MADERA, Calif. — Shelden Cooper earned his first career Lunkerdaddy Pro Late Model victory and became the sixth different Madera winner in Saturday’s 80-lap feature.
The win keeps Cooper in the championship hunt and cements his run through the ranks of Madera, from Hobby Stock championships to Short Track Shootout B-Main wins, to a Pro triumph.
“I really need to thank my (family). They raised me to where if I want something I need to get off my butt and get it. I just spend hours and hours trying to get faster,” Cooper said. “Hunter (Holden) built a rocket ship. For a 22-year-old, I don’t know where he learned how to do this but he’s better than half the (crew chiefs) back there. This is my home track. This is a family run team.”
Cooper opened the afternoon with fast-time in qualifying. Cooper, from third in the standings, drew the two to lineup alongside the points leader Tyler Herzog for the main event.
Herzog and Cooper raced side-by-side for the top spot at the start, separated by just .001 seconds on lap two. Cooper ran the outside to lead lap three but Herzog battled back on the bottom to lead lap five. Herzog was solidly in possession of the lead position by lap six.
A great duel developed behind Herzog with multiple cars scrambling for positions. Cooper and 2021 51FIFITY Jr. Late Model champion Brody Armtrout raced for second place.
Kenna Mitchell worked underneath Armtrout to take third. The top six tightened up with Cooper retaking the lead from Herzog on lap 41. The green flag run ended when Matt Erickson and Eric Nascimento, Jr. collided into turn three on lap 42.
Mitchell used the outside line to charge into the lead on lap 44. Mitchell then led Cooper, Armtrout, Herzog and a returning Jay Juleson at the lap 50 break.
Henry Barton pounded the frontstretch wall to bring out the yellow flag on the restart. On the following restart, Mitchell picked the inside line. Cooper capitalized, soaring past her to lead lap 51. Armtrout emerged from the pack in second, then attempted to close on Cooper. Cooper stepped up the pace considerably, running his best lap of the feature on lap 66.
Cooper darted ahead for a 1.486 second lead at the checkered flag over Cooper, Mitchell, Herzog and Nascimento.
Martinez’ Vito Cancilla eclipsed 350 laps led in 2023 on the way to his sixth 51FIFTY Jr. Late Model win of the season in Saturday’s 70 lapper.
Cancilla was pinned on the outside line on the opening laps and drifted back to the ninth position. Kennealy, Mayhew, and Hand ran closely together for the top spot before a caution on lap seven for Mia Wright of Reno, NV spinning in turn four.
Kaine Betancourt won the 20-lap INEX Bandolero feature over Andrew Williams.