Last Thursday, the Upstate Racing League White Knuckle Clothing Inc. Pro Late Model Series rolled into the New Smyrna Speedway for the season closing Chasing the Checkers 200. Matt Kocher entered the evening with an eleven point advantage over his rival for the championship, Stefan Marinak. Jake Watson won the Rumar Vinyl Creations Speed Demon Pole Award and would have Alex Orians starting to his outside. Championship rivals Kocher and Marinak would start third and eighteenth, respectively.
On the initial start Jake Watson would jump out to the initial advantage and Matt Kocher would move past Alex Orians for the second position. Watson would get into the wall on the fourth circuit and the Art’s Barber Shop Points Standings leader Matt Kocher would take the lead and gain an ever so important bonus point. Watson would move back by Kocher on the tenth lap and hope to pull away from the field. Fifth place starting Al Smith Jr. would work his way past Kocher for second on lap fourteen and set his sights on leader Jake Watson. It wouldn’t take long for Al to power his White Knuckle Clothing Inc. Ford Fusion machine by Watson, and he would take the lead on the race’s twenty-sixth lap.
Forty laps into the race, Al Smith Jr. would continue to lead while championship contenders Matt Kocher ran in third and Stefan Marinak rode in the fourteenth spot. On the forty-fourth lap defending series champion Nicklas Rasmussen moved by Al for the lead in his final start in the URL. The field would ride single file, nose to tail through the first eleven cars. Marinak would finally find the “go” button, and on lap fifty-six he would move passed Guillaume Fortin for the tenth spot.
The following lap would see the yellow flag flying for contact between Mike Holtsclaw and Brad Carpenter, sending Carpenter spinning. Nicklas would choose the outside on the ensuing restart and would pull away by multiple car lengths over Al Smith. Marinak would continue to march forward as he would move by Justin MacDuff for the sixth position on lap sixty-six. On the next lap however, a second caution flag would fly for a three car wreck involving Dan Dubuque, Jim McIntyre Jr., and Mike Holtsclaw; effectively guaranteeing we will see Jim McIntyre in a Ford next season.
The restart would come with one hundred and twenty-four laps to go. Rasmussen would choose the outside again and would easily break clear of second place Matt Kocher. Marinak would move up from sixth to fourth on the restart and set his sights on Kocher who fell back to third. The front four would race two by two for multiple laps as Watson and Rasmussen would battle for the lead and Kocher and Marinak would battle for third. Watson would move back into the lead on the eighty-fourth lap as Nick would slot into second. Marinak would get by Kocher and Rasmussen on the ninety-first lap and throw his line out to try and reel Jake Watson in.
Halfway in and a chess match for lead was on between Marinak and Watson. Marinak would pressure Watson for over a dozen laps but eventually Jake would pull away by over a second and a half. The laps would continue to tick off in a rather uneventful second half of the race, as Watson would lead at the one hundred and fifty lap mark over Marinak, Rasmussen, Kocher, and Rex Hoyle. The battle for the lead would heat up again on lap one hundred and sixty as Marinak would be back onto the back bumper of Watson. Marinak looked for a lane to get by but could not find one and Nicklas Rasmussen would close in to make it a three car battle. Contact would ensue allowing both Marinak and Rasmussen to get by Watson.
With twenty-five to go, Marinak would set his sights on the checkered flag. He was doing everything he needed to do although Kocher rode in the fifth spot at this point. Marinak would go on to the race and collect the Team Bushfink Racing Hard Charger Award along with the Jokers eSport Squeaky Clean Driver of the Race Award! Nicklas Rasmussen would have to settle for second in his final Pro Series start, followed by Rex Hoyle, Matt Kocher, and Shawn Cool in the top five. Matt Kocher would sweep both the White Knuckle Clothing Inc. Pro Late Model Series championship and the Brian Rogers Motorsports Slammin’ the Dew Rookie of the Year championship!
Stay tuned to the website and the Facebook page for all news and updates regarding the league. We’ll see you this Fall!