SOMERTON, Ariz. — official release — Malcom White photo —
Aaron Reutzel capped the inaugural Winter Heat Showdown by accomplishing a goal that had evaded him throughout the first week and a half of the new year.
Reutzel led all but one lap on Saturday at Cocopah Speedway, where he recorded his first 410 sprint car feature victory during the final night of the five-race event.
“It’s unreal,” he said. “To come out of the box and lead the first two nights and then something happened. We were leading this deal and I was just waiting for something to happen.”
After earning a front row starting position for the first two Winter Heat races last weekend only to have mechanical issues derail him, Reutzel took advantage of a similar opportunity on Saturday when he lined up on the inside of NASCAR star Kasey Kahne to start the 30-lap, $12,000-to-win feature.
Reutzel powered to the bottom groove entering turn one to take the lead during the third different race of the Winter Heat Sprint Car Showdown.
Meanwhile, Craig Dollansky drove around Kahne exiting turn four on the second lap and he started to stalk Reutzel. Dollansky closed to the bumper of Reutzel entering turn one on lap nine before taking the lead with a power move on the outside of Reutzel in turn four.
Reutzel returned the favor on the ensuing lap by regaining the lead before his nose wing broke, which affected the handling for the final two thirds of the race.
“Craig drove around me through the middle,” he said. “I got the wing back a little farther and figured I was going to try to go back around him the same way. Luckily I got right back by him. Then the nose wing fell done so luckily I got by him that lap because we definitely wouldn’t have passed him with that nose wing down.”
Traffic entered the picture around the midpoint of the race, but it didn’t slow Reutzel as he hit his marks along the bottom groove of the track each lap. Dollansky stayed within striking distance, but it was David Gravel who maneuvered from fourth to second place on the final lap with a daring move.
“It was the last lap and I said screw it, I’m going to the top,” Gravel said. “The rubber held me to the center and then I picked up the grip coming off and it worked. I couldn’t believe I passed Dollansky, too. I got into the wall a little bit, but it was worth it.”
Dollansky settled for third, which marked his first podium of the Winter Heat Showdown.
“It was a long week, but we just kept digging,” he said. “Tonight I was trying to run conservative, but good enough to hopefully win the race. (Reutzel) did a great job winning tonight. We had a car that was in the game and that’s all you can ask for.”
Sam Hafertepe Jr. finished fourth with Kahne rounding out the top five.
Danny Lasoski, who won Friday’s main event, earned the Hard Charger Award on Saturday by rallying from 16th to sixth. He also earned the overall Winter Heat Sprint Car Showdown championship and a $4,000 bonus thanks to Cometic Gasket, JE Pistons and K1 Technologies.
“That’s a credit to my team,” he said. “I’m just the guy who gets to drive.”
Christopher Bell placed seventh with Stevie Smith, who was tied with Lasoski in the championship standings but lost the tiebreaker because of Lasoski winning a feature, ending eighth. Kraig Kinser scored a ninth-place result with Henry Van Dam rallying for his fourth top 10 of the event.
CREDIT: Inside Line Promotions/Cocopah Speedway