By JIM ALLEN
TULARE, CA – Defending King of the West-NARC champion Bud Kaeding nipped Kyle Hirst at the checkered in an exciting photo-finish to narrowly escape with Saturday’s 30-lap Fujitsu Sprint Car Series feature event at Thunderbowl Raceway.
It marked a clean sweep for Kaeding and the Morrie Williams Motorsports, Alviso Rock-Kaeding Performance Center-sponsored Maxim, as they also captured the 30-lap Civil War 360 main event.
Kaeding and Hirst battled wheel-to-wheel in the Sunnyvalley Bacon Trophy dash and that fight rolled over to the feature with neither driver giving an inch. Kaeding held off Hirst to lead the first lap and proceeded to jump out to a 12-car length advantage. However, heavy lap traffic 10-laps into the event provided the opportunity for Hirst to reel him in and apply pressure.
The pair engaged in a high-speed game of cat and mouse as they zigged and zagged through traffic, with Hirst running the high line in the Roth Motorsports H&R Livestock Transport KPC and Kaeding down low. Hirst finally managed to slip past on the 17th circuit.
The duo was easily the class of the 18-car field and began to pull away from all other challengers. They established a four lapped car interference over a freight train that included Chase Johnson, Shane Golobic, and Mitchell Faccinto.
The only caution flag of the event came out for a spinning car with six laps remaining, bunching up the field for one last crack at the leaders.
On the restart, Hirst powered out into the point again. However, Kaeding began setting up his winning move by running up high in the third and fourth corners and gaining on Hirst going down the front stretch. He banged the wall several times but the slingshot maneuver allowed him to keep his momentum and inch closer and closer to the leader.
With the checkered flag waving, and the fans on their feet, Kaeding powered out of the fourth corner and drag raced Hirst to the line, escaping with the narrow victory.
“I tried running the top early on,” explained Kaeding, after becoming the third winner in as many KWS-NARC races. “I moved back up there in the late going and found a little something to race on. I’m glad it worked otherwise both of us were going to be wadded up in the infield.”
Golobic got around Johnson with three to go and claimed the show position in the Tachi Palace sponsored KPC owned by Tarlton Motorsports. DJ Netto, piloting the Netto Ag sprinter, started fourth, fell back to seventh, but powered back to his original position at the finish. Chase Johnson scored fifth in his Shawn Thomas-owned Safecraft sponsored machine.
Hirst started off the program by earning the ARP Fast Qualifier award for the third consecutive time this season.
Rounding out the second five was Mitchell Faccinto, Jason Statler, Colby Copeland, Bobby McMahan and Craig Stidham.
KWS-NARC Fujitsu Feature Event (30 laps): Bud Kaeding, Kyle Hirst, Shane Golobic, DJ Netto, Chase Johnson, Mitchell Faccinto, Jason Statler, Colby Copeland, Bobby McMahan, Craig Stidham, Sean Watts, Jarrett Soares, Dustin Golobic, Nathan Rolfe, Mark Barroso, Mathew Moles, Jenna Frazier, Richard Brace.
Lap Leaders: Kaeding 1-16, Hirst 17-29, Kaeding 30
ARP Fast Qualifier (3/8 mile clay oval): Kyle Hirst – 13.605 seconds
BMRS First Heat (10 laps): Sean Watts, DJ Netto, Kyle Hirst, Bobby McMahan, Craig Stidham, Richard Brace.
HydrochemPSC Second Heat (10 laps): Mitchell Faccinto, Jarrett Soares, Chase Johnson, Shane Golobic, Mathew Moles, Mark Barroso
The Cushion Third Heat (10 laps): Bud Kaeding, Jason Statler, Colby Copeland, Dustin Golobic, Nathan Rolfe, Jenna Frazier
Sunnyvalley Bacon Trophy Dash (6 laps): Bud Kaeding, Kyle Hirst, Chase Johnson, DJ Netto, Mitchell Faccinto, Sean Watts