Ryan Heuser finally ended his 2022 winless streak by capturing his first career road course victory two weeks ago at Sonoma. The Championship may be a loss for the QSM #138 team, but the confidence strikes in perfect time to fly back into the power rankings. Bill Werkheiser earns the pole for the time since Indianapolis of last year, leading two laps before falling to the wolves for an 18th place finish. This pole may present a different story as the #6 has shown plenty of speed over the past several events. Werkhesier has finished 16th or better in the previous six races, looking to secure his first victory in over a half-decade. Atop the standings, Johnny Reed Foley's five-straight top-8 finishes has propelled him only 49 points behind leader Tony Pizzaro. Both Pizzaro and Zach Michael have been slumping as of late, still ahead of the rest of the field despite enduring a 13th-place average finish this season. It's been competitive all year. Look for another surprise winner at Nashville Superspeedway!
Red Bull has pitched in to help Markell Murphy get a ride into this week's Bepis 400. Team Danger Zone matched the $2.7 million that Bepis put on the table, giving Old Farts Racing $5.4 million to take Mark Guthrie and Muzzy bow-fishing out of the #32 car. Coincidentally, Murphy replaced Guthrie in the formally-named NSRA Racing back in 2020. "We've been off this year" said Guthrie, who's averaged a 34th place finish in six events and a highest of 23rd at Talladega. "Their organization has propelled to the elite. I'll sacrifice it all to inspect what these guys are doing. Markell will get a top-10 finish. He's more determined than ever after his let-down in the qualifiers." Murphy has struck gold three times this season, with his victory at Martinsville being the impetus for the multi-million dollar deal. He's only 141 points back from the final chase spot with ten races left.
The final heat includes 13 top-35 drivers attempting to earn a top-14 position and earn their way into the Bepis 400 feature next weekend. Ken Pettit, Tim McDonnell, Alex Crapser and Zakk Miller are the four big-name drivers in this event. They have all qualified well enough to coast to the finish line while the regular go-homers and Bonanza regulars attempt to steal their spot in the field.
Zakk Miller starts on the pole alongside a miraculous front-row effort by Mark Heron. Miller would remain a contender for the victory for all 50 laps, while the #01 machine blew a tire two-thirds of the way in. Ken Pettit and Tim McDonnell would fly by both of them by the end of the first lap, with Pettit running the show before the first caution flag.
Contact between Dave Daniels and Ziggy Moonglow brought out the yellow on lap 4. The #02 slid up into Markell Murphy's #47, both hitting the outside wall hard while collecting Nigel Ramasawmy in the process. Neither driver would clinch the top-14. Murphy would charge towards the front after the restart only to stagnate at 27th place with worn-out tires. He will miss the show at Nashville despite being 17th in points. An enormous heartbreaker for the three-time Extravaganza Series winner.
Team Danger Zone became victim of the dreaded "Nashville Nightmare". His teammate Zakk Miller attempted to reap justice at the front after re-taking the lead away from Tim McDonnell. Tim, Zakk, Ken Pettit, Alex Crapser and Dakota Wilkins all took turns at the helm prior to the five-to-go mark. Wilkins astonishingly seemed to have the fastest racecar of the five, charging past Ken Pettit with three laps to go and sailing into the cinderella sunset.
The second Bepis-400 would start with an extremely unlikely front row. Kevin Corbat won the pole over Dan Johnston, with speedway superstars Bill Werkheiser and Jimmie Stevens taking over their normal positions towards the rear of the field. The Extravaganza elite shall devour these unlikely heroes to the Bonanza wolves. At least that's the consensus.
Kevin Corbat's #46 Auto Value machine led the field into turn-1 to commence the second 50-lap qualifier. Rick Jackson made it by him immediately as Matthew Dominique and Ryan Heuser followed his course. Corbat and Dan Johnston remained inside the top-14 transfer for most of day. Unfortunately, Dan's engine would explode running in 6th with less than 10 laps to go.
Dave Butterworth, Adam Crapser and Tim McDonnell banged fenders on lap 1, coming up to speed on the backstretch. The slowed #4 machine was tagged by Geno Sphere a couple laps later, triggering a devastating crash involving Jonathan Skrabacz, Ben White, Bill Werkhesier, Two Finger Davis and Peter McDonnell. All would either retire or limp to the finish, with only Bill and Jonathan eligible for the final qualifier.
Ryan Heuser, Rick Jackson and Dave Miller dominated the final 40 laps of the event while William Perry, Stephen Lowe and Tim McDonnell battled for the final transfer spot. McDonnell had worked from near-last to 14th position by lap 40, only to get re-passed by the #70 and #24. Heuser would cross the line as the leader coming to the white flag lap.
A last lap pass by Rick Jackson exiting turn-2 gave him the victory. CFM Teammates Johnny Reed Foley and Kevin Corbat finished inside the top-14 to advance to the big show while McDonnell lost the final transfer spot to William Perry. Congrats to Rick, crew chief Falco Lombardi and the entire Race-2-Win Motorsports crew for an excellent victory!
42 drivers battle for the top-14 positions in the first Bepis 400 Heat. Rob Scarberry and Ben Geer pull off a miraculously popular front-row, both underdogs on the outside looking in with a full field of legends from behind. Scott Jackson, Matt Raboin and Ken Pettit all start outside the top-20 for the 50-lap heat.
Donald Stewart wastes no time flying through the field to take the lead from Scarberry in the early going. He comes into the qualifier 16th in points, building his season back around with two-straight top-11 finishes. He and Ben would battle side-by-side for the first 10 laps.
An unlikely top-4 puts Bink Lucas into the picture while powerhouse drivers Tony Pizzaro and John Tharp lurk in view of the excellent racing up front. Towards the 14th-place transfer spot, Scott Jackson and Matt Raboin found their way through the traffic, closing on the top-10 while other powerhouse names struggled. Lucas Racing drivers John Battista and Alex Crapser, as well as Craig Lee all raced towards the bubble spot.
Bink Lucas and Donald Stewart swapped the top-position several times before Bink took it away outright before the 10-to-go mark. He comes into this event 14th in the standings, with a league-record four 6th place finishes and leading in seven different events. He would lead 32 of the 50 in this race, 22 more laps than he's led in any event of 2022.
Bink crosses the start-finish line one car-length ahead of Stewart for the Qualifier victory. The transfer spot battle towards 14th place was won by John Battista and Craig Lee, who edged out Alex Crapser, Ken Pettit and Zakk Miller and put their cars safely into the show. Congrats to Bink, crew chief Kevin England and the entire Lifesaver Racing team for an excellent victory!
100 drivers were selected by the 45-man Extravaganza panel to compete in the Nashville Superspeedway Duel-Qualifying heats this weekend. This included 50 Extravaganza Series regulars, 35 Bonanza Series regulars, 7 Tundra Cup Series regulars, 3 ARCA Bonzai Series regulars, 2 local Late Model drivers, a former Formula Europe driver and 2 celebrities. 84 drivers of the 100 were able to qualify their way into the show via two-lap time trials, with the top-35 in Extravaganza Series points earning provisionals into the heats.
Heat #1: 42 of the odd-numbered qualifiers (1-83) will re-qualify and race a 50-lap heat. The top-14 finishers of the 42 drivers will advance to next week's 300-lap feature.
Heat #2: 42 of the even-numbered qualifiers (2-84) will re-qualify and race a 50-lap heat. The top-14 finishers of the 42 drivers will advance to next week's 300-lap feature.
Heat #3: The top-35 in Extravaganza Series points who didn't advance will get a final chance to race into the show. The top-finishing drivers in the first two heats who didn't advance will fill up the remainder of the field until it reaches 42 drivers. They will all re-qualify and race a 50-lap heat. The top-14 finishers of the 42 drivers will advance to next week's 300-lap feature.
Consolation: There are no provisionals for the top-35 in Extravaganza Series points if they don't qualify after Heat #3. With bad luck or an improper setup, one big-name driver could easily miss the feature. In consolation, The 15th to 26th place finishers of Heat #3 will receive Extravaganza Series points (15th will get 34, 26th will get 1), and be credited for an Extravaganza Series start.
Heat #1: Friday, July 17th, 9:00 ET
Heat #2: Friday, July 17th, 9:45 ET
Heat #3: Friday, July 17th, 10:30 ET
Dave Miller and Johnny Reed Foley jumped within 100 points of the two leaders in the standings after Gateway. Neither Tony Pizzaro or Zach Michael have recorded a top-15 finish in the last two weeks, though both look for a rebound at a track that has produced them variable success in the past. Michael will start on the pole just as he did in 2019. Pizzaro, Foley and Miller will fight their way from outside the top-10.
Craig Lee snookered Michael on the start with the outside lane advantage, coming out with the lead entering turn 2. Cristian Torres would follow the two leaders for the first several laps while the rest of the field scurried behind. Surprisingly, only Ben Geer seemed to have enough speed of the top-10 drivers to keep up with the lead-3 in the early going.
The #26 Game Stop mobile was towards the front for the first time since Martinsville in April. He made an attempt for the lead in turn 11 to no avail, though stayed inside the top-3 before the first round of green flag stops on lap 38. Lee would lead the field through the entire first-third of the event.
David Baldinger exited the pits too high and clipped the Matt Raboin machine, bringing out the yellow flag and closing green flag stops. It was the second spin of the event, with Ken Pettit and John Tharp getting together in the early stages battling for the 6th spot. Zach Michael and John Battista were the biggest front-running victims of the caution, not coming in under green and having to drop to the rear of the field.
Lap 50 saw the first green flag lead change on the day. Ben Geer took the top-spot during a miracle road course performance, looking to intensify his program during his first year with owner Glenn Kaufmann. Geer would stay atop for 17 laps before short pitting on lap 67, leaving Craig Lee and John Tharp to battle for the lead.
Johnny Reed Foley drove by Lee and Tharp to take his first lead of the day on lap 76. He appeared to have the fastest car in the field, driving by racecars with relative ease while the rest of the pack struggled to make a pass on anybody. A debris caution would come out towards the end of green flag stops, forcing Lucas Racing teammates John Battista and Alex Crapser to be penalized for their excellent fuel mileage again. They would be two of the only three drivers to pit under yellow and drop to the back.
Ben Geer endured the option of benefiting from his early short pit to take the lead, knowing he would have to make one more stop while the rest of the field would cruise to the finish. He would decide to drop towards the rear and play it safe. Restarting in 25th, Mike Carroll and Matt Raboin spun in front of the #29 Twinkies Chevrolet, slamming Geer into the direction of the inside tire-barrier. He would hit it hard, ending his unbelievable day into the Goodyear barricade. He'd finish 41st, ahead of only Tony Long who suffered an engine failure three laps earlier.
Johnny Reed Foley pulled out of turn-2 multiple car lengths ahead of Jimmie Stevens on the restart and kept on digging. He was a full second faster than the other leaders, with only Ryan Heuser able to make headway. He made his way by Scott Jackson for the 6th position with 20 laps to go, though was still seven seconds back from the lead.
Heuser would fly by Rick Jackson two laps later. He nabbed his teammate Craig Lee with 16 laps to go, then power-drove past John Tharp in turn 11 to take the third position. He would use the middle-portion of the course to get by Stevens for second place, a part of the racetrack we haven't seen passing at all race other than on restarts. He would cross the 12-to-go mark a full 11 seconds behind Foley.
By way of complete miracle, Foley's tires had completely faltered while running by himself while Heuser's Goodyear's stayed afloat driving past the traffic. In eight laps, the #138 had run down the AC Delco machine and made his move with a bump-and-run effort entering the turn 4A chicane. Heuser would clear Foley down the straightaway and sail off into the sunset
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