Robbie Kennealy celebrates his $5,000 Speed Fest win at Madera (Ethan Smith Photo)

Kennealy Banks $5,000 Madera Speed Fest Victory

MADERA, Calif. — Robbie Kennealy stormed to his first career Lunkerdaddy Pro Late Model feature win, taking the $5,000-to-win Speed Fest at Madera Speedway on Saturday night.

11-year-old Vito Cancilla claimed the 51FIFTY Jr. Late Model Series feature while 15-year-old Ethan Nascimento scored the INEX Legends Tour win. INEX Bandoleros were won by Andrew Williams.

Kennealy previously tied atop the 51FIFTY Jr. Late Model Series standings in 2022 after a season finale victory in October, ultimately finishing runner-up in the championship after the points tie-breaker. Saturday’s Pro Late Model victory continues a red hot streak of momentum for the 17-year-old.

“Man I need to catch my breath right now. I can’t believe we just did that. That one is for my grandma, she passed away a couple weeks ago,” Kennealy said. “It was just about being patient and making the right adjustment. We had a really good adjustment thanks to John Keller. Just stayed in third and when it was time to pounce, we did. It’s a long season, but after that – I don’t’ know how you couldn’t be looking forward to the rest of this season.”

Kennealy earned fast-time in qualifying on the one-third asphalt oval, then rolled off fourth in the 100-lap feature. 2021 Jr. Late Model champion Brody Armtrout drew the pole and held the lead at the start. Jay Juleson was pinned on the outside and fell back to seventh from his third starting position on lap 15. His teammate Matt Erickson, a four-time season opener winner, started ninth but drove up to fifth within the first 20 laps.

The first caution flew on lap 35 when Howard Ferguson, Jr. spun in his series debut. Armtrout picked the inside of Shelden Cooper for the restart. A slide for Armtrout allowed Cooper to use the outside to seize the lead on lap 36. The caution flew on the following lap for Kenna Mitchell having trouble in turn three.

Juleson got pinned on the outside again and fell back to eighth, being passed by Jacob Smith for seventh. Cooper led the field into the break on lap 50 ahead of Armtrout, Kennealy, Tyler Herzog and Erickson. Cooper selected the outside on the restart with Armtrout driving inside of him to take over on lap 52. Eric Nascimento, Jr. spun rear first into the turn one wall for a caution on lap 54. Erickson fell outside the top-five, then had a prolonged pit stop for repairs.

Cooper and Armtrout collided on the backstretch on a lap 56 restart, sliding into a nose-to-nose contact in turn three to end their duel for the lead. Cooper was unable to continue while Armtrout restarted at the back.

The skirmish allowed Kennealy to assume the top position with Herzog leaping into second. Jason Aguirre spun after tagging Smith on the restart and was eliminated from the race as well. Rick Thompson worked his way up to fourth position by lap 61, then was a part of some of the tightest battling over the second half of the event.

Juleson and 16th starting Keith Nelson battled side-by-side for third for several laps until Juleson cleared Nelson on lap 94. Kennealy drove ahead of Herzog for a 1.43 second advantage and the $5,000 triumph. Juleson topped Nelson for fourth. Kenna Mitchell came back to finish fifth.

51FIFTY Jr. Late Model Series

Cancilla topped a new crop of drivers ages 10-16 years-old for his first career 51FIFTY Jr. Late Model Series victory. The 70-lap feature took the green flag with no previous series winners in the field.

Joey Kennealy started on the pole position and led Taylor Mayhew. Cancilla was the first driver to go upstairs, passing Chase Hand for third on lap five. Cam Carraway and Bryson Brown collided to bring out a caution on the following lap. Mayhew peeked inside Kennealy for the lead before the next caution on lap 13.

Cancilla restarted third behind Kennealy and muscled his way to the inside. Cancilla took over the top spot on lap 16. Kennealy, Hand, and Mayhew swapped positions for second up to the lap 40 break for adjustments. Cancilla led Hand, Kennealy, Mayhew, and Tristan Pena.

Hand and Kennealy put on a show for second with Hand eventually using a dramatic cross over move in turn one to swoop underneath Kennealy, taking second on lap 54. Cancilla went on to lead Hand, Kennealy, Carraway, and Pena at the finish for his first series win, while Mayhew finished sixth.

INEX Legends Tour Series

2022 Jr. Late Model champ Ethan Nascimento won the 40-lap INEX Legends Tour Series main event with 23 cars in action. Zach Sansom led the opening three laps before 2022 champion Cody Winchel took over. Wyatt Sansom suffered a hard crash into the turn three wall and was transported to a local medical facility for evaluation, but was awake and alert. Kevin Travels and Josh Ayers had a tangle battling inside the top-five as well.
Colton Page collided with Winchel for the lead into turn one on lap 25, relegating both drivers to the rear. Nascimento assumed the lead with teammate Cancilla in tow. Aidan Phillips and Kayci Phillips, ironically unrelated, crashed in turn one to set up a five lap shootout to the finish. Nascimento held the lead for the victory over Cancilla, Henry Barton, Jason Philpot, and a hard-charging Kevin Travels.
Andrew Williams topped Kaine Bettencourt for the 15-lap INEX Bandolero victory.