Matt Erickson in Madera Speedway victory lane. (Ethan Smith Photo)

Erickson Outlasts Barton For Madera Victory

MADERA, Calif. — Multi-time Madera Speedway Pro Late Model champion Matt Erickson captured a thrilling victory on Saturday night, claiming round four of the season.

Erickson prevailed over 17-year-old Henry Barton by just 0.053 seconds in a side-by-side finish of the 80-lap feature.

“Being that it’s one year since my mom passed away, this one is for her. This car has been flawless but we’ve just been snakebitten,” Erickson said. “These last few years it’s been tough if you’re even a tenth off. But we found something with this car and it likes it.

“The last race we started last and finished fifth. It can come from the back to the front anytime.”

Erickson qualified quickest but started ninth after the redraw. 2023 champion and this year’s points leader Tyler Herzog led lap one on the outside of Nathan Quella. Quella battled back to lead lap two while Barton tried to go up the middle from third.

The race was red flagged for a multi-car crash in turn one, with 2023 Jr. Late Model champion Vito Cancilla spinning after contact from Shaun Reynolds. Ryan Reynolds bounced off Rick Thompson while trying to avoid the crash, sending Ryan Reynolds into the turn two wall head-on. He was uninjured.

Barton used the inside to challenge Herzog for second place while Erickson approached the leaders from fourth. The caution flew on lap 17 for round two winner Shelden Cooper spinning in turn three.

Barton chose the outside of Quella on the restart and marched to the lead on lap 18. Cancilla pounded the front stretch wall after contact with Thompson but kept going. Barton fended off Quella on the next restart. Quella drifted backwards on the outside line. Barton led Erickson, Herzog, tenth-starting Jay Juleson and Quella at the conclusion of the first 50-lap segment.

When racing resumed, trouble struck for Juleson as he fell out of the top-five with mechanical woes. Quella, Joey Kennealy, and Cooper had a sustained battle for the fifth and sixth positions. The battle ended when Kennealy spun into the turn three wall on lap 70.

Barton and Herzog banged doors on the restart for lead before Barton scooted away. The race looked to be in the hands of Barton before Glen Cook spun off the frontstretch wall to set up a green, white, checkered finish. Erickson edged ahead of a sliding Barton at the drop of the green flag. They raced side-by-side over the final two laps with Erickson prevailing by just .053 seconds at the thrilling finish.

Herzog finished third while Cooper topped Quella in a close finish for fourth as well.

Thirteen-year-old Jace Hale became the fourth different 51FIFTY Jr. Late Model Series winner this season with his win in a 70-lap affair.

Colton Page topped Eddie Garone for the INEX Legends main event win. Kyle Labrie of Easton rounded out the podium.

Kellen Keller won the INEX Bandolero feature.