“It’s been a nightmare, but it feels so good to be in victory lane.”
The first night of the year is in the books, and already fans are being treated to great racing at the front of the field as Nick Goetz and Jason Hathaway battled back and forth. In the end, it was Goetz picking up the win ahead of Holdaway.
The feature started off with Sean Cronan on the pole ahead of Goetz, Brittney Gresel, Travis Hallyburton, Mat Box, Ernie Fumerton, Chris Morrow, Tom Walters, Joshua Stade, Jason Hathaway, Mike Bentley, Dwayne Baker, Gord Shepherd, Taylor Holdaway, Lane Zardo, Scott Wylie, Al Inglis, Dwight Brown, Jordan Latimer, Stefan Semeraro, Thayne Hallyburton, Cayden Lapcevich, Mike Wilkinson, Danny Benedict, Paul Maltese and Billy Zardo.
Cronan would grab the early lead behind the wheel of the No. 84 Late Model while Goetz and Travis Hallyburton battled for second. The caution would fly, though, after a wreck going into turn one. The contact started in turns three and four when Bentley took Stade and Holdaway three-wide, resulting in contact off of turn four that got Holdaway into the outside wall. The field would check up, resulting in contact throughout that eventually collected Thayne Hallyburton, Jordan Latimer, Paul Maltese and Al Inglis. Hallyburton would be done for the feature with heavy left front and right side damage.
On the restart, Goetz would put the No. 24 Lake Huron Rod & Gun, Mondo Car Wash, Boston Pizza, Super 8 Motel, Lord Elgin Fish & Chips, Rosener’s Service Centre, Roberto’s Pizzeria, Great Lakes Concrete, Austin Graphics, Pierson Motors of Kincardine and ImageWraps.ca Late Model into the lead ahead of Cronan, Travis Hallyburton and Walters as Gresel battled Fumerton for fifth. Gresel would take the spot on lap six, with Hathaway following her through a lap later.
The caution would then fly, though, as Walters would go around in turn four following contact from Gresel, collecting Holdaway, Wylie and Latimer. With 28 laps to go, Goez led Cronan, Travis Hallyburton, Hathaway, Fumerton, Baker, Box, Bentley, Stade, Morrow and Shepherd.
Goetz got a good restart, leaving Hallyburton and Cronan to battle for second. However, the third caution would fly due to Lapcevich going around in turn two.
The restart saw Goetz get away, while Hathaway would clear Hallyburton on the outside, diving underneath Cronan for second heading into turn three. However, the caution would fly as Morrow would spin Bentley, with Semeraro, Lane Zardo, Wilkinson, Benedict, Brown and Walters getting caught up in it. Walters would be done for the feature as a result of heavy front end damage.
Goetz got another good restart, allowing him to get away as Cronan and Hathaway battled for second. Hathaway would grab the spot a lap later, ahead of Cronan, Travis Hallyburton, Baker and Fumerton. Travis Hallyburton would get alongside Cronan for third at lap 13 and they’d battle side-by-side till the caution flew at lap 16 for Lane Zardo stopping in turn four.
The restart saw a battle for the lead between Goetz and Hathaway, with Hathaway putting the No. 3 Choko Authentics/Fast Eddie Racewear Late Model out front on lap 17 ahead of Goetz, Travis Hallyburton, Holdaway, Baker and Shepherd. Joshua Stade ran seventh ahead of Cronan, Stade and Fumerton. The sixth caution flew at lap 21 for Bentley spinning Maltese in turn four; Bentley was done for the end of the race.
Under caution, things would go affray for Holdaway as his late model would catch fire. The team would go to work under the yellow flag, believing to have fixed the problem with a borrowed rad hose from a fellow competitor, allowing Holdaway to return to the track still on the lead lap. However, the fix proved to be incorrect as he caught fire a second time, resulting in his race ending prematurely. Holdaway had been hoping for a strong run after winning the first feature.
Hathaway got a good restart to maintain the lead ahead of Goetz, Holdaway and Hallyburton. Hallyburton would then bounce off of Baker at lap 23 while battling for fourth, but everybody was able to keep it straight. However, it resulted in an issue for Hallyburton as he’d stop in turn one a lap later with a problem for a caution.
The final restart went Goetz’s way as he took the lead ahead of Hathaway, Baker, Shepherd, Stade and Box as Inglis and Fumerton battled for seventh. Inglis took the spot with four to go ahead of Fumerton and Wylie, as Lapcevich and Morrow battled for 10th.
At the front of the field, Hathaway would try to find a way around Goetz, but was unable to. As a result, Nick Goetz would pick up the victory ahead of Jason Hathaway. The win marked a huge relief for Goetz after fighting through motor issues in the week leading up to opening night.
“I can’t describe how good I feel,” he commented. “I’ve been so stressed this week with all the motor issues. To finally come through, you have to keep working through it and you’ll get there. This is very special to me because my mom and my grandpa are big supporters of me, and they’re here for my very first win for them. I can’t thank them for coming out enough, and I can’t thank the crew for everything that they’ve done this week.”
The victory, though, may have been due to a simple lucky charm that helped Goetz grab the edge.
“Deborah and I got married last fall and she gave me a garter belt with a checkered flag on it,” he commented. “That was in the car for the second race here tonight.”
The battle for the win coming down to Goetz and Hathaway has some special significance to it, as Goetz spent some time at Hathaway’s shop under his wing learning about how to race late models.
“We’re great buds. I was in his shop a couple years ago – great shop, great team,” Goetz said. “It’s just unbelievable to race him and to beat him, a NASCAR Pinty’s Series driver and the amount of talent that he has on short tracks, to beat him is…Wow. What a great racing – just rubbing.”
Hathaway called the battle “a lot of fun” and said it felt good to lead some laps. He was also pleased with his own performance – a pair of top-fives on the night – given that it’s his first night running the car that he recently acquired. He added that he felt the difference between first and second tonight was due to experience.
“This is our first race in this car. We’re still working on it and tuning on it,” Hathaway said. “It’s Nick’s second year in that car and Holdaway has had his car for a few years, and Holdaway and the boys – just getting here and being competitive, just like playing golf. Once you’ve played a couple times and you’re not good at it, you know that you should quit. But it was fun.
“Our deal is to come here and shake the rust off the driver and the crew, have a little fun and win a little money.”
Dwayne Baker finished third, followed by Gord Shepherd, Joshua Stade, Mat Box, Al Inglis, Ernie Fumerton, Scott Wylie, Chris Morrow, Cayden Lapcevich, Paul Maltese, Travis Hallyburton, Brittney Gresel, Jordan Latimer, Mike Wilkinson, Sean Cronan and Danny Benedict.