CONCORD, N.C. — Recap by Managing Editor Jacob Seelman for Speed77 Radio and Race Chaser Online — Audio by Jacob Seelman and Race Chaser Online Correspondent James Pike — Jacob Seelman photo —
Six champions were crowned and feature trophies were handed out for the final time during Round Eight “Finale Day” action for the 2015 Winter Heat Series at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
In Legends Car action, Joey Padgett (Pro), Scott Whitaker (Masters), Dillon Faggart (Semi-Pro) and Chase Purdy (Young Lions) claimed the championship hardware while Eddie Fatscher (Outlaws) and Daniel Wilk (Bandits) won the Bandolero titles for the eight-race, six week miniseries.
Padgett finished fourth in the Pro feature to wrap up the title, while his winter-long points rival Michael Torres started from pole and dominated the 20-lap Pro feature. At times running sub-17 second laps, Torres drove away to a 3.1-second win, wiring the field and leaving Padgett to scrap with Trey Jarrell and Jared Irvan for podium positions.
“Yesterday, we had an electrical problem that ended our day and really ended our championship, but today — I told my dad, ‘This is gonna be a victory’,” Torres smiled in Victory Lane. “I think I proved what we could do; we were fastest in practice, fastest in qualifying, won the heat race and won the feature.”
“It’s not what we wanted, but it sets us up for the summer and my goal is to win (the Summer Shootout championship) so we’ll see what happens.”
Jarrell and Irvan completed the top three, with Padgett and Brandon Gdovic making up the back end of the top five.
Padgett’s consistency and run of seven top-four finishes in eight races lifted him to the championship by a final margin of eight points over Torres, who won four of the eight races and was the class of the field for much of the winter.
“The title’s all we came for today, but we had a car in contention for a win,” Padgett remarked. “We just got put back with the invert and then knocked the toe in at some point so I just backed off and decided to ride instead of risking anything. Just a great weekend overall.”
Scott Whitaker played come-from-behind in claiming his first-ever U.S. Legends Car championship title, rallying from a three point deficit at the start of the afternoon and capitalizing on a late-race crash that claimed fellow title hopefuls Bruce Silver and Rodney Tharp in the aftermath to take home the big trophy in the Masters division.
“I needed to finish ahead of Bruce and Rodney and I just focused on doing that,” Whitaker said following the race. “I’ve won a lot of races out here but this is my first championship. I’m not a good points racer — that’s why you saw me come from behind — but our small team just came out here to have fun. This makes it all worth it.”
Robby Faggart dominated the final feature, driving away to his first Winter Heat victory over Jim Sylvester and Whitaker, who rounded out the podium.
Faggart’s son Dillon would be the one to walk away with the title in the Semi-Pro division, climbing back from an early race skirmish with John Holleman to finish third in the final feature and win the crown by 15 points over New York native Christian Eckes.
“I know we definitely had the car to win today, but the championship sounds pretty good to me,” Faggart said of the final outcome. “It’s my first championship and I can’t thank everyone enough. Hopefully we can use this and go to Shootout this summer and make it happen then too.”
Eckes was unable to start the feature due to motor issues, but won twice and had no finish worse than second in the seven races he ran, coming up six points short to Faggart in the final tally.
Stevie Johns, however, became the first Semi-Pro driver of the season not named Faggart or Eckes to taste victory, starting from the front row and never looking back en route to his first Winter Heat triumph of 2015 over fellow young gun Alex Murray.
“It feels great to get a win but at the same time it doesn’t,” Johns said. “Our goal over this whole winter series was to come here and be the fastest car every time so we’ve still got some work to do. That was another trial test session and it worked so we’ll keep trying stuff and look to come back here this summer and be faster yet with our Chase Pistone Inc. team.”
The most dramatic championship twist came in the Young Lions class, where points leader (entering the day) Matt Thomas spun on the opening lap and retired with problems to his race car on lap five of the 20-lap feature, blowing the title fight wide open.
The battle came down to Ladyga Motorsports driver Alex Reece and Dennis Lambert Racing pilot Chase Purdy, who spun in his own right at lap four and had to rally from the back of the field. While Reece ultimately claimed the victory (his second of the season), it was Purdy who stole the title and the show — driving from 14th to finish second at the checkered flag and claiming the championship by a scant six points.
“I knew there could still be a chance,” Purdy said of his emotions after the spin from contact with Reece. “I knew there might be another caution that could get me caught back up. Luckily we got the yellow we needed and you know, Alex came over and apologized for the incident too.”
“All in all, everything worked out and I think now we’re gonna take this championship back to Mississippi and celebrate.”
In Bandolero action, Eddie Fatscher made his title race look easy after winning his sixth Outlaws division feature in seven starts en route to a 15-point championship margin over Matthew Davey, who finished second during the final main event.
“It’s always nice to go out on top,” said Fatscher. “It’s certainly a good thing to have on the record going forward.”
The Outlaws title may have been his swan song in the Bandolero class, as the New York native also plans to make a big jump up for the remainder of the 2015 season.
“Now we’re going to take our Legends Car down to Orlando for the Winter Nationals and see what we can do, and then we’ll be back in the Legend for the Summer Shootout as well.”
The afternoon’s most serious incident came four laps into the Outlaws main when Roy Hayes went for a wild tumble off the exit of turn two. Hayes flipped six times before coming to rest, but was uninjured despite his car going off in a mangled heap on the hook.
And after already locking up the Bandits title with one race to go, Daniel Wilk’s quest for perfection was rewarded in a door-slamming, wheel-to-wheel finish in the Bandits class that saw him edge out Mini Tyrell on a green-white-checkered finish by a half car length at the stripe for his eighth win in eight Winter Heat races.
“The car was really tight so I had to make the best of what it was for that whole race,” Wilk said. “I thought the toe was so knocked out there at the end that we wouldn’t have gotten it but fortunately we got this. We just come out to win every race we enter and it paid off this year. Eight for eight is just amazing; I couldn’t even begin to explain how it feels.”
The title was Wilk’s second-consecutive championship in the Bandits division at the Winter Heat.
Jaiden Reyna scored his first checkered flag in the Beginner Bandits class, but because that division does not race for points, no champion was officially crowned.
Tommy Good was the Beginner Bandits’ winningest driver of the season, with three victories. Gracie Trotter and Justin Oplinger each scored two wins in the class during the eight races.
With the conclusion of the 2015 Winter Heat Series, U.S. Legend Cars International moves to the traditional opening of their East Coast national points races with the running of the Winter Nationals at Orlando Speedworld, Feb. 14-22.
RESULTS: 2015 Winter Heat Series; Round 8; Charlotte Motor Speedway; Feb. 8, 2015
Bandolero Beginner Bandits Round Eight Feature (20 laps): 1) Jaiden Reyna. (full results not yet posted by INEX — update to follow)
Audio with race winner Jaiden Reyna:
Bandolero Bandits Round Eight Feature (20 laps): 1) Daniel Wilk; 2) “Mini” Timothy Tyrell; 3) Cameron Bolin; 4) Carson Kvapil; 5) William Robusto; 6) Ryan Israel; 7) Isabella Robusto; 8) Austin MacDonald; 9) Justin Oplinger; 10) Tommy Good; 11) Parker Retzaff; 12) George Hayes; 13) Jason Alder; 14) Dylan Notaro; 15) Bryson Ruff. Champion: Daniel Wilk.
Audio with race winner and division champion Daniel Wilk:
Audio with runner-up Mini Tyrell:
Bandolero Outlaws Round Eight Feature (20 laps): 1) Eddie Fatscher; 2) Matthew Davey; 3) Kayla Lyons; 4) Gracie Trotter; 5) Carson Ware; 6) Blazes Brinkley; 7) Ashley Pantoulas; 8) Roy Hayes. Champion: Eddie Fatscher.
Audio with race winner and division champion Eddie Fatscher:
Audio with runner-up Matt Davey:
Legends Car Young Lions Round Eight Feature (20 laps): 1) Alex Reece; 2) Chase Purdy; 3) Dawson Cram; 4) Scott Joy; 5) Ryan Millington; 6) Austin Green; 7) Alex McCollum; 8) Andrew Molleur; 9) Eddie Fatscher; 10) Jack Fread; 11) Sprout Royal; 12) Zack Wells; 13) Kouga Miyoshi; 14) Carson Poindexter; 15) Matthew Thomas. Champion: Chase Purdy.
Audio with race winner Alex Reece:
Audio with runner-up and division champion Chase Purdy:
Legends Car Semi Pro Round Eight Feature (20 laps): 1) Stevie Johns; 2) Alex Murray; 3) Dillon Faggart; 4) Corey Hall; 5) Erik Nash; 6) Austin Langenstein; 7) Chase Campbell; 8) Blake Spears; 9) Breanne Gilligan; 10) Jesse Hilger; 11) Holden German; 12) Alex Urbina; 13) Joseph Bisson; 14) Nick Lands; 15) John Holleman; 16) Matthew Moermond; 17) Christian Eckes. Champion: Dillon Faggart.
Audio with race winner Stevie Johns:
Audio with runner-up Alex Murray:
Audio with 3rd-place and division champion Dillon Faggart:
Legends Car Masters Round Eight Feature (20 laps): 1) Robby Faggart; 2) Jim Sylvester; 3) Scott Whitaker; 4) TJ Larson; 5) Rodney Tharp; 6) Bruce Silver; 7) Ron Mander; 8) Danny Cisson; 9) Craig Bruce; 10) Dwayne Holder. Champion: Scott Whitaker.
Audio with race winner Robby Faggart:
Audio with 3rd-place and division champion Scott Whitaker:
Legends Car Pro Division Round Eight Feature (20 laps): 1) Michael Torres; 2) Trey Jarrell; 3) Jared Irvan; 4) Joey Padgett; 5) Brandon Gdovic; 6) Reid Wilson; 7) Henri Tuomaala; 8) Drew Brown; 9) Matt Maring; 10) Spencer Saunders. Champion: Joey Padgett.
Audio with race winner Michael Torres:
Audio with division champion Joey Padgett: