It took all of two laps for the World Series of Asphalt to begin methodically eliminating the largest Super Late Model entry list in over a decade.
Jake Finch spun from the outside second row coming to take the green flag on a second lap restart with contact from behind in the form of Jett Noland. The Phoenix Construction No. 51 was suddenly sideways in front of the field and contenders had nowhere to go but into the melee.
All told, the crash eliminated USAC superstar Kody Swanson making his Super Late Model debut, midwestern champion Dan Frederickson, RJ Braun and Kris Wright. Phoenix Racing has already opted to bring out their backup car for the next week.
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Meanwhile, Bubba Pollard was eliminated five corners into the race when he (somehow) crashed to bring out the caution that set-up the frontstretch big one.
It’s not yet clear if the incident will permanently eliminate from the remaining six races in eight days. Ryan Moore won the race.
“I was riding around at the beginning, waiting to get going and there was a melee up in front,” Fredrickson said. “I’m not sure what happened exactly, but I’m guessing the young Finch boy got spun out.
“Everyone was stacking up a little bit and he came across the track.
“I’m not sure what happened. Just one of those things. The track gets blocked and you try to let off, but guys are start pushing you from behind. We were still packed up so tight from the restart and there was nowhere to go. There’s nothing you can do.”
As for what happened, neither Finch or Noland wanted to commit to a story, especially without having seen a replay.
“I don’t really know from my viewpoint in the car,” Finch said. “We had a really good race car. We worked super hard on it, so I’m bummed. It is what it is, and we can’t go back on it.
“I don’t know the whole deal is about that. First super race for Speedweeks and I didn’t want to start like that. Have to get the backup car and get back after it tomorrow.”
Noland indicated he might have been pushed from behind as well.
“I don’t know why there’s so much pushing on Night 1,” Noland said. “We have a full week of racing and let’s not start wrecking them.”
The incident was especially frustrating for Kody Swanson, the five-time USAC Silver Crown champion, because he was making his debut in the Super Late Model and wanted the track time to figure out the discipline.
He went on to finish second in the Pro Late Model race later that night, but really wishes the lap 2 crash wouldn’t have bit him.
“We’ve been gaining all day and I’ve learned a lot,” Swanson said. “We were doing good in the feature, but the thing I’m most disappointed about is that we lost out on laps to do it. We got tore up, minding our business there on the restart.
“Somebody at the front few rows must’ve missed a shift, but they were crashing before we got there. I got checked up and thought I we were going to be in good shape. Then they came back across the track and got us a little bit.”
Swanson said there’s a lot he has already started to learn, but he wasn’t sure missing a crash that happens right in front of you is something that can be taught.
“Hate we got one tore up, but I’m really excited about being here for them for the week and try to improve each night,” Swanson said.
There are around 30 cars on the grounds, one of them belonging to Late Model Stock legend Payton Sellers, who didn’t even take the green flag because he’s running a partial schedule this week.
After Friday night, he’s surely grateful.