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Tucson Speedway 2023 Grand Finale Recap
10/28 Tucson Speedway hosted it's final regular season event of 2023 and crowned Track Champions in multiple divisions. Full recap of Saturday's events:
Photo: Phoenix Raceway promotion car at Tucson Speedway - Evan McNelia 10/28/2023
Tucson Speedway hosted its 2023 regular season Grand Finale on Saturday, Oct. 28. The Speedway crowned Track Champions following races in the Super Late Model, Modified, Hobby Stock, Legends and Bandolero Outlaw and Bandit divisions.
2022 Tucson Super Late Model Champion Dylan Jones made his 5th race of the season at Tucson and won the 50-lap feature. Jones came out in preparation for the Turkey Shootout SLM event next month. Though, he ran a backup car in Saturday’s win.
Jones has spent most of the year racing an IMCA SportsMod at dirt tracks across Arizona. He placed 68th out of more than 200 drivers in the IMCA National Rookie Point standings. He’ll be looking for strong runs in the upcoming high-stakes SLM events.
Jen Hall spun out early in the race bringing out a caution. On the restart, Jones made a big run up to 2nd to pressure Joe Paladenic who led the early portion of the race. Jones followed Paladenic for several laps before he found a gap in Turns 1 and 2 and took the lead on Lap 17.
Paladenic held on to 2nd in the race. With a 38-plus point lead heading into the finale he claimed the SLM Track Championship. He ended the year with six wins and 10 top-5 finishes in 12 features.
Hall finished the race in 6th after her early spin and wrapped the season 2nd in the standings. She had one win this season in the opener in March.
She said that next season she plans to focus more intently on her SLM and Thunder Truck efforts. This season she ran in just about every division at the track as she was in pursuit of the WIMNA points championship. Hall placed 2nd out of the 16 women competing across the country.
“Running all the different classes in what seems like one night I get a lot of seat time and a lot of practice with the different cars and the different types of handling,” Hall said. “All of those different driving styles and practice in general has made me become a better driver.”
Hall hopes to work for an opportunity in the ARCA Menard’s Series with future aspirations of reaching one of the three NASCAR National Series. After placing top 10 in the standings of five different divisions this season, it will be interesting to see how she does with a shifted focus in 2024.
The Modified Championship battle was a close one as 2023 NASCAR Advanced Auto Parts Weekly Series Arizona State Champion Nick O’Neil entered the night trailing Brian Harrington Jr. by seven points.
Harrington won pole position in qualifying and won Modified Heat 1, which put him in a good position to protect his points lead in the main. If O’Neill earned the pole and won the heat race he would have had a chance at the championship with a race win. However, Harrington’s early performance put the ball in his court for the final race.
O’Neil was fast from the start and after working his way to the lead early he led all the way to the finish. Harrington took his time making his way through the field. He said that he wanted to move through cleanly since he was in control as long as he avoided a bad finish. He eventually got around Bob Cramb for 2nd, but once there, he never felt pressured to track down the leader and he paced himself in front of Cramb.
Harrington claimed the Modified title with 14 top-3s and two feature wins in 2023.
“It takes a minute to kind of come down from orbit when there’s this much work that goes into it,” Harrington Jr. said on his emotions post-race. “I think how this day went decided it. With what we went through having [fuel pump] failures last night [in practice] and getting it fixed this morning. And right out of the box, setting the quick time in qualifying set the stage.”
O’Neil finished his stellar season in 2nd with seven wins. A missed race early in the season proved costly in his Championship efforts.
Cramb finished the feature in 3rd for his 2nd podium of the season. Both coming in the last two races. Cramb ended the season in 7th after placing top-5 in seven of nine features.
Brice Bonnett did not race in the Grand Finale but was secure in points for 3rd on the season with two wins.
In the Hobby Stock division, Kalvin Catlin entered the night with a two-point advantage over Brian Love. Catlin earned the pole in qualifying and won Hobby Stock Heat 1 setting himself in a comfortable position heading into the feature.
Brian Love did not help his chances as he took a spin in Turn 1 at the start of the race. Once the race got back underway Catlin was quickly able to work for a lead and cruised his way to his 9th win of the season. Love made his best efforts to recover but was only able to make up a 4th-place finish. And Catlin claimed the Hobby Stock Championship.
“It’s been seven years since I’ve run for a championship and it felt great,” Catlin said. “Car has been dialed in all year. Sponsors have definitely been helping us out a ton and getting us on point. Home Concepts Custom Remodeling and Delta Trading Group, if it wasn’t for them we wouldn’t be here tonight.”
Catlin celebrated his track title in style with a burnout alongside his teammate Miguel Romo, who placed 3rd in the Hobby Stock season points. Romo finished the feature in 6th after being caught up in a wreck in Hobby Stock Heat 2. He had nine top-5 finishes in 11 events in 2023.
George Murphy placed 2nd in his second appearance of the season. David Phippin ran in the last three events of the year and placed 4th once and 3rd twice, including in the finale.
The Legends division hosted just a three-car field, but Brent Schmich earned the 2023 Legend Title after winning his second race in four features. Michael Webber placed 2nd and Brandon Schmich placed 3rd. Webber finished the year with one win in three features.
Gus Levin ended his perfect Bandololero Outlaw season with his 8th win. He ran a super steady race in front of the Bandits in the Bando combined race earning the Outlaw Championship.
Former Track Champion Sofia Medrano and rookie Dominic West had a tight battle with just four points separating the two in the Bando Bandit points. The 10-lap main was a winner-takes-all for the top two Bandit competitors and the duo raced their hearts out. Medrano took an early spin in Turn 2 but was able to stay competitive after the caution. She closed in on West over the run and she reached his back bumper by the Final Lap.
She had a strong run through Turns 3 and 4 and entering the front straightaway she tried to get to West’s inside. However, she ended up taking a spin out of 4 and across the Finish Line as West managed to protect his lead, claiming his 5th win of his rookie Championship season. Medrano finished just six points back with three wins this year.
Schmich ran in his sixth feature of 2023 and earned his 6th 3rd-place finish as he continued to gain valuable seat time. He placed 3rd in the Bandit standings.
Even if the regular season has concluded, Tucson Speedway still has some exciting action rounding out 2023.
Saturday, Nov. 25 and Sunday, Nov. 26, mark the 8th annual Turkey Shoot. Sunday’s main event will be a 125-lap Super Late Model race with $5000 up for grabs to the winner. The weekend will also feature racing from Hobby Stocks and Vintage/Can-Am Sprints. Get your weekend tickets for the final race of the year here.
And kicking off 2024, the 11th annual Chilly Willy will be held on the third weekend of January. The 150-lap Super Late Model main event will have a $15,000 purse for the winner. Modifieds and Thunder Trucks are also running and will put on some great prelim races. Stay tuned to Tucson Speedway’s Website and Facebook for more information as we get closer to the event.
Full Event Results: MyRacePass
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