Auto Club is the biggest track the G-Force Grand National Series will visit this season, yet some cars looked like they just ran 200 laps at Martinsville Tuesday night. A 6 car pileup in turn 1 on Lap 1 left top 10 drivers like Jeff Green and Jason Hounshell scratching for every point they could recoup. What started as a race of chance quickly turned into a chance for drivers to distance themselves in points. On track distance was seen with two long green flag runs that spread the field out by almost 25 seconds at points. At the end of the second long green flag run, it was Shayne Therrien grabbing his first win of the season.
John Weitendorf entered the night second in points, minus 104 to championship leader Gerald Campbell. Weitendorf put his car on the pole ending Campbell’s 5 race streak of a first place qualifying effort. The 33 machine went on to dominate the first 60 laps leading a race high 52 laps before being taken over by Therrien on the last stint with 17 to go. Weitendorf could never get back to the bumper of Therrien to put pressure on him and had to settle for second. Robert Kenny, Bronson Stafford, and Hank Steinmiller rounded out the top 5.
After the melee on Lap 1, the race ran clean through green flag pit stops until Lap 46. A two car pileup exiting the pits on turn 2 brought out the final caution of the night and setup a strategy call with most of the field being on 10 lap or fresher tires. Kyle Johnson was the only driver in the top 10 that opted to pit for fresh tires under this caution. Johnson would restart 18th with 27 laps to go. A valiant effort would get him as high as 5th but no further. Johnson fell back to 6th with 2 to go and would finish there.
As expected, the yellow flag was used sparingly. However, that doesn’t mean there wasn’t contact. A handful of single car spins, not big enough to bring out a caution, put a damper on the nights of drivers like Caden Thure, Tom Bourne, Tyler Riggs, and even points leader Gerald Campbell. Each incident was pretty similar. The bumpers of the ARCA cars don’t line up quite like their Truck Series and Cup Series counterparts and normally end up turning the car in front. This was the case with Thure off the bumper of Johnson and Riggs off the bumper of Nick Rader. Lucky for Thure and Riggs, these incidents were before the final caution, allowing them a reset of sorts.
Unfortunately for Campbell and Bourne, their contact happened with less than 15 to go. The incident was especially a tough break for Campbell leading the points. Bronson Stafford pulled to his bumper on the backstretch with 11 to go and never lifted, running the 25 over. The contact sent Campbell spinning to the inside of the backstretch out of harms way, but also out of the top 10. What once was a 104 point lead in the standings now stands at 39 over Weitendorf and 85 over Steinmiller heading into next week.
With 5 races left, the series heads to Texas next week for the longest race of the season, 200 miles at Texas. The top 10 in points have separated themselves into two groups of sorts. The top four are separated by 123 points, one bad race from Campbell or Weitendorf could tighten this battle to within 50 for all four drivers. Fifth through tenth are a bit further behind the leader but themselves are only separated by 61 points. There will be a lot of shuffling positions around this area in the coming weeks.