With just three laps remaining in the Street Stock Shootout 25 at South Arcade Speedway Saturday night, Andy Michael appeared to be ready to etch his name on the track's points championship trophy. Then it all came apart in what was the final night of this season at South Arcade.
Michael, who came into the season finale with a slim three-point lead over Josh Wilcox, was leading the race when he was involved in an accident. The end result was Wilcox taking the title over Michael by a single point.
On lap 22, Michael was battling Chris Austin for the lead. As the leaders were coming off the backstretch the caution flag waved for an incident elsewhere on the track. As the field was slowing down, Austin ran into Michael in Turn Four, sending both cars spinning. Austin hit the wall and retired for the evening while Michael was told to restart at the rear of the field.
Wilcox, meanwhile, was having a miserable night to that point. He was mired in the pack, having made several trips to the pits under cautions to change tires.
However, in the final laps, Wilcox was able to advance to third place, and Michael, despite completing a mad dash from 11th to finish fifth, lost the title to Wilcox. Scott Fuller won the race.
"I was spun out when the caution was already out and then they put me to the back," said a very angry Michael. "Wilcox was down a lap but they won't put him down a lap. It's a joke. I probably won't be back until they get different ownership up here."
South Arcade race director Mike Fisher said that he had to send Michael to the back because he failed to control his car under caution and that he came to a complete stop on the track because of his spin.
"What happened was the No. 10T [Randy Taylor] was driving over his head and ran into the back of me and shoved me right through him [Michael]," said Austin of the big incident. "I've raced with Andy a long time. He knows better about what happened."
Track owner/promoter Mike Lauterborn, when told of Michael's remarks, said, "Andy is a great runner and he's the class of the field here. There's nothing I can do about what happens in the offseason."
Other South Arcade season champions are: Vic Vena, E-Mods; Steve Mowery, Mini Stocks and Curt Pastorius, Pure Stocks.
Elsewhere, if IHRA Quick 32 point leader Mark Talmadge is able to capture Dunn Tire Raceway Park's Quick 32 point championship this season, he will credit the assist he received from fellow competitor and friend Wes Cayea on Friday evening.
Faced with much adversity Friday, Talmadge, thanks in part to Cayea, overcame a broken dragster and also got very fortuitous assists from his closest pursuers who all lost in the first round, thus allowing Talmadge to actually increase his point lead.
When eliminations began Friday, Talmadge had 830 points, followed by Rick Thurnherr, 810, Dave Gomolski, 790 and Vic Puglia, 760. In eliminations, winning drivers add to their point totals by earning 10 points for each round of racing they win.
The battle Friday became an uphill one for Talmadge when his dragster broke in the first time trial session. Facing the prospect of not being able to compete in eliminations, Cayea stepped forward and offered his dragster to Talmadge. Talmadge accepted the generosity.
In the Quick 32 first round Friday, Talmadge, despite being somewhat unfamiliar with Cayea's dragster, was able to beat Billy Leber while Thurnherr, Gomolski and Puglia were all unable to keep pace, as each lost in that round.
Talmadge upped his point total to 840, while the others failed to add points. Talmadge lost in the second round but all things considered felt very grateful to leave the stripe with a larger points margin.
"I broke the ring and pinion in the first time trial," Talmadge said. Since Wes is not leading the points and I am, Wes offered up his car and let me run it. He's a good friend."