition and claimed 3rd place
Shawn Fletcher also displayed efficiency, surviving the attrition and finishing a solid 4th

Late Models

Saturday’s Late Model feature offered somewhat of a “David vs. Goliath” feel, as David Breazeale started on the front row, alongside “The Smooth Operator” Bobby Pierce.  Anticipation soon turned into reality, however, as Pierce enjoyed his outside front-row starting spot, firing off to the early lead on the high-line dominant surface.  Breazeale settled into 2nd place with Chris Simpson, Brandon Overton and Ricky Thornton Jr in-tow.  Caution was displayed on lap 7, as Terry Phillips slowed.  The ensuring restart saw Bobby Pierce continue to flex his muscle, as he quickly dashed to a comfortable lead.  All the action was behind Pierce, as Simpson, Overton and Thornton Jr got the better of Breazeale.  The race was slowed only 1 additional time, when Bobby Hogge spun after being lapped.  Bobby Pierce displayed his excellent driving abilities, as he negotiated restarts and lapped traffic with relative ease.  “The Smooth Operator” was never really challenged on Saturday, as he cruised to his first victory of 2017, collecting the $5,000 payday!  Brandon Overton was able to get around Chris Simpson on the late-race restart, as they finished 2nd and 3rd, respectively.  Ricky Thornton Jr backed-up his USRA Modified feature win with a 4th place finish in the Late Model, just ahead of “The Hurricane” Earl Pearson Jr, who rounded-out the top-5!
“The Smooth Operator” Bobby Pierce dominated the 30-lap Late Model feature on Saturday!
Brandon Overton ran a solid race, but had nothing for Pierce, settling for the runner-up spot on Saturday
Chris Simpson also ran a solid race and finished 3rd on Saturday
Ricky Thornton Jr backed-up his Modified win with a 4th place finish in the Late Model, on Saturday
Track conditions were good on Saturday, with the outside line proving to be dominant

Track Conditions

Overall, track conditions were good on Saturday, as the outside line was quickest.  As most fans know, there are plenty of slide jobs, when the outside line is fast, as it is basically a “race” to see who can get their right rear tire into the moisture, first.  The Arizona Speedway racing surface really “slicked-off” in the middle-to-bottom groove, but it never really took rubber, making it difficult for drivers to gain forward drive on exit of the turns.  That, coupled with several bumps in the racing surface on the exit of turn 2, made it especially interesting.  Some drivers voiced their displeasure with the bumps and that the track was “one groove” on the outside.  However, I believe the surface was very competitive and allowed for a good show!  As most fans can confirm, the racing surface typically only gets better, as the week/races continue.

Results

Late Models

1. Bobby Pierce, 2. Brandon Overton, 3. Chris Simpson, 4. Ricky Thornton Jr, 5. Earl Pearson Jr, 6. David Breazeale, 7. Jason Krohn, 8. Rodney Sanders, 9. Mike Marlar, 10. Dustin Strand, 11. Jimmy Mars, 12. Billy Moyer Sr, 13. Chad Mahder, 14. Jason Rauen, 15. Justin Kay, 16. Tyler Erb, 17. RC Whitwell, 18. Garrett Alberson, 19. Bobby Hogge, 20. Scott Ward, 21. John Duty, 22. Kyle Beard, 23. Terry Phillips, 24. Collen Winebarger

USRA Modifieds

1. Ricky Thornton Jr, 2. Fito Gallardo, 3. Shane Sabraski, 4. Shawn Fletcher, 5. Justin Kay, 6. Jay Richardson, 7. Mickey Lassiter, 8. Phil Dixon, 9. Matt Leer, 10. Bumper Jones, 11. Casey Skyberg, 12. Brad Dierks, 13. Tyler McDonald, 14. Philip Houston, 15. Jesse Hoskins, 16. Dustin Strand, 17. RC Whitwell, 18. Jake Gallardo, 19. Tripp Gaylord, 20. Johnny Scott, 21. Rich Loftus, 22. Ryan Gaylord, 23. Cody Laney, 24. David McDonald


Sunday, January 8th

Temperatures were a bit warmer in Arizona on Sunday, reaching the low-70’s

Sunday offered slightly warmer weather and less cloud-cover, making it seem that the track would be drier.  However, when I arrived to the track around 12:30pm local time, I discovered that the Arizona Speedway track crew was already hard at work and it was obvious that a lot of moisture had already been applied to the surface.  I would have been nervous that the track would become dry, if it were a summer race in Arizona, but with temperatures in the low-70’s, you could tell that it was going to be a beautiful, cool day in the desert!

Qualifying & Heat Races

X-Mods again led on-track festivities on Sunday, with their regularly scheduled hot lap sessions.  USRA Modifieds also held their hot lap sessions, followed by Late Models, with group qualifying utilized as their hot lap sessions.  The Late Model format was slightly different from Saturday night, as there were only 5 groups/heat races scheduled and the top-4 finishers in each heat race would earn their “ticket” to the $5,000 to win feature!  Qualifying again went-off without any incident on Sunday, as Happy, Texas native, “The Sandman” Rodney Sanders blistered the small 3/8ths-mile racing surface in 14.830 seconds, setting Quick Time overall.
Rodney Sanders was overall Quick Time on Sunday, ripping-off a 14.830 lap time!
USRA Modified heat racing action offered considerably more drama on Sunday, as there was plenty of action and bent sheet metal!  Sanders hopped out of his Late Model and into a Modified, immediately making him a favorite to win.  However, he suffered engine problems in Heat Race 1, ending his night considerably early.  Dustin Bluhm made the highlight reel in a way that no driver wants to, as he flipped during Modified Heat Race 2.  Bluhm made slight contact with another driver, entering turn 1, causing his right front wheel to “dig into” the racing surface.  This caused his car to abruptly turn sideways, pivot and complete one revolution, before landing on its wheels.  Overall, it was not hard contact, but certainly no driver ever wants to get upside down.  This would ultimately end Bluhm’s night, though we are happy to report that the driver was okay!  Matt Gilbertson turned his luck around from Saturday night, as he cruised to win Heat Race 1.  Dustin Strand dominated Heat Race 2, while Matt Leer and Fito Gallardo won Heat Races 3 and 4, respectively.  South Dakota’s David McDonald was “high point man” on Sunday night, earning himself the pole position for the 25-lap, $2,000 to win feature!
The track surface held considerably more moisture on Sunday, which was evident during Heat Race action.  This may seem a bit dramatic, but I believe Sunday’s Heat Races may have been the best we have ever seen!  Brandon Overton narrowly held-off a charging Jimmy Mars in Heat Race 1, nipping “The Iceman” at the line by .020 seconds, with Tyler Erb and Jake O’Neil transferring behind them.  Somehow, Heat Race 2 offered an even closer finish, as Garrett Alberson was able to just sneak past “The Hurricane” Earl Pearson Jr, beating him to the line by .088 seconds!  “Mr. Smooth” Billy Moyer Sr ran a close 3rd place in Heat Race 2, as the three drivers were nearly 3-wide on several occasions.  Mike Marlar also transferred from Heat 2, finishing 4th.  “The Smooth Operator” Bobby Pierce executed a perfect slide job on “The Sandman” Rodney Sanders, giving him the victory in Heat Race 3!  Sanders held-on to finish 2nd, followed by David Breazeale and Bobby Hogge, who also transferred to the feature.  Arizona’s Ricky Thornton Jr claimed his 2nd Heat Race victory of the weekend, on Sunday, as he also executed a perfect slide job on Jason Rauen, entering turn 3 of the final lap!  Rauen was forced to settle for 2nd place in the Heat Race, followed by AJ Diemel and Chad Mahder.  The 5th and final Heat Race saw Chris Simpson win over Dustin Strand, Justin Kay and Justin Duty.
Two Late Model B-mains followed Heat Racing action, allowing for 2 additional drivers to make the feature show, out of each race.  RC Whitwell dominated B-main 1, transferring into the main event, along with fellow Arizona-native, Joey Moriarty.  Jason Krohn also made easy work of his B-main, as he won handily over Terry Phillips, who also transferred into the feature!
The track surface retained moisture well on Sunday, offering multiple grooves of racing action!

Main Events

USRA Modifieds

David McDonald and Dustin Strand shared the front row for Sunday’s 25-lap, $2,000 to win feature!

As previously mentioned, South Dakota’s David McDonald had earned the most passing points on Sunday, allowing him to start from the pole position!  Fellow Dakota-native, Dustin Strand, of Minot, North Dakota joined McDonald on the front row.  McDonald led the first few laps of the 25-lap main event, but it became immediately apparent that Strand had the better car.  Strand is no stranger to using the topside at Arizona Speedway, letting his right rear tire find the moisture and keeping his foot in the gas!  Strand ran the high line to perfection and did not receive any challenge for the rest of the night, easily cruising to win the feature by nearly 2 seconds!  David McDonald did all he could and tried to keep pace with Strand, but he just didn’t have enough.  McDonald ran a clean race and finished 2nd, followed by Matt Leer, who charged from deep in the field.  Matt Gilbertson and Shane Sabraski rounded-out the top-5 on Sunday!
North Dakota’s Dustin Strand earned his first victory in Arizona on Sunday!
South Dakota’s David McDonald ran a clean race, but settled for the runner-up spot on Sunday
Matt Leer charged from deep in the field on Sunday, finishing an impressive 3rd place

Late Models

Bobby Pierce and Garrett Alberson shared the front row for Sunday’s $5,000 to-win feature!

Late Model heat race winners again drew for their starting positions on Sunday, as “The Smooth Operator” Bobby Pierce received the pole position.  There was an immediate sense of “you know what’s coming next”, after Pierce dominated the main event on Saturday night.  However, Sunday night was extremely unpredictable, as New Mexico’s Garrett Alberson fired-off from the outside pole and led laps early.  Arizona’s Ricky Thornton Jr saw his night end early, as he broke a left front shock while running 4th.  This caused Thornton to immediately spin around in front of the field, tagging the wall with his nose, before getting slammed-into by Jason Rauen, who had nowhere to go.  Unfortunately, this ended Thornton Jr and Rauen’s nights.

What was left of Ricky Thornton Jr’s Late Model, following a crash on Sunday
A fierce battle for 2nd place occurred on the ensuing restart, as Bobby Pierce and Brandon Overton exchanged slide jobs, behind Garrett Alberson.  Unfortunately, the race would be red-flagged just shy of halfway, following a multi-car crash that saw Oregon’s Justin Duty get upside down.  AJ Diemel, Billy Moyer Sr, Mike Marlar and Bobby Hogge had nowhere to go, with all of them coming to stop on the racing surface.  Thankfully, all drivers were okay and some were even able to continue.
A big mess occurred on Sunday night, bringing out the red flag around halfway of the 30-lap feature
This red flag was truly the “turning point” of the race, as Brandon Overton and Bobby Pierce slipped past Garrett Alberson on the ensuing restart.  I believe something may have happened to Alberson’s car during the red flag, as it clearly was not the same and he lost positions for the remainder of the night.  Overton and Pierce waged an epic battle for the race lead, exchanging slide jobs, with each appearing like they would refuse to back-down!  It was reported that one of Brandon Overton’s tires “sealed-over” during the red flag, so he simply did not have enough for Bobby Pierce, on Sunday.  “The Smooth Operator” claimed his 2nd $5,000 payday of 2017, winning his 2nd feature in as many nights!  Chris Simpson and “The Iceman” Jimmy Mars were able to pass Overton before the checkered flag, as they finished 2nd and 3rd place, respectively.  Brandon Overton settled for 4th place on Sunday night, with “The Hurricane” Earl Pearson Jr rounding out the top-5!

Bobby Pierce made it 2-for-2 on Sunday, adding another $5,000 check to his collection!
Chris Simpson improved his finishing position by 1 spot on Sunday, settling for 2nd
“The Iceman” Jimmy Mars finished a solid 3rd place on Sunday night
Track conditions improved on Sunday night, as the bottom groove held moisture well

Track Conditions

Sunday’s track conditions were an improvement over Saturday, as the bottom line retained moisture well, ensuring that the top-line was less dominant.  However, for the Late Models, you had to run the outside, if you were going to be fast!  Large bumps continued to plague the outside groove on Sunday, especially in turns 3 and 4, with the exit of turn 2 being slightly less-treacherous than it was on Saturday.  Overall though, the Arizona Speedway track crew did another excellent job of providing a racing surface that offered options and put-on a good show!

Results

Late Models

1. Bobby Pierce, 2. Chris Simpson, 3. Jimmy Mars, 4. Brandon Overton, 5. Earl Pearson Jr, 6. RC Whitwell, 7. David Breazeale, 8. Garrett Alberson, 9. Rodney Sanders, 10. Tyler Erb, 11. Bobby Hogge, 12. Billy Moyer Sr, 13. Chad Mahder, 14. Terry Phillips, 15. Joey Moriarty, 16. Jake O’Neil, 17. AJ Diemel, 18. Justin Duty, 19. Mike Marlar, 20. Ricky Thornton Jr, 21. Jason Rauen, 22. Justin Kay, 23. Jason Krohn, 24. Dustin Strand

USRA Modifieds

1. Dustin Strand, 2. David McDonald, 3. Matt Leer, 4. Matt Gilbertson, 5. Shane Sabraski, 6. Ricky Thornton Jr, 7. Jake Gallardo, 8. Chad Olsen, 9. Justin Kay, 10. Brad Dierks, 11. Blake Jegtvig, 12. Fito Gallardo, 13. Mickey Lassiter, 14. Tyler McDonald, 15. Jay Richardson, 16. Shawn Fletcher, 17. Cody Laney, 18. Royal Jones, 19. Philip Houston, 20. Casey Skyberg, 21. Carlos Ahumada Jr, 22. Tripp Gaylord, 23. Justin Rexwinkle, 24. RC Whitwell


Wednesday, January 11th

Wednesday’s track conditions were the tackiest of the week so far, in Arizona
The Wednesday night feature of the Wild West Shootout has regularly offered some of the best finishes and most unpredictable moments.  This happens for a variety of reasons.  Usually, there is a slightly smaller car-count, as many of the “regulars” cannot race on Wednesday night, having to work the following morning.  Less cars, combined with a later start time (and cooler temperatures) leads to the track retaining more moisture.  This year’s Wednesday night feature was no different, as it offered considerably different track conditions than were experienced on Saturday and Sunday, from the previous weekend.

Qualifying & Heat Races

X-Mods continued to be first group of cars to hit the racing surface on Wednesday, as they were tasked with the difficult job of packing the track surface, following heavy moisture.  USRA Modifieds followed, as usual, with Late Models being the final group to hit the track.  Wednesday, again, offered a slightly different format for the Late Models, as the cars would be split into only 4 groups and the top-5 finishers from each Heat Race would transfer into the main event.  Mike Marlar set overall Quick Time on Wednesday, negotiating the very wet and slick surface to the tune of 15.221 seconds, around the small 3/8ths-mile track!
Mike Marlar was overall Quick Time on Wednesday, running a 15.221 on the moist and tacky surface!

USRA Modified heat racing action was clean-and-green on Wednesday, as the track was hammer-down.  Speeds were high and the groove was narrow, offering limited room for passing.  “The Jet” Blake Jegtvig, Mickey Lassiter, Carlos Ahumada Jr and Dustin Strand each won Modified Heat Races on Wednesday night.  Justin Rexwinkle was “high point man” on the night, allowing him to start the 25-lap, $1,000 to-win feature from the pole!

Late Model heat racing action also offered a bit less drama and excitement on Wednesday night, than it had on the previous 2 nights of the Wild West Shootout.  “Mr. Smooth” Billy Moyer Sr cruised to win Heat Race 1, with Chris Simpson, Kyle Beard, Steve Drake and RC Whitwell transferring behind him.  Heat Race 2 saw Garrett Alberson experience mechanical issues and pull into the infield, prior to completing the full 8 laps.  Meanwhile, Dustin Strand enjoyed another Heat Race victory, followed by David Breazeale, Tyler Erb, Earl Pearson Jr and Cole Schill.  Heat Race 3 also provided a little bit of drama, as Brandon Overton suffered engine problems.  This is unfortunate, as it not only ended Overton’s night early, but possibly ended his Wild West Shootout, as well.  Overton was enjoying a great amount of success in the 2017 Wild West Shootout and seemed to be a major contender to end Bobby Pierce’s domination.  Terry Phillips was able to hold-off the aforementioned Pierce, narrowly winning Heat Race 3.  Tony Toste followed Phillips and Pierce, to finish 3rd, with Justin Kay and Scott Ward rounding-out the top-5.  “The Sandman” Rodney Sanders cruised to win Heat Race 4 over “The Iceman” Jimmy Mars, Mike Marlar and Jason Rauen.
Terry Phillips drew the “#1 hat” on Wednesday night, giving him the pole position for the feature!
Late Model heat race winners were asked to return to the front stretch, allowing them to “draw” for their starting positions.  Wednesday night’s edition saw 4 cowboy hats lined-up on the front stretch wall, each having a number underneath it.  Terry Phillips drew the #1 hat, allowing him to start the main event from the pole position!  Rodney Sanders drew the #2 hat, while Dustin Strand and Billy Moyer Sr would start 3rd and 4th in Wednesday night’s main event.  There was also one Late Model B-main on Wednesday, which Garrett Alberson charged to win over Billy Franklin, AJ Diemel and Andrew Kosiski.  All 4 drivers punched their “tickets” to the main event!

Main Events

USRA Modifieds

Justin Rexwinkle and Ryan Gaylord shared the front row on Wednesday’s 25-lap, $1,000 to-win feature!
While Justin Rexwinkle and Ryan Gaylord shared the front row of Wednesday’s 25-lap, $1,000 to-win, USRA Modified feature, the story was all about the 3rd place starter, Ricky Thornton Jr.  It only took Thornton Jr a couple of laps to sneak by Rexwinkle on low side, giving him the lead.  Dustin Strand followed Thornton Jr and worked his way to 2nd place around lap 10, as he seemed to close-in on the 20RT.  However, a late-race spin by 2nd place Strand, ended his hopes of winning, as it did not bring out a caution and he fell 1 lap down.  Ricky Thornton Jr never received any real threat, as he cruised to win his 2nd 25-lap, $1,000 to-win feature of 2017 and his 2nd win in 3 nights at the Wild West Shootout!  Mickey Lassiter and “The Jet” Blake Jegtvig both enjoyed really clean nights, as they finished 2nd and 3rd after winning their respective Heat Races, earlier in the night.  David McDonald backed-up his 2nd place finish on Sunday, by finishing 4th on Wednesday night, while RC Whitwell rounded-out the top-5!
Ricky Thornton Jr dominated Wednesday night’s 25-lap, $1,000 feature, earning his 2nd win of 2017!
Mickey Lassiter ran a really clean race on Wednesday, finishing 2nd after winning his Heat Race
“The Jet” Blake Jegtvig also ran a clean race on Wednesday, finishing 3rd after winning his Heat Race, as well


Late Models

Terry Phillips and Rodney Sanders lead the field to green on Wednesday night!
Terry Phillips and Rodney Sanders led the field to green on Wednesday night’s 30-lap, $5,000 to-win feature!  Unfortunately, the green did not stay out for long, as 3rd place starter, Dustin Strand spun entering turn 1.  “The Hurricane” Earl Pearson Jr had nowhere to go, slamming into Strand and ending his night prematurely.  Terry Phillips enjoyed an early race lead, following the complete restart that ensued.  However, Phillips did not stay up-front for long, as “The Sandman” Rodney Sanders and “Mr. Smooth” Billy Moyer Sr. both slipped-by him around lap 5.  While this was happening, Chris Simpson and “The Iceman” Jimmy Mars were waging a huge battle for 4th and Bobby Pierce was mired back in 7th.  It didn’t take “Mr. Smooth” very long to gain the lead, as he slipped-past Rodney Sanders on the bottom, around lap 10!  Chad Mahder spun on lap 15, bringing-out the race’s only caution at the halfway mark.  Simpson and Mars had gotten-by Sanders at that time, with Phillips, David Breazeale and Pierce following.  The ensuring restart was pivotal for “The Smooth Operator” Bobby Pierce, seeing him charge from 7th, into 4th.  Meanwhile, Simpson and Mars continued their fierce battle for 2nd place, as they ran side-by-side for many laps.  However, all the while, “Mr. Smooth” Billy Moyer Sr. continued to lead, as he pulled-away in lapped traffic.  Ultimately, no one had anything for Moyer, as he went-on to claim the $5,000 payday, marking his first feature win in Arizona since 2014!  Chris Simpson settled for 2nd place, which marked the second consecutive time he finished 2nd.  “The Smooth Operator” Bobby Pierce charged to finish 3rd on Wednesday, but he didn’t quite have enough for Moyer and Simpson.  Pierce and Simpson are the only 2 Late Model drivers who have finished in the top-3 on all 3 nights and they will enter Friday as 1st and 2nd in the overall standings.  “The Iceman” Jimmy Mars settled for 4th on Wednesday, with Terry Phillips finishing 5th, after leading laps early.
“Mr. Smooth” Billy Moyer Sr won the $5,000 feature on Wednesday night, his first win in Arizona since 2014!
Chris Simpson settled for 2nd place again on Wednesday, his 3rd top-3 in all 3 nights!
Bobby Pierce charged to 3rd on Wednesday, as he is the only other driver to finish in the top-3 all 3 nights!
Track conditions were nearly perfect on Wednesday night!

Track Conditions

Arizona Speedway track conditions were nearly perfect on Wednesday night!  There was plenty of moisture early, but the surface slicked-off nicely and allowed for side-by-side racing.  For the first time in 3 nights, the high line was not the fastest, as the bottom groove proved to be quicker.  Next race is this Friday, January 13th and you expect similar track conditions for that event!

Results

Late Models

1. Billy Moyer Sr, 2. Chris Simpson, 3. Bobby Pierce, 4. Jimmy Mars, 5. Terry Phillips, 6. Kyle Beard, 7. Rodney Sanders, 8. David Breazeale, 9. Justin Kay, 10. Dustin Strand, 11. Tyler Erb, 12. Jason Rauen, 13. Tony Toste, 14. RC Whitwell, 15. Garrett Alberson, 16. Mike Marlar, 17. Scott Ward, 18. Steve Drake, 19. Billy Franklin, 20. Cole Schill, 21. Chad Mahder, 22. Andrew Kosiski, 23. AJ Diemel, 24. Earl Pearson Jr

Modifieds

1. Ricky Thornton Jr, 2. Mickey Lassiter, 3. Blake Jegtvig, 4. David McDonald, 5. RC Whitwell, 6. Justin Rexwinkle, 7. Alex Stanford, 8. Carlos Ahumada Jr, 9. Fito Gallardo, 10. Dustin Strand, 11. Scott Greer, 12. Bumper Jones, 13. Ryan Gaylord, 14. Matt Leer, 15. Jake Gallardo, 16. Rodney Sanders, 17. Matt Gilbertson, 18. Alex Guthmiller, 19. Logan Drake, 20. Cory Wier, 21. Shane Sabraski, 22. Casey Skyberg, 23. Tim Ward, 24. Phil Dixon

Key Takeaways

Overall, Arizona Speedway has offered a great place to race, so far!  For those who may have been concerned about the 6 race mini-series transferring to a different track, let us be the first to assure you that it is putting-on some exciting racing!  There certainly has been some bent sheet metal, as Arizona Speedway has narrow, high-banked corners, but nothing more than should be expected on a short track.
To the surprise of few, Bobby Pierce has been dominating!  What could be most surprising though, is that he is doing it on restarts. Very few times have I seen a driver pass 2+ cars each restart, making bold slide jobs, or slamming the cushion to perfection.  Pierce has already proven that he is the “driver to beat” in the 2017 Wild West Shootout and everyone will be gunning for him.  While Chris Simpson has not won yet, he has been equally impressive.  Simpson has two runner-up finishes in the last 2 races, after finishing 3rd on the opening night.  It appears it will be him and Pierce slugging-it-out for the overall points lead in Late Model competition.  David Breazeale has also been impressive, as he has made the feature and finished inside the top-10 all 3 nights!
Ricky Thornton Jr has been absolutely dominant in USRA Modified competition.  This is not too surprising, given Thornton’s talent and combined with his experience at Arizona Speedway.  This truly is a “home game” for him, as he lives approximately :20 minutes from the track.  Dustin Strand has been Thornton’s biggest competition, so look for him to continue contending for wins in Arizona!  RC Whitwell has ran competitively in his Modified, but has experienced some of the worst luck.  He broke while running inside the top-3 on the first 2 nights, before finally seeing a checkered flag on Wednesday, in 5th place.
Bottom line, it is difficult to predict exactly what will happen during the last 3 nights of the Wild West Shootout, but the “key players” have been identified.  However, the format and high level of competition make it extremely difficult to predict.  Next race is this Friday, January 13th at 7:00pm local Arizona time (9:00pm Eastern), with Saturday, January 14th and Sunday, January 15th’s shows each starting at 5:00pm.  We highly recommend that you tune-in to Dirt on Dirt’s live broadcast, if you cannot make it!
Overhead view of Arizona Speedway’s packed pit area, during the 2017 Wild West Shootout!

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