Richmond, VA – For the final time in 2016 the cars and the stars of Arena Racing USA piled into the Richmond Coliseum to crown a new champion. Attrition seemed to be the keyword of the night as drivers were fighting tooth and nail for all they had. Practice and qualifying took place earlier in the afternoon before gates opened for the fans. We picked up the nights action with the Top Dog qualifying races.
Branden Sanders would find himself leading the field to the green flag for the A-Main with Connor Medeiros, who currently sits second in points, to his outside. Camden Testerman, who holds just a thirteen point lead entering tonight’s race, would roll of the grid way back in the seventh position.
Medeiros clears Sanders quickly after the drop of the green flag opening a 10 car advantage. Larry Murphy also around Samers early. Jordon Wood also makes quick work of Sanders to break into the top three with just ten laps in the books. Points leaders, Camden Testerman, and Carlton on a roll early picking off cars early. Testerman able to climb up to fourth position just fifteen laps into the fifty lap feature. Both Carlton and Garrett Manes – who started shotgun on the field – slowly picking cars off as the laps click off. Sanders, who took the green flag on the pole, had fallen all the way back to the end of the field after completing just twenty laps
First caution of the night surprisingly did not come till lap 24 after Medeiros, who at the time was leading the race, makes contact with the much slower car of Sanders trying to put him a lap down and ultimately spinning him out. Per the rules of Arena Racing, Medeiros would earn himself a one way ticket to the rear of the field – potentially ending his run for a championship
Murhpy stays low as officials display the cone – just like at the local short track level lead lap cars are able to chose which line they would like to restart in – while Jordan Wood elects to restart to his outside. As the two were battling for the lead out of turn four it appeared the Murphy put a little to much left side tires on the concrete which send the car up and over the right side and sliding down the front stretch on his lid, his night would be done.
The ensuing restart, coming just one lap before halfway, should have found Wood & Testerman on the front row but the #28 of Wood stalls coming out of turn two just prior to the cone. Officials looked in the rear section of the car but could not get him re-fired. This allowed Carlton to move up one spot and restart behind Testerman – Zupo and Medeiros only two to take the cone.
The high line not working to well for Zupo who falls back quickly. Leaving Testerman in control of this one with Carlton riding hot on his tails. Carlton starting to take a peak under Testerman as we work lap 30 and is able to make the pass coming out of turn four however the the field would be slowed yet again as Branden Sanders spins for a second time.
Restart coming up with just laps to go and Carlton not playing games, gets a great jump and clears Testerman off four who is left to fend off Maines. Top four, separated by just a car length a piece, able to extend their lead by a full straightaway until the caution is displayed yet again on lap 45 – DiSavino coming to a halt on the back stretch with what looked like a broken right front.
Carlton with another great jump to clear Testerman. Medeiros and Manes battling hard for the third spot. So hard in fact Manes makes pretty solid contact with the wall. Everyone able to keep things rolling and Cody Carlton will take home the A-Main trophy and lock himself into tonight’s Top Dog.
P1. #94 Cody Carlton
P2. #17 Camden Testerman
P3. #11 Connor Medeiros
P4. #1 Garrett Manes
P5. #07 Shane Zuppo
P6. #18 Branden Sanders
P7. #55 Howie Sanders
P8. #28 Jordan Wood
P9 #04 Larry Murphy
John & Savannah Nicken – the father daughter duo – lead the field to the green for their 50-lap feature. Either Savannah caught her old man sleeping or dad was slow to get to the gas to allow for Savannah to get to the bottom. She jumps out to an early lead over her father John Nickens who falls back to as far as fourth place.
First caution of the race comes early in this one on lap 11 from none other than who we were just talking about, John Nickens, who had an incredible save coming off turn four after the car gets crazy loose. However, he was not able to gather it back up and collides with Jim Grady in turn one and blocking the track.
Savannah electing to start on the bottom on the ensuing restart plays in her favor and jumps out to a 15 car lead. Leaves Matt Sanders, Davis, and Shonk to battle things out for the second and third postion. Some beating and banging – as is the norm here at Arena Racing – proves to be beneficial for Sanders who takes the second spot away and sets his eyes on S. Nickens.
Field pretty strung out as they reach half way with the expection of Alford and J. Nickens – who about wrecks himself again in turns one and two trying to snag the position away from Alford. Looking back up front Savannah, for the first time all race, had to navigate her way by the slower car of Ogden – this allowed for Sanders to catch up as well as Davis.
Whoa, scary moment for the leaders with just over 10 laps to go. Alford and J. Nickens make contact out of four and get way out of shape. The two are able to gather things up and we stay under green, but allows for Sanders and Brad Davis to catch up to the bumper of Savannah Nickens who, just a couple laps later would have a huge slip out of two, allowing Matte Sanders to attempt the pass on the outside. With the help of the slower machine of Ogden, Sanders successfully makes the pass for the lead in turn one.
Davis and Shonk restart on the front row, good battle for a couple laps till Shonk spins his self out coming out of turn two to put the field back under yellow. Alford will be your lucky dog and puts Savannag Nickens back into the second postion after going to the rear of the field along with Brad Davis – who mad contact with her bringing out the previous yellow flag after a dive bomb in turn three did not work.
Savannah Nickens, electing to take the cone and restart on the top side, which appeared to be the preferred line here tonight, took the lead from Matt Sanders. All of that however, would be for nothing as the caution flag waved yet again for a wreck here on the back stretch after Shonk made contact with her father and turning him around. This time Nickens chooses to start on the bottom, boy does she wish she could have that one back, as Sanders went top shelf getting the better restart and ultimately grabbing the win.
P1. #54 Matt Sanders
P2. #71 Savannah Nickens
P3. #4 Brad Davis
P4. #911 John Alford
P5. #21 Johnny Shonk
P6. #17 John Nickens
P7. #88 Ian Ogden
P8. #74 Jim Grady
P9. #01 Chase Butler
The entire Top Dog starting grid set by random pill pulls. Shane Zupo came out on top of tonights draw, no seriously, he will lead the field to the green flag for the final 50-lap feature of the night. Followed by points leader Camden Testerman, Johnny Shonk, B-Main winner Matt Sanders, and John Alford to round out the starting five – have to note that Conner Medeiros will roll off the grid sixth.
Took only about three-quarters of a lap for things to get interesting in the nights final race. Pole sitter Shane Zupo goes for a spin into the inside blocks and comes to a rest in the infield with some left front damage, his night his done before we complete a single lap. This put the #911 machine of Alford on the point with the championship contenders starting to his outside.
Attrition was the name of the game for the Top Dog feature as five of the fourteen cars had dropped out and two cars have heavy front or rear end damage with just two laps of the fifty in the books. Points leader Camden Testerman ran into issues early as he was caught up in one of the wrecks causing him to lose his rear bumper cover. Connor Medeiros, also getting caught up in the action early would retire from the race with front suspension issues.
By the time we could actually run more than two consecutive laps the we found Garret Manes pacing the field over Carlton, Testerman, M. Sanders, and Alford. Top three drivers did a very good job of distancing themselves from the pack staying no more than a few car lengths from each other’s bumpers.
With the longest green flag run of the evening setting up some great racing in the top three. Manes scored your leader at halfway break with Carlton hot on his heels, however, the field would be slowed yet again with cars spinning all over the track. After officials got things cleaned up and cars lined back up we went back green flag racing where Carlton was a man possessed on the restart.
Carlton to the lead as we complete lap 34 just before the field would be slowed for yet another yellow flag from Branden Sanders, who was facing the wrong way out of four. Murphy and Alford appear to get a piece – Alfords night over.
On the ensuing restart both Carlton and Testerman catch Garrett Manes sleeping and jump out to a huge lead. Manes has to get up on the wheel and fight off Matt Sanders to stay in third. Luckily for Carlton the field was able to keep things together and we were able to finish this thing off under green with Carlton pulling off the sweep. Testerman, Manes, M. Sanders and Davis rounded out the top five.
“This is just a great way to end the season,” Carlton said in victory lane. “Specially after the season we had. I can’t thank my guys enough for the car and all the work and especially for all these fans that came out.” Testerman’s hard fought second place finish would be enough to wrap up the drivers championship for the 2015/16 season
P1. #94 Cody Carlton
P2. #17 Camden Testerman
P3. #1 Garrett Manes
P4. #54 Matt Sanders
P5. #4 Brad Davis
P6. #18 Branden Sanders
P7. #21 Johnny Shonk
P8. #04 Larry Murphy
P9. #91 John Alford
P10. #11 Conner Medeiros
P11. #17 John Nickens
P12. #71 Savannah Nickens
P13. #55 Howie DiSavino
P14. #07 Shane Zuppo