The Chase is on.
Even though the Super Late Model portion of the Kalamazoo Klash on Wednesday night was the opening race of the CRA Super Series Championship Chase, it was a pair of non-eligible drivers that stole the show.
In a race that went caution free, Johnny VanDoorn and Carson Hocevar weaved through traffic deep into the top-10. In the end, it was VanDoorn’s veteran experience that trumped Hocevar’s seemingly quicker car as they finished 1-2 in the CRA Kalamazoo 125.
Lap traffic gave Hocevar a chance at the win and eventually took it away, too.
Hocevar caught and passed VanDoorn for the lead with 65 laps to go when they caught Steve Dorer, running eighth at the time. Dorer battled VanDoorn to stay on the lead lap, allowing Hocevar to cross under VanDoorn to take the position.
But then Dorer ran Hocevar equally as hard, hoping for a caution, and ultimately allowing VanDoorn to retake the lead just a couple of laps later. This time, VanDoorn gave Dorer a hip-check to complete the pass.
Hocevar got back to VanDoorn’s back bumper with five laps to go when they caught another driver inside the top-10, John Long. VanDoorn was able to get by with relative ease, but Hocevar got into Long and lost too much time getting around him.
VanDoorn cruised to his first Super Late Model victory of the season.
CRA Super Series Victory Lane
Johnny VanDoorn wins at Kalamazoo. pic.twitter.com/EANoK9qMHQ
— Matt Weaver (@MattWeaverAW) August 9, 2018
“This race track always puts on a good show,” VanDoorn said. “It’s always two grooves. One of us got through traffic better than the other and it came down to which one of us had the preferred groove…
“Carson drove a heck of a race. He has a VanDoorn car as well, so it’s always good to race 1-2 with a customer car.”
Hocevar had several opportunities to rough-up VanDoorn, but didn’t take it, a fact not lost on the veteran.
“He’s a good kid and I wouldn’t expect anything less,” VanDoorn said. “He has a bright future ahead of him.”
Hocevar only lives a few minutes away from the speedway and was disappointed that he couldn’t close out, even if he relished putting on a show for the hometown crowd.
“Dang lap cars, man,” Hocevar said. “They helped us there for a minute and then they got in the way. I was trying to go three-wide with Johnny and John Long. He waved us by and then decided to race us. I thought that was kind of disrespectful, but it was a good show and to be that close with Johnny here says good things.”
Even if Hocevar was frustrated with Long, both he and VanDoorn admitted that Dorer didn’t do anything wrong.
“Everyone has a right to race until you’re a lap down,” VanDoorn said. “It was his job to keep us pinched down. Steve Dorer did nothing wrong. I would have done the same thing in his shoes.”
Hocevar shared a similar sentiment.
“When you’re in the top-10 and it’s early in the race, you’re racing,” Hocevar said. “I get that. You don’t know what will happen, so you have to give it everything you’ve got to stay on the lead lap.
“But once you get within 25 laps to go, your race is over, you have to get out of the way, man.”
Meanwhile, Josh Brock entered the Championship Chase as the No. 1 seed and left Kalamazoo with the championship lead with a third-place finish. Even more remarkable is that this is the first time he had ever seen the Western Michigan bullring.
“I never saw this place until today and got just an hour’s worth of practice and we were very good,” Brock said. “I saw everyone working the outside and I was like, maybe I should try that too. It took me a few laps to figure out how to make that work, but we were fast once we did.”
Brock was by far the best finishing driver of the seven eligible for the championship. Should any of those seven win over the next two events at Winchester Speedway or Toledo Speedway, they will automatically advance into the Championship Race at the Winchester 400.
In that race, the best finishing playoff driver will win the championship, NASCAR style.
Of the Chasers, Austin Kunert finished seventh, Jon Beach 12th and Hunter Jack 13th. They currently hold the championship race spots with defending champion Logan Runyon and Greg Van Alst on the outside looking in based on their results.
The complete results from Kalamazoo can be found below.
1 #71 Johnny VanDoorn
2 #14 Carson Hocevar
3 #17 Josh Brock #C
4 #26 Travis Braden
5 #81 Harold Fair Jr
6 #131 Kyle Crump
7 #29 Austin Kunert #C
8 #86 John Long
9 #10 Steve Dorer
10 #37 Jordan Dahlke
11 #04 Phil Bozell
12 #1 Jon Beach #C
13 #41 Hunter Jack #C
14 #56H Tyler Hufford
15 #6 Logan Runyon #C
16 #4x Matt Maurer
17 #87 Mike Mazzagatti
18 #35 Greg Van Alst #C
19 #47 Brian Campbell
20 #56 Jerry Andrews
21 #88 Trevor McCoy