MADERA, Calif. — Last year’s Lunkerdaddy Pro Late Model champion Kyle Keller became the second repeat winner of the campaign, claiming Saturday’s round eight from Madera Speedway. The race served as the penultimate round for the closely contested championship and had many twists and turns over its 80-lap distance.
Keller topped qualifying as the first repeat fast-timer this season then drew ninth in the redraw. Points leader Tyler Herzog drew fifth while second in points Jacob Smith had to march from tenth.
Opening night winner Robbie Kennealy led the opening lap of the race before a quick caution. Multi-time champion Matt Erickson and Kennealy locked horns for the lead on the restart. Erickson led lap three. Kennealy slid through the infield in turn three after contact, falling back to fourth but the race stayed green.
The caution fell on lap 11 for Trevor Schlundt spinning in turn three. Herzog drove underneath round seven winner Shelden Cooper for second. Two more cautions slowed the action and the subsequent restart scrambles allowed 51FIFTY Jr. Late Model standout Chase Hand to knife into second.
Hand then challenged Erickson from the inside for the lead on a lap 17 restart. Erickson and Hand collided heading into turn one, sending both into a slide to bring out the caution.
Tenth-starting Smith inherited the lead after the early-race fireworks and led lap 20. Herzog tried the outside of Cooper for second to no avail. Hand then tangled with Schlundt on lap 32, relegating him to restart at the rear of the field for a second time.
Cooper slowed with sparks underneath his machine on lap 33 for a caution flag. He was able to rejoin the race but was penalized a lap for drawing the caution.
Kenna Mitchell battled with Erickson before they came together as well, sending both into a spin on the front stretch. Mitchell was unable to continue in the race with damage.
Kennealy had oil pan damage from his lap four spin that eventually erupted, sparking a multi-car crash in turn one in the fluid on lap 48. Rick Thompson suffered heavy damage that dropped him out of the top-five. Mike Hensley and Schlundt were eliminated from the race. Fourth-running Glen Cook also had a leak in the rear end but he was able to make repairs during the halfway break.
When racing resumed, Cook unfortunately spun after contact from 51FIFTY Jr. Late Model points leader Vito Cancilla on lap 51. The following restart was an exciting one with two-by-two action at the front between Smith, Herzog, Keller, and Hand. Herzog and Smith made contact twice, with the second contact sending the duo spinning down the front stretch for a caution on lap 56.
The final caution of the event flew on lap 77 when Thompson and Erickson had a coming together on the front stretch while Erickson attempted to lap Thompson.
Keller prevailed over the numerous restarts and excitement to win the feature. Smith charged around Hand for second position. Herzog and Cook rounded out the top-five. Herzog will lead Smith by just ten points heading into the season finale — the $10,000-to-win Short Track Shootout on October 7.
Cancilla eclipsed 400-laps led in the 51FIFTY Jr. Late Model Series in 2023, muscling past season-long challenger Hand for Cancilla’s seventh triumph of the season as he moves closer to the championship.
Tyler Ridley won the 30-lap MST feature in which ten Mini Super Toyotas took the green flag.
In INEX Bandolero competition, Kaine Bettancourt topped Andrew Williams in a 20-lap race.