By: Jamie Maudsley | APC Racing Series
The stars of the APC United Late Model Series Presented by Grisdale were on hand at Delaware Speedway Saturday night for the Qwick Wick Fire Starter Championship Weekend, as part of the Pinty’s Fall Brawl festivities at the London-area speedway. The 100-lap championship event would close out the evening and decide a season champion, as the 2017 champion Brandon Watson, of Stayner, led the points heading into the final race, with a 10-point margin over Pete Shepherd III, of London, 12 markers on Treyten Lapcevich, of Grimsby, and 20 points over Jo Lawrence, of London. Dale Shaw, of Guelph, and Andrew Gresel, of Sauble Beach were tied for fifth, 22 points behind the leader.
With cool temperatures and a late qualifying session, all eyes were not just on the pole run, and one of the top-ten spots to be included in the invert for the starting lineup, but the track record of 18.238 seconds, set by Shaw in September, 2015 seemed to be in danger of falling during time trials.
The first group hit the track, and Dustin Jackson, of Sault Ste. Marie, set the bar early with a lap of 19.139 seconds, but this time was blasted away by drivers in the second group of drivers, including Rick Verberne, of Otterville, who was able to go a little quicker and set a new fast time of 18.558 seconds.
Despite struggling in practice, Watson, the point leader was able to pick it up a bit in qualifying, moving to third in the standings, while Conner James, of Hamilton, and Darrell Lake, of Mt. Brydges, occupied the top two spots, as Lake was able to rip a lap of 18.403 seconds. In the next group, Matt Pritiko, of London, moved to the top of the chart with a time of 18.367 seconds, and shuffling Lake back to second.
The second-to-last group hit the track next, and Gresel went to the top of the board with a lap of 18.286 seconds, to hold the provisional fast qualifier heading into the final group. When the dust settled on the final cars, Lapcevich had turned the fastest lap with a time of 18.146, which was good enough to best Shaw’s six-year-old track record.
Gresel wound up second, with Lawrence third. Cole Powell, of Mt. Brydges, was fourth, while Shae Gemmell, of Dorchester, ended up fifth. Ray Morneau, of Windsor, wound up sixth, while Shepherd was seventh. Kyle Steckly, of Milverton, was eighth, with Matt Pritiko ninth, and Lake hanging onto tenth.
29 cars prepared for the final green flag of the season, with Gemmell on the point, and Gresel alongside him on the front row, while Lawrence and Lapcevich occupied the second row. Tow three saw Shepherd and Matt Pritiko pair up. Steckly, Lake, Morneau and Powell filled out the top-ten.
Gresel looked strong in the outside lane, leading the first two laps at the line by a bumper before Gemmell took early control with Lapcevich on his tail and Gresel in third, but the yellow would fly early on lap four when James came to rest in turn three. Yellow number two would come out right away we Morneau came to rest in turn four without power.
On the next restart it was Lapcevich working the outside, and when yellow number three flew on lap five, he was in front, controlling the next restart with Gemmell on the outside of the front row.
Lapcevich set sail, and after coming into the feature even tied with Shepherd for second in points, 10 makers back of Watson, was putting the heat on Brandon, who was still running in the low teens.
The field would be slowed on lap 41 for the fourth time when Lawrence spun off turn two, and by this time Watson had climbed to 11th as he tried to race forward to capture enough points to win the championship.
This left Lapcevich leading Gemmell, Gresel, Pritiko, and Sheridan, who completed the top-five, with Shepherd, Steckly, Lake, Powell, and Mat Box, of Carlisle, rounding out the top-ten, with Watson restarting 11th.
Lapcevich held serve on the next restart, but yellow number five appeared when Tom Gibbons, of Southampton, slowed in turn four, while Watson had cracked the top-ten.
It was another perfect restart for Lapcevich who held onto the lead, while Watson was ale to grab a couple spots on the scramble to climb to seventh a position that would clinch the title, no matter what the results of the other competitors.
This time Lapcevich was unable to shake Gemmell, and on lap 60 Shae drove it to the inside of Treyten in turn one and took over the lead, before opening up a small gap on the championship contender.
With 20 laps to go, the order sat at Gemmell, Lapcevich, Gresel, Matt Pritiko, and Sheridan in the top-five, with Steckly, Watson, Shepherd, Lake and Zardo rounding out the top-ten.
On lap 86, Gemmell bobbled in turn two, and Lapcevich struck, taking control again, while Gemmell was able to maintain the runner-up position.
The field was able to run the last 40-plus laps under green with competitive racing throughout the field, and in trying to win the championship, Lapcevich did everything he could do, setting fast time, leading the most laps, and winning his first career APC United Late Model Series event by a couple of seconds over Gresel, with Gemmell holding on for a bronze medal performance at his home track.
Matt Pritiko finished fourth, with Sheridan fifth. Watson wound up sixth, with Steckly seventh, Shepherd eighth, and Lake and Zardo rounding out the top-ten.
With the sixth-place result, Watson became the first ever two-time champion of the APC United Late Model series, by a mere 1 point over Treyten Lapcevich.
Unofficially, Shepherd finished third in points, with Gresel using his runner-up finish to vault to fourth in the championship standings.