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Clay Cup ends with late-race excitement

DEMING -- It looked to be another ho-hum race when Shaun Holtorf dominated the first 13 laps of the 600 open A-main on the final night of Clay Cup on Saturday, July 19, at Deming Speedway, The 1,200 A-main and 600 restricted feature both featured wire-to-wire winners — Liam Ryan in the 1,200 and Eli Schmidt in the 600 restricted. But on lap 14, Holtorf tried to take the low side out of turn four to pass lapped traffic. Instead of finding more open space, Holtorf found the side of Jacob Brown’s car. The crash mangled Holtorf’s wing and it looked like he was a sitting duck with only a lapped car sitting between Holtorf’s damaged ride and Robbie Price, Cory Eliason and Chase Schmidt on the restart. Holtorf didn’t give up though. He managed to keep the lead, despite being forced to take wide turns as his car slipped and slid through turns three and four each time around. With Price and Eliason gaining ground, Price on the high side and Eliason on the low, it was only a matter of time before someone passed Holtorf. Seeing an opportunity on lap 19, Price pushed the accelerator out of turn three. He wound up jumping the cushion and spinning out on turn four, costing him a real shot at the $7,500 grand prize. With no lapped cars in between Holtorf and Eliason, the battle was on. Holtorf held on for two more laps before succumbing to Eliason. Eliason continued to push the pace and it appeared Holtorf’s battle was now for second place. Holtorf desperately needed a red flag so his crew could swap out his wings and Clay Cup didn’t need another runaway winner. So when the red flag flew for a Brock Hallett crash on lap 38, Holtorf’s team scrambled out of the pits with a set of wings from 600 restricted driver Dylan Resch’s car. The crowd erupted. There has never been so much excitement on a red flag. “I though ‘I’m just going for it,’” Holtorf said. This was a race and Eliason’s win wasn’t going to come easy. In less than four minutes, Holtorf’s wings were swapped out for a new set and the battle began — Eliason on the high line and Holtorf on the bottom. Eliason knew Holtorf’s wing was fixed and had no shortage of worry about Holtorf making a late charge. “He’s fast,” Eliason said. “I was just thinking ‘God, I hope we go back to green so the fans quit pumping him up.’” Eliason was able to hold on by four-tenths of a second to become the first driver to ever win two 600 opens at Clay Cup. His first came in 2006, when the two drivers that finished ahead of him were disqualified. “It’s amazing,” the Fresno, Calif. native said. “The competition has got tougher since my first win. I can’t express how happy I am.” Holtorf finished second, Schmidt finished third, the 1,200 winner Ryan finished fourth and Joe Constance rounded out the top five. Finishing last was Kyle Kennedy, but his ability to qualify for the A-main was nothing short of epic.

For the third straight day, Kennedy’s late charge in the B-main qualified him for the final transfer spot. He was able to edge out Kaitlyn Hammer on Saturday. His performance had the announcers deem him “King of the B-main’s.” “It’s not necessarily the best thing, but it’s something,” color commentator Kaleb Hart said to the crowd. In the 1,200, a familiar face got the crown, as Ryan finished first in the event for the third straight Clay Cup. The race started with a controversial jump. It appeared Ryan jumped a little earlier than the pole driver Jared Peterson. “I got the memo that you go when the leader goes and not the flagsman but evidently that’s not true,” Peterson said. “He probably would have won anyway though.” It was Ryan’s spectacular car that allowed him to hit lapped traffic on lap eight, well ahead of the field. He cruised through the traffic and didn’t have to slow down until the first caution on came out on lap 21. Ryan still got the advantage of having four lapped cars between him and the field on the restart and once again got clean air running, only having to get one more restart to get the more than two-second win. “I could go wherever I wanted on the track,” the 18-year-old Ryan said. “They were coming for me hard, at least that’s what I’ve been told. Jared (Peterson’s) said he needed five more laps to get me the past two years. I guess it’ll be one more year.” Peterson, Jared Gundersen and Steven Hendrickson all got the past the one lapped car on the lap 28 restart easily but none could catch Ryan. Peterson made the best pass of the race on lap 36 when Gundersen was blocked by a lapped car on the low line and Peterson took the high side. Peterson finished second, Gundersen third, Hendrickson fourth and Tyson Cross rounded out the top five. In the 600 restricted, it was Schmidt who dominated from wire to wire. The race was much closer than the 1,200, as Hammer, who also started on the front row, contended all race with Schmidt. Peterson pulled out to a big lead early but a couple yellow flags brought the two together again, but with similar results. In the end, it was Schmidt winning by six-tenths of a second. Cody Hogarth finished third, Tanner Holm finished fourth and Galen Turner took fifth. B-main winners included Kevin Wilkinson in the 600 open, Dwayne Mackey in the 1,200 and Jaden Thomas in the 600 restricted.

Reach Joshua Hart by email at joshua.hart@bellinghamherald.com or by phone at 360-715-2851.

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