SALISBURY, N.C. – Carson Kvapil was offered a bigger payday to drop to the rear of Wednesday’s season finale at Millbridge Speedway, but the 14-year-old had bigger goals in mind.
He wanted to cap off his championship season with a victory, and that’s exactly what he did.
Kvapil started from the pole, after fast qualifier and first heat race winner Ethan Mitchell elected to fall to the rear in search of a $100 bounty, and never looked back.
After surviving a first-lap slide job attempt by three-time and outgoing track champion Tom Hubert, Kvapil pulled away and led all 20 laps of the Speed51.com Battle at the Bridge for his seventh Open class win of the season – most among all drivers.
The win was a fitting flourish to Kvapil’s season, as he became the youngest champion of the track’s premier division in history at 14 years, five months and 11 days old, eclipsing Max McLaughlin’s 2015 title-winning season as a 15-year-old.
“I didn’t think that for $151, it was going to be worth it to go to the back, to be honest,” said Kvapil, who was offered the combined pot by track officials and event sponsor Speed51.com to drop to the rear and win, but didn’t take the gamble. “I just didn’t think that there’d be any cautions and I knew if there weren’t, that I wouldn’t be able to come all the way from the tail.”
“Man, I wanted to win this race. This is one heck of a way to close out the championship. We never expected to be in contention for the points at the start of the year; I’m just thrilled.”
Cautions on laps two and four brought the field back to Kvapil’s rear nerf bar early, but the young gun was unfazed, keeping cool under pressure throughout the main event.
Not even when Mitchell slid Hubert and moved to second on lap five was Kvapil worried, even though Mitchell began to marginally cut into the gap at the halfway point as green flag laps clicked off one by one.
“I was thinking to myself (the whole second half), ‘I hope he doesn’t get up here to me, because it might get a little sketchy,’ but I was able to hold him off,” Kvapil said. “That was huge for us on the final night, here.”
Ultimately, Mitchell’s late-race charge wasn’t quite enough. He settled for second, followed by Hubert, Karsyn Elledge and Tyler Odendahl.
Intermediate division champion Ryan Israel, who wrapped up the class title with one race to spare, made his much-anticipated Open debut but blew a motor after leading early in his heat race and could not start the main.
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