The 2015 Clay Cup Nationals is one for the record books.
Before any feature racing happened, seemingly record crowds made their way to Deming Speedway and the 50/50 raffle broke the speedway’s record — near $1,100 was doled out to the winner.
But Clay Cup wasn’t done making history yet on Saturday, July 18.
Ashley Thompson kicked things off by becoming the first female to take home the checkered flag in Clay Cup history, as she held on to second place until a Jesse Schlotfeldt crash late in the 600 restricted main event put her in the lead, which she was able to hold on to.
Then Liam Ryan won his fourth straight Clay Cup in his No. 72 1,200 class car by staving off Bellingham’s own Brock Lemley.
But Ryan had one more thing to cross off his checklist — a 600 class Clay Cup championship.
Despite a hot laps crash that forced Ryan’s crew to replace the top wing on the No. 87 car, Ryan had no problems taking home the feature event and combined with his $5,000 from the 1,200, a $7,500 check for the 600, becoming the first driver to complete the double on the same night.
“Ever since 2013 ... I had nightmares,” Ryan said in a on-track post-race interview. “Last year was heartbreaking. Today, it finally happened. This is insane.”
Starting on the pole in both races after a strong Thursday night, Ryan’s only difficulties were lapped traffic. In the 600, it took 17 laps to meet that lapped traffic, but it was no easy pass.
Ryan tried high and he tried low as he made his way through, but Kyle Mitchell was able to make ground on Ryan.
Once Mitchell ran into lapped cars, Chance Crum navigated around the No. 7 and was Ryan’s top competitor the rest of the race. Crum just didn’t have enough time, though, and Ryan kept the lead.
Crum finished second, Mitchell third, TJ Smith fourth and rounding out the top five was Stan Yockey, who came from a starting position of 19th after taking fifth in the B-main.
His 1,200 win came in similar fashion, as the pole gave Ryan clean air throughout. He met lapped traffic on lap 7, but weaved his way through, as Lemley made tried to take similar paths behind him.
“I knew Brock was coming,” Ryan said. “He’s like a shark. You get scared when he’s behind you.”
There wasn’t a yellow flag until lap 25, but even the two cautions didn’t slow Ryan down. Lemley finished second, Lemley’s brother-in-law Jason Bloodgood finished third in a borrowed engine, Tyson cross took fourth and Derek Holmwood capped off the top five.
While the two major classifications ran smoothly, it was a far different story for the restricted class, which took nearly an hour to complete and featured 13 yellow or red flags. Only nine of the 20 cars that started the race finished.
The favorite Jesse Schlotfeldt, who had won seven of the past eight main events on nights he competed, had no trouble navigating the restarts, as his car was by far the fastest and the clean air without lapped traffic didn’t hurt him. But once the race finally got some green laps, disaster struck for the 2015 points leader.
Lizzie Johnson spun out in turn 2 on lap 28 and Schlotfeldt didn’t see it in time to get out of the way, as his car wrecked into Johnson. The 2013 restricted Clay Cup champion couldn’t complete the race and Thompson was the benefactor.
Thompson, who had been running second all race while Sawyer Sorgenfrei knocked tires with AJ Harbaugh until Harbaugh was given a rough driving warning.
Sorgenfrei tried to make a run at Thompson in the last three laps, but Thompson was just too good on Saturday to beat. Sorgenfrei finished second, Peyton Reed took third, Ben Silliker finished fourth and Kaden Holm rounded out the top five.
“I wasn’t at all (discouraged),” Thompson said of being much slower than Schlotfeldt. “I was just happy with second to be honest.”
She’ll certainly take the $1,000 check and her name in the history books though.
Reach Joshua Hart at 360-715-2238 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Clay Cup Nationals 2015
600 restricted A-main: Ashley Thompson, Sawyer Sorgenfrei, Peyton Reed, Ben Silliker, Kaden Holm, Katie Turner, Ryley Mayer, Colby Thornhill, Tatum Pospical.
1,200 A-main: Liam Ryan, Brock Lemley, Jason Bloodgood, Tyson Cross, Derek Holmwood, Steven Hendrickson, Jake Helsel, Eric Turner, Robin Brigge, Seth Hespe, Ryan Cully, Clennon Holloway, Brian Haling, Frosty Metcalfe, Tanner Reid.
600 open A-main: Liam Ryan, Chance Crum, Kyle Mitchell, TJ Smith, Stan Yockey, Jared Peterson, Kaitlyn Hammer, Skyler Jennings, Derek Torkelson, Alden Ostrom, Shaun Holtorf, Jacob Brown, Kevin Wilkinson, Cam Smith.