QUEEN CREEK, Ariz. — Polesitter Ricky Weiss led the first 17 laps of Saturday’s Keyser Manufacturing Wild West Shootout opener, but, when a low-running Chris Simpson squeezed under him to take control before halfway, Weiss figured his chances were over.
“I seen (crewman) Cody (Mallory) telling me to get down, get down … then I thought, ‘Well, I gave it up,’ ” the Canadian driver said.
Not so fast.
The 21-year-old from Headingley, Manitoba, jumped to the high side late in the race and went back around Oxford, Iowa's Simpson with seven laps remaining for a $5,000 victory at FK Rod Ends Arizona Speedway, his first on the winter miniseries and the richest payday of his career.
Weiss, the four-time WISSOTA champion piloting a new Sweet-Bloomquist Race Car, was nearly at a loss for words after firing the blanks out of a pair of six shooters in victory lane.
“It’s crazy. A brand new car to come out here … Scott (Bloomquist) said, ‘I think you’re going to do awful good,’ but I really didn’t think we’d be up here,” said Weiss, who thanked “everybody that turns a wrench on this car.”
The victory was “just huge (in facing) the best of the best … I mean, Scott’s not here, but we’ve got great drivers and to see the work these guys put in my car and knowing I’ve got what Scott’s got, you can’t ask for better than that.”
Weiss took the checkers eight-tenths of a second ahead of Simpson, who led laps 18-33 but settled for his fourth runner-up finish in his last five Arizona starts going back to last season.
Mike Marlar of Winfield, Tenn., who started fifth and was up to second by the first lap, was third while eighth-starting Brandon Sheppard of New Berlin, Ill., and Garrett Alberson of Las Cruces, N.M., rounded out the top five.
It appeared Simpson was going to put an end to his streak of bridesmaid finishes when he began pulling away midway through the 40-lapper, but when Simpson was trying to lap Chase Junghans, Weiss took notice.
“I seen (Junghans), he moved finally to the top, and I thought, ‘Well, there goes Simpson, he’s going to get by him,' " Weiss said. "And (Junghans) actually pulled away from us, so I thought, 'Well, I saw the flagman (handling his flags) and I thought there’s gotta be less than five laps to go.'
“So I moved up there and I really didn’t think it’d be better, but I thought maybe if the other lapped car held (Simpson) up … and I got up there, and ‘Wow, it’s a lot better up here.’ ”
Simpson jumped into the high groove to chase Weiss with four laps remaining, but by then his preferred inside groove had long given up.
“I just really thought it was going to be around that bottom,” Simpson said. “Me and Ricky fought for that bottom forever, and finally he slipped up once and I got by him. Yeah, I was just out cruising ….
“I’ll take second every day, but it does suck. Leading that many laps like that, and then getting passed. The top just cleaned up. It rubbered up a little at the end and Ricky found it before I did. You know, I was lucky enough to get in front of (Marlar). I had to get up there, that’s what I had to do. All in all a good night.”
Marlar got off to a quick start by zipping into second on the first lap, but, after the race’s lone caution for Tanner Kellick on the second lap, Marlar opted to start on the outside of the double-wide restart.
“I gave Chris the bottom there, because I thought I could momentum (up top) … I was about to roll (by) Ricky anyway, so I took the outside and tried to do that again and it didn’t work,” Marlar said. “But it was an awesome race. And what’s fun, you’re not points-racing, you’re just here to win, so I think that’s why you see guys just doing whatever (even if) you lose a position, whatever.”
The winter miniseries continues Sunday afternoon with another $5,000-to-win Super Late Model program with modifieds and X-mods on the undercard.
With the victory, Weiss is the lone driver eligible for the Keyser Quarter-Million Bonus, which pays $250,000 to a driver that can win six Super Late Model races. The bonus program also pays $100,000 (for five victories), $25,000 (for four victories) or $10,000 (for three victories).
Correction: Fixes bonus total for four victories.
Row 1: Ricky Weiss (7), Chris Simpson (32)
Row 2: Don Shaw (42s), Garrett Alberson (01)
Row 3: Mike Marlar (157), Scott Ward (37)
Row 4: Austin Siebert (16), Brandon Sheppard (B5)
Row 5: Austin Theiss (7D), Justin Duty (15)
Row 6: Tanner Kellick (3k), Terry Phillips (75)
Row 7: Lance Matthees (90), Bobby Pierce (32)
Row 8: Cade Dillard (97), Jake O’Neil (0)
Row 9: Nick Bartels (12), Rod. Sanders (20)
Row 10: Chase Junghans (18), Ryan Gustin (2T)
Row 11: Kyle Beard (86), R.C. Whitwell (86)
Row 12: Justin Kay (15k), Mike Spatola (89)
(12 laps; top three transfer)
First consolation: Chase Junghans, Kyle Beard, Justin Kay, David Breazeale, Jason Rauen, Clint Smith, John Duty, Joey Moriarty, Tony Toste, Dustin Bluhm, Clay Daly, Casey Skyberg, Billy Franklin, Carlos Ahumada Jr., Jake Davis, Dave Deetz.
Second consolation: Ryan Gustin, R.C. Whitwell, Mike Spatola, Eric Mass, Lyndon Bolt, Rob Mayea, Rob Sanders, Jon Ortega, Cody Barnett, John Cornell, Terry Carter, Thomas Hunziker, Jon Brinkley, Ed Peters.
(12 laps; top three transfer)
Row 1: Justin Kay, Kyle Beard
Row 2: Chase Junghans, David Breazeale
Row 3: Jason Rauen, Clint Smith
Row 4: Jake Davis, Billy Franklin
Row 5: Tony Toste, Joey Moriarty
Row 6: John Duty, Clay Daly
Row 7: Dustin Bluhm, Dave Deetz
Row 8: Casey Skyberg, Carlos Ahumada Jr.
Row 1: Ryan Gustin, Rob Sanders
Row 2: R.C. Whitwell, Mike Spatola
Row 3: Rob Mayea, Cody Barnett
Row 4: Eric Mass, Thomas Hunziker
Row 5: Terry Carter, John Cornell
Row 6: Lyndon Bolt, Jake Gallardo
Row 7: Ed Peters, Jon Ortega
Row 8: John Brinkley, Steve Stultz
Heat race results
(Eight laps; top three transfer)
First heat: Don Shaw, Austin Siebert, Lance Matthees, Justin Kay, David Breazeale, Jake Davis, Joey Moriarty, Dustin Bluhm, Carlos Ahumada Jr.
Second heat: Mike Marlar, Brandon Sheppard, Bobby Pierce, Kyle Beard, Jason Rauen, Billy Franklin, John Duty, Dave Deetz, Steve Stultz.
Third heat: Ricky Weiss, Austin Theiss, Cade Dillard, Chase Junghans, Clint Smith, Tony Toste, Clay Daly, Casey Skyberg.
Fourth heat: Scott Ward, Justin Duty, Jake O'Neil, Ryan Gustin, Mike Spatola, Eric Mass, John Cornell, Ed Peters.
Fifth heat: Garrett Alberson, Tanner Kellick, Nick Bartels, Rob Sanders, Rob Mayea, Eric Mass, Thomas Hunziker, Jon Ortega, Lyndon Bolt.
Sixth heat: Chris Simpson, Terry Phillips, Rodney Sanders, R.C. Whitwell, Cody Barnett, Terry Carter, Jake Gallardo, John Brinkley.
Fast qualifier Chris Simpson of Oxford, Iowa, drew the last qualifying spot but zipped to fast time (15.075 seconds) in a Longhorn Chassis. Simpson debuted a new Black Diamond Chassis in Friday’s practice, but after having fuel pressure problems, decided to go with the chassis brand that carried him to three runner-up finishes last year in Arizona. He plans to test the Black Diamond again in Tuesday’s practice. … Terry Phillips of Springfield, Mo., smacked the wall before recording a qualifying lap, causing right-front damage on his new Black Diamond car. … WWS features have been lengthened to 40 laps for 2018; previously the races were 30 laps, and some drivers complained they didn’t have enough time to get to the front. … The track has scheduled a pit concert after Jan. 13 action and promoters are also provided catered food for teams practicing Tuesday night. … The configuration of the track and event is different than last year. The scales have been moved to the infield and cars now exit in turn one and go back around to the mud-drag chute. Last year cars exited to the pits on the highway side of the pits, requiring a crosswalk area for those going from the pits to the grandstands. … David Breazeale of Four Corners, Miss, was driving to Arizona when he realized he might not make it in time for Saturday’s 3:30 p.m. hot laps. He and his wife hopped a plane in Dallas to fly the rest of the way. ... A broken valve forced Ricky Thornton Jr. to scratch from Late Model competition (he was a heat winner in the modifieds).
A busy week of action gets rolling Saturday at Arizona Speedway for the first round of the Keyser Manufacturing Wild West Shootout with 50 Late Models entered on the winter minitour.
Late Models were split into six groups for time trials with officials employing combination hot-lap/time trials to set the lineups for six heat races. Drivers start straightup by time.
The top three finishers in each of six heat races transfer to the 40-lap main event with the winners redrawing for the first three rows of the feature lineup. Three consolation races will transfer two drivers apiece to complete the 24-car field for the feature, which pays $5,000-to-win.
A Pro Power Dash is also scheduled with a $1,000-to-win race for 12 Late Model non-qualifiers. Modified and X-mods also run complete programs.
Saturday’s event is the first of six races over the next nine days at the third-mile oval southeast of Phoenix.
Time trials (unofficial)
(Heat lineups set straightup)
Austin Siebert (16), Grandview, Mo., 15.529
Don Shaw (42s), Ham Lake, Minn., 15.552
Lance Matthees (90), Winona, Minn., 15.781
Justin Kay (15K), Wheatland, Iowa, 15.952
Joey Moriarty (51), Phoenix, Ariz., 15.963
Jake Davis (7D), Hackett, Ark., 16.355
Dustin Bluhm (45), Britton, S.D., 16.361
Carlos Ahumada Jr. (54), El Paso, Texas, 16.378
David Breazeale (54), Four Corners, Miss., 16.378
Mike Marlar (157), Winfield, Tenn., 15.137
Brandon Sheppard (B5), New Berlin, Ill., 15.320
Bobby Pierce (32), Oakwood, Ill., 15.373
Jason Rauen (98), Farley, Iowa, 15.771
Kyle Beard (86), Trumann, Ark., 15.921
Billy Franklin (17), Calera, Ala., 16.185
Steve Stultz (78), Peoria, Ariz., 17.224
John Duty (15x), Mulino, Ore., 17.392
Dave Deetz (R5), Las Cruces, N.M., 17.540
Ricky Weiss (7), Headingley, Manitoba, 15.420
Austin Theiss (7D), Hockley, Texas, 15.651
Cade Dillard (97), Robeline, La., 15.661
Clint Smith (44), Senoia, Ga., 15.720
Chase Junghans (18), Manhattan, Kan., 15.728
Clay Daly (32B), Watsonville, Calif., 15.820
Tony Toste (91T), Pismo Beach, Calif., 15.979
Casey Skyberg (6), Rapid City, S.D., 17.198
Mike Spatola (89), Manhattan, Ill., 15.622
Justin Duty (15), Mulino, Ore., 15.676
Scott Ward (37), Watertown S.D., 15.790
Eric Mass (45), Rapid City, S.D., 15.810
Jake O’Neil (0), Tucson, Ariz., 15.810
Ryan Gustin (2T), Marshalltown, Iowa, 16.104
John Cornell (28), Phoenix, Ariz., 16.303
Ed Peters (78), Eugene, Ore., 18.190
Garrett Alberson (01), Las Cruces, N.M., 15.378
Tanner Kellick (3k), Mer Rouge, La., 15.783
Rob Mayea (37), Bend, Ore., 16.228
Nick Bartels (12), El Segundo, Calif., 16.340
Rob Sanders (10N), Bakersfield, Calif., 16.434
Thomas Hunziker (38), Bend, Ore., 16.601
Jon Ortega (22), Las Cruces, N.M., 16.678
Lyndon Bolt (3x), Rapid City, S.D., 16.917
Chris Simpson (32), Oxford, Iowa, 15.075
Rodney Sanders (20), Happy, Texas, 15.751
R.C. Whitwell (96), Tucson, Ariz., 15.916
Jake Gallardo (J17), Las Cruces, N.M., 16.262
Cody Barnett (18), Hesperia, Calif., 16.429
Terry Carter (6T), Edmonton, Alberta, 16.556
John Brinkley (26), Prescott, Ariz., 17.568
Terry Phillips (75), Springfield, Mo., no time
(All times Mountain)
2:30 p.m. - Drivers’ meeting
3:30 p.m - Hot laps
Late Models (combo hot laps/time trials)
4:50 p.m. - National anthem
4:55 p.m. - Heat races
Modifieds (8 laps)
X-mods (8 laps)
Late Models (8 laps)
Modifieds (12 laps)
X-mods (10 laps)
Late Models (12 laps)
Modifieds (25 laps)
Pro Power Dash (eight Late Model non-qualifiers; 10 laps)
X-mods (20 laps)
Late Models (40 laps)