Saturday, April 29, 2017

Love And Shepherd Get The Job Done In Round Two Of LM Action At Madera

Jesse Love IV in victory lane after his second Jr. Late Model victory

MADERA, CALIFORNIA (April 29, 2017) – 12 year-old Jesse Love established himself as the top contender for the 2017 51FIFTY Junior Late Model championship while 2015 track champion Buddy Shepherd returned to RPM Mortgage Pro Late Model victory lane in a busy Saturday night at Madera Speedway. Both second round events of the prestigious Late Model series were broadcast for MAVTV on a perfect spring evening at the fastest one-third mile in the west.

Love's 75 lap win makes him two-for-two in his young Jr. Late Model career and came against an outstanding field of 20 cars, narrowed from a 15 lap B Main. Redwood Valley's Kolby Berry, the season opening runner-up, brought the field to the green flag alongside last April's winner Austin Edwards, age 12.

An incident early on in turn two involved three female drivers including Jaden Lyn Rocha, Lilly Mead, and Madison Gay. All eventually were freed from the incident but Jaden Lyn eventually retired from the race on lap seven.

A series of short cautions for spins brought the race to a lap nine restart, where Berry spun from the lead but the race remained under green with Edwards assuming the top spot. Las Vegas' Tanner Reif spun on lap 11 with a flat right rear tire and Mead spun in turn two collecting Reif on lap 18. Reif and Mead were again gathered in a melee on lap 22 that included Jesse Burks.

Love took a look underneath Edwards for the lead before another brief caution. Love continued to hound Edwards while four-time winner Austin Herzog tried to overtake Hailie Deegan for third. Herzog and Deegan had a brief door banging battle on lap 28 and Herzog grabbed the position.

Love finally got around Edwards for first on lap 30 in turn 1 before a caution for Berry spun around in turn two. Herzog challenged Edwards for second before Anthony Guiamano tagged the wall with a flat tire to bring the race's 50 lap break early on lap 41.

After the intermission on the front stretch, Love drove away from the pack repeatedly while the biggest mover was Bakersfield's Kabe McClenny. McClenny challenged Deegan for fourth several times in his first series race. McClenny spun on lap 57 in turn two and collected Eric Nascimento, Jr. to end Nascimento's night early.

A final caution for a brief spin on lap 64 set up an 11 lap run to the finish but Love proved too strong for the .518 second victory while Edwards held off Herzog for second. Berry charged back through the field to finish fourth with Deegan rounding out the top-five.

Buddy Shepherd came from the ninth position to get his first 100 lap Madera Speedway RPM Mortgage Pro Late Model victory since his 2015 championship season. The top eight starters after the redraw were all drivers without a previous televised Pro Late Model win, making for a wide-open race. 2016 champion Matt Erickson came to the green from 12th as well.

Ryan Hart led the first three laps with Rick Thompson on his outside, before Thompson edged forward to hold the lead position. Erickson found himself embroiled in three-wide racing early on. Hart hit the front stretch wall head-on during lap 15 but the race stayed green until Howard Holden spun in turn one the following lap.

Shepherd found himself in fourth by that restart, while up front it was Madera Late Model Easter Egg night winner Dillon Tucker charging past Thompson for the lead on lap 16. A caution on lap 25 spelled disaster for top-five running Austin Herzog as he retired to the pits with smoke from the rear of the car.

Tucker's days at the front were numbered as Shepherd pounced to lead lap 26. Several different restart exchanges saw different drivers follow Shepherd on the outside line including Rick Thompson driving back into second. A multi-car spin in turn three slowed action on lap 36 and a two-by-two battle for third followed. Erickson snaked through the battling to advance to fourth by lap 42 with the race hitting its halfway break at lap 50. Tyler slid across the line from fifth at the end of the segment but was able to continue without damage.

After the halfway break on the front stretch for adjustments, racing resumed with Shepherd continually using the outside line to anchor restarts. Erickson ran as high as third on several occasions and faced battles with half a dozen different drivers. Joey Licata eventually emerged as a contender for the race win as he battled with Thompson for second multiple times before having an engine failure on lap 65.

Erickson slipped back to fifth on that restart and never fully recovered, with Garland Tyler starting to become the next driver to challenge the leaders. Logan Zampa and Tyler managed to both work their way past Thompson on the inside line with five laps to go while Buddy Shepherd enjoyed a comfortable margin ahead of them.

Shepherd grabbed the $2,000 victory by 1.630 seconds ahead of Zampa, Tyler, Thompson, and Erickson. Hart overcame the earlier incident to finish ninth while Tucker faded to tenth in the closing laps with front end damage.

All three undercard divisions on the evening had first time winners. Patrick Geiger put together a dominating win in the Modified Super Toyota feature, winning by a full straight away. The remaining four cars in the event ran two-by-two for the entire 20 laps with Bert Stephens edging Zachary Cook for second.

Nine year-old Tyler Reif of Las Vegas, NV made the most of his Mini Cup debut for his first win. A late restart evaporated his comfortable lead but he was not deterred as he charged to a 2.227 second win over JoJo Stearns and Joseph Holiday.

Toyota Sedan points leader Mike Marley picked up his first ever win topping Erik Woods and Thomas Magray.

Madera Speedway's 2017 season continues next Saturday with the Vukovich Classic / The BCRA Midgets, NCMA Sprints, CSS/360 Super Modifieds, Legends of Kearney Bowl, Senior Open Vintage Super Modifieds, California Hard Tops, Vintage BCRA, USAC HPD Midgets, Legends of the Pacific, PLUS THE WEST COAST SPORTSMAN SERIES featuring Grand National Type stock cars in a 75 Lap race!

For more information on the Madera Speedway, visit