By Seth Eggert, Staff Writer
Despite being involved in an early wreck, Preston Pardus recovered to earn his first win in Monday Night Racing competition.
The SCCA Spec Miata champion hopped into a virtual Super Late Model for the Salute to Service 130. Three laps into the 65-lap scheduled event saw Pardus spinning on the backstretch skip pad in his virtual No. 90 P$ Super Late Model. The part-time NASCAR Xfinity Series driver climbed back into contention late in the race.
With six laps to go, Pardus maneuvered into third. The DGM Racing driver took the lead with five to go after huge blocks by both Nick Sanchez and Garrett Smithley. The trio found themselves on the same skip pad that Pardus spun onto early in the race. Somehow all three drivers made it back onto the racing surface before reaching turn three.
Taking the Lead
Pardus slid back in line about a car length behind Sanchez and Smithley. As the two leaders traded paint in the corner, the driver of the virtual No. 90 Chevrolet swept by on the inside for the lead. A caution sent the race into overtime. Pardus defended the lead with ease in the first two attempts at overtime.
On the final attempt at overtime, Pardus had to defend runs from both Smithley and Anthony Alfredo. The NASCAR Cup Series driver led at the line as the white flag waved. Off turn two, Pardus kept his momentum and never looked back. Clearing both Alfredo and Smithley, he took the checkered flag with 0.131 second gap over Alfredo and Sanchez. Smithley and NASCAR’s Matthew Stallknecht completed the top-five.
“I didn’t think it was going to be that way (leading with a 3-wide battle for second behind),” explained Pardus. “When we came to the white flag, they were on me pretty tight. They drove it into turn one really deep and gave me a big enough gap that I just didn’t think that was going to happen.
“Going into it, each green, white, checkered, they guys who were on newer tires were getting close to me too. I kept that in mind. Just took it easy, didn’t want to get dumped there. It was a good finish.”
Pole sitter Maxwell Kennon, Ron Capps, DJ Cummings, Nick DeGroot, and Monday Night Racing co-founder Ford Martin rounded out the top-10.
NASCAR Hall of Famer and Cup Series champion Bobby Labonte finished 17th. Xfinity Series driver Ryan Vargas, scored in the No. 6, but racing in his No. 26 Super Late Model finished 18th after a late race wreck. Jeff Green was 24th with Josh Bilicki 29th, Kaulig Racing’s Chris Rice 32nd, and Rajah Caruth 34th.
Making their Monday Night Racing debut were Richmond Raceway’s Brandon Brown and NTT IndyCar driver Stefan Wilson. Brown finished 25th with Wilson 30th after a final lap crash.
Like Monday Night Racing’s virtual trip to Twin Ring Motegi in the IndyCar, the race at Michigan was plagued by cautions. The race was slowed 11 times for 34 laps, including three attempts at overtime. The biggest wreck of the night occurred on an early restart.
After Bilicki, Caruth, Capps, and Rice stayed on track, they restarted up front. The Kaulig Racing president got a good jump on the restart and swung to Capps’ outside. However, when Rice tried to slip ahead of the NHRA Funny Car champion, he spun across the nose of the No. 28 NAPA Super Late Model and into race leader Caruth. What ensued was a field consuming wreck with only a handful of drivers avoiding damage.
Heat Racing Transfers
Dillon Welch, who transferred in from the LCQ finished 16th. Gabriel Wood finished 14th, the best out of those who transferred from the LCQ. Chris Wilner, who won the LCQ finished 20th. NASCAR driver Robby Lyons, Motocross star Chad Reed, Monday Night Racing co-founder Paul Sutton, and Greg Stumpff were among those that failed to transfer to the feature.
1. Preston Pardus , 2. Anthony Alfredo , 3. Nick Sanchez , 4. Garrett Smithley , 5. Matthew Stallknecht , 6. Maxwell Kennon , 7. Ron Capps , 8. DJ Cummings , 9. Nick DeGroot , 10. Ford Martin , 11. Covy Moore , 12. Brenden Madonia , 13. Seth Eggert , 14. Gabriel Wood , 15. Steve Auffant , 16. Dillon Welch , 17. Bobby Labonte , 18. Ryan Vargas , 19. Chris Wilner , 20. Jason Keffer , 21. Drew Welker , 22. Steven Ellis , 23. Mark Rebilas , 24. Jeff Green , 25. Brandon Brown , 26. Brett Baldeck , 27. Roger Diebold , 28. Garrett Miller , 29. Josh Bilicki , 30. Stefan Wilson , 31. Michael Rossi , 32. Chris Rice , 33. Joe Adgie , 34. Rajah Caruth , 35. Gary Sexton .
Lead Changes: 21 among nine drivers.
Lap Leader(s): Garrett Smithley 1-4, Stefan Wilson 5-9, Nick Sanchez 10, Stefan Wilson 11-14, Drew Welker 15, Garrett Smithley 16-20, Nick Sanchez 21-25, Anthony Alfredo 26, Nick Sanchez 27, Garrett Smithley 28-29, Stefan Wilson 30, Rajah Caruth 31-32, Josh Bilicki 33-38, Nick Sanchez 39-40, Ryan Vargas 41-42, Josh Bilicki 43, Nick Sanchez 44-52, Ryan Vargas 53-54, Nick Sanchez 55-60, Preston Pardus 61-73, Garrett Smithley 74, Preston Pardus 75.
Laps Led: Nick Sanchez 24, Preston Pardus 14, Garrett Smithley 12, Stefan Wilson 10, Josh Bilicki 7, Ryan Vargas 4, Rajah Caruth 2, Anthony Alfredo 1, Drew Welker 1.
Hard Charger: Ron Capps (+23).
Tough Break: Josh Bilicki (-27).
Cautions: 11 for 34 Laps.
Margin of Victory: 0.131 seconds.
Time of Race: One hour, 21 minutes, 29.399 seconds.
Average Speed: 110.443 MPH.
Pole Winner: Maxwell Kennon, 40.976 seconds (175.713 MPH).
Fastest Lap: Jeff Green, Lap 41, 40.580 seconds (177.427 MPH).
Photo by Seth Eggert / Kickin’ the Tires