Liam Ryan, Jared Gundersen, Colby Thornhill & Blaine Granberg Score Clay Cup Titles at Deming Speedway!
Story by Brian Walker– Maximum Dirt (JB Racing Films)
Deming, WA | July 17, 2016 – A record car count filled the pit area, a record purse highlighted the payout, a standing-room only crowd cheered with excitement all weekend and thrilling action on the racetrack from Thursday until Saturday all helped bring glamour to what was a phenomenal showing at the 32nd annual Clay Cup Nationals. With three first-time winners and a defending champion back in victory lane, the stories wrote themselves on a picture perfect Saturday night at Deming Speedway.
Between a nail-biting Super 600 finale, a dominating 1200 main event, a heartbreaking Jr. Sprint feature and another first-time victor in Restricted, Saturday night’s Clay Cup finale lacked no excitement from start-to-finish. With 128 cars from California, Oregon, Washington and two Canadian providences, the historic Deming Speedway set a new track record for car count along with their record-breaking $50,000+ purse.
As an electric, energetic vibe filled the facility during opening ceremonies, one-line summed the entire weekend up… “In the beginning, God gave us Paul and Bev Lemley. And on the seventh day, they created Deming Speedway.”
SUPER 600 –
Following two thrilling preliminary nights in the headlining Super 600 class, fans and drivers alike entered Saturday’s finale with high hopes and expectations of an intense main event. Before 22 drivers could battle it out for a $7,500 check, two B-Mains would have to hit the track as Emily Williams and Kyle Mitchell scored semi wins.
Lining up for the 40-lap main event, the excitement continued to grow throughout the track as defending champion, Liam Ryan, and 2007 champion, Jared Peterson, started on the front row side-by-side. Following a four wide salute to a standing-ovation crowd, Ryan and Peterson brought the field to green.
Canada’s Ryan would snatch the early lead, but Peterson was quick to apply pressure for the top spot. As the two former Clay Cup champions jockeyed for command over the field, they switched high and low around the 1/6th mile oval searching for the fast way around. After two cautions early on, drivers would see their final restart on lap 14 as they returned to racing with 36 laps left.
Ryan and Peterson quickly separated themselves from the field and the battle heated up as lap traffic came into play with ten to go. Ryan caught the breaks in the beginning stages, but with five to go and Peterson finally in clean air, he began a rally of epic proportions as he jumped up top and ran the cushion right along the wall to reel Ryan back in.
Taking the white flag down by roughly a half-straightaway, Peterson continued to will his way forward with incredible drive off the high side. Entering turns three and four for the final time, Ryan dove to the bottom and Peterson pounded the top. As the duo raced to the flag stand, Ryan slid up to block Peterson’s momentum, a successful move as Liam Ryan narrowly held on to earn back-to-back Clay Cup championships in the Super 600 class to the tune of $7,500.
Jared Peterson, who afterwards said “I have never driven a car harder than I drove those last five laps,” ended up with a bittersweet second place finish. Thursday’s preliminary winner, Chase Schmidt, claimed the third spot to round out the podium. Fresno, California’s TJ Smith earned a solid fourth place finish for the second straight year and Jesse Schlotfeldt closed out the top five.
Following an impressive performance on Thursday’s preliminary night, “Brotato’s” Jared Gundersen earned the pole position for Saturday’s $5,000 to win main event in the 1200 division. Following the elimination of defending champion, Liam Ryan, on the opening lap due to a vicious flip, Gundersen brought the field to a successful start.
As soon as the green flag dropped, Gundersen went into complete domination made. Leading all 40 laps, going untouched from start-to-finish and scoring the biggest win of his career while earning a $5,000 payday, it was certainly a night to remember for the Bow, Washington native. As he parked it on the front stretch, Gundersen rose atop his machine with a cage stand while the crowd went crazy in support of one of their favorite drivers.
Following him across the line was Dustin O’Brien in second, Steven Hendrickson in third, Jake Helsel in fourth and Tanner Reid in fifth. Derek Holmwood, Tyson Cross, Nate Vaughn, JJ Hickle and Frosty Metcalfe rounded out the top ten.
Competing in their fourth year of action at the Clay Cup Nationals, the Restricted division supplied another thrilling weekend at Deming Speedway. With both Colby Thornhill and Caden Sarale tying with 708 points on their qualifying nights, the two friends started 1st and 2nd to make it an all CS9 Chassis front row.
Right from the get go Thornhill moved his No. 19 into the lead, but received a different challenger in the early running. Thursday and Friday’s winner, Jesse Schlotfeldt, quickly made work of Sarale as he stole second and started to hunt down Thornhill for the top spot.
Catching Thornhill just before the halfway mark, Schlotfeldt showed his nose entering turn one and that was all the motivation Thornhill needed. The nine-year old native of Buckley, Washington moved his CS9 No. 19 up a lane and kicked into another gear as he showed veteran like characteristics and stormed away into lap traffic. Young Colby Thornhill would dominate the final half of the 30-lapper and run away to score the biggest win of his impressive career with a Clay Cup Nationals title.
California’s Caden Sarale made a late-race move to finish in the second position, Jesse Schlotfeldt dropped back to claim third, Keith Day Jr. grabbed the fourth spot and Ryan Williams guided his No. 6R to a fifth place run.
JUNIOR SPRINTS –
Running in their inaugural year at the Clay Cup Nationals, the Kasey Kahne Jr. Sprints provided an interesting main event on Saturday night. After dominating her preliminary night with a perfect points score, Haley Constance led the opening 18 laps of the championship feature before heartbreak struck and her muffler fell off, resulting in disqualification.
Inheriting the lead with six to go, Blaine Granberg capitalized on Constance’s misfortune as he led the remaining six laps and became the first Jr. Sprint champion in Clay Cup history! Jade Avedisian, Macie Logsdon, Mitchel Helsel and Carson Guffie rounded out the top five at the finish line.