Keith Maiato wins the ButtKicker 100
at Auto Club Speedway!
This week the teams packed up after Kansas and made their way to the West Coast and the beautiful track in San Bernardino, California, Auto Club Speedway. With this being the second to last race of the season, a solid finish was critical to the teams trying to catch the duo of Johnathon Hernandez and Bryan Pizzichemi, who came into the race with a 42 point lead over Team Rubber Ducky, (Tyler Logan and Quinn Trimmer.)
The green flag would wave just after 6PM local time at Auto Club Speedway, with Norse Force rookie Derek Justis (#31) leading the way! The race would not stay green for long however, as contact at the front stretch going into lap 3 would send Richard Thomas (#4) into the wall and to the back of the field.
A wreck on lap 9 would bring the race to a halt again, as a big wreck along the back straightaway would take out a multitude of cars. Those involved in the wreck included: George Balfanz Jr (#15), David Ketcham (#26), Paul Perry (#11), William Parrish (#14), Quinn Trimmer (#77), and Joshua Harbison (#28).
The green flag would drop once again on lap 14, as the teams looked for some green flag laps before the sun would set, cooling the track down. A spin 3 laps later would put the yellow flag out for the third time in under 20 laps. The slow pace to start the race left drivers crawling around the track, stuck thinking about the heat in the car. Blowers and fans were working full force to keep these drivers as cool as possible.
Another yellow on lap 29 begun to test everyone’s patience, as the hot California sun sank behind the grandstands on the front straightaway. The strategy seemed to be to stick to 4 tires and fuel, and nearly all of the lead lap cars would follow. A lap 34 restart saw Justis take the green flag, followed closely by Katey Hyydt (#69) and Blake Near (#29).
With the sun now below the horizon and the lights illuminating the track, the drivers seemed to find a bit of a groove. With the track cooling off and the track becoming more grippy, clean racing was abound, and we would see green flag pit stops beginning on lap 56. After pit stops cycled through Heydt would take command of the race.
By nothing short of a miracle, the rest of the race would run under green flag conditions, as green flag pit stops would go off without a hitch for most of the drivers. Fuel strategy seemed to be non-existent, as the leaders would have their last pit stops occur around lap 70, well within the fuel window of somewhere around 35 laps. On lap 85, Keith Maiato (#36) made a daring 3-wide pass on the bottom below Heydt and Josh Peake (#3), to take the lead, and never looked back. With the cool breeze coming in off the California coast, Maiato would take the checkered flag, followed by Heydt in second, and Chris Simard (#37) in third. Johnathon Hernandez finished sixth, putting Output Racing to almost an insurmountable lead heading into the final race of the season: Darlington.
Join us next week as Norse Force Racing takes on the Lady in Black, Darlington Raceway, for throwback night! Many of your favorite drivers will be driving alternate paint schemes that are sure to light the track ablaze. Points for that race will also be 1.5X normal points, making for a big time showdown in South Carolina!
By Jarrett DeHetre
Norse Force Racing eSports Writer
Jarrett is a Norse Force Racing Driver in the Valhalla Cup Series and the Official eSports Writer of NFRL.
The Norse Force Racing League Staff, Officials, and Administrators congratulate KeithMaiato on a great Win at Auto Club Speedway, and express our appreciation for all of the Norse Force League Members who register and participate in the Valhalla Cup weekly.