(10/14/2022 – Alex Nieten) Hanford, CA… On a night when the NARC Fujitsu General Sprint Cars were honoring a man known as “Mr. Excitement,” the main event surely had the late Anthony Simone smiling from above.
Excitement might be an understatement to describe the Fujitsu Feature of Friday’s second Annual Anthony Simone Classic. The final 15 circuits of the 30-lap finale saw 12 unofficial lead changes between four different drivers. It was slider after slider and crossover after crossover that saw some of the sport’s best in Rico Abreu, Corey Day, Dominic Scelzi, and Justin Sanders waging war around the 3/8ths mile for a $10,000 payday. Ultimately, it was Abreu emerging as the winner.
With his 2022 schedule primarily focusing on racing with the World of Outlaws, All-Stars, and other major races out east, Friday was Abreu’s first NARC appearance of the year aboard the Rowdy Energy No. 24. It was his third series victory at Keller Auto Speedway and 16th overall with NARC in his 68th career feature start.
For Abreu, the celebration included not only the joy of topping one of the most entertaining races of the year that included a stout paycheck, but also the emotion of collecting another victory at the place where his sprint car career began.
“Man, I’m out of breath. That was a hell of a race,” said a winded Abreu. “My first race ever in a sprint car was at Hanford in March of 2011. This place always has a special spot in my heart. I really struggled here through the beginning of my career. Then as I matured as a driver I learned to slow everything down and breathe while I’m racing.”
Dominic Scelzi and Mitchel Moles led the field to green to kickoff the 30-lap tilt. The early pace of the race was slowed by a few cautions and one red flag for Mauro Simone getting upside down. He was unharmed.
As the field progressed through the first half, Scelzi led while Corey Day wasted no time making moves as he sliced through the field from his 15th starting spot. The Clovis teenager had made it all the way up to third before getting too sideways with 22 laps to go in turn four and nearly bringing the car to a halt.
Despite Day’s save, the yellow flag flew but was deemed an inadvertent yellow, allowing Day to blend in line where he would’ve if the race stayed green, lining him up seventh for the ensuing restart.
Scelzi brought the field back to green and continued to control the race on the bottom groove. Battles in and around the top-five raged on leading to the race’s halfway mark, and when the second half of the main event commenced, the brawl for the lead broke out.
With 13 laps to go, Abreu threw a turn one slider at Scelzi, and Scelzi promptly crossed over to regain the spot down the backstretch. The next time around, Abreu launched another turn one slide job. Scelzi couldn’t manage to crossover, but he returned the favor with a slider of his own in turn one on the next lap.
Scelzi crept away after the move as Abreu, Cole Macedo, Justin Sanders, and Day threw haymakers for the runner-up spot.
Abreu maintained second, and with six laps left, he gathered momentum for yet another turn one slide job. Scelzi matched the move in turn three, but Abreu ducked underneath him exiting turn four.
The next lap was nearly disastrous as Scelzi slid in front of Abreu in turns three and four and was bringing Justin Sanders with him. Sanders nosed ahead of both for just a moment, and Abreu launched off the cushion and between both of them, creating a wild three-wide battle, and Abreu powered away down the front stretch. After the hold-your-breath moment, Abreu was able to get a small amount of breathing room with just four laps to go.
The breathing room didn’t last long as Day roared back into second with three laps to go. Then, as Abreu and Day crossed the stripe with two to go, Day threw a massive turn one slider to clear Abreu. Day left a gap heading into three, and Abreu returned the favor. On the last lap, Abreu rolled the bottom in turns one and two while Day ripped the cushion and built momentum. In the final set of corners Abreu slid himself to protect, and Day followed in his tracks sliding across the track but with no opening to pass. Ultimately, Abreu held on to win by just a couple car lengths.
“I just kept telling myself all night that we’ve just got to be there the last 10 laps,” Abreu said of his strategy. “My car was really, really good. It was kind of just floundering around lane choice there, and I caught Dom (Scelzi) on the top, and he kind of fishtailed up there. I got to the bottom off of (turn) two a couple times and could just run across from him.
“You get into some tense battles like tonight, and you just sense there’s cars behind you,” Abreu added. “You know if you slip up these guys here are all good enough to win this race. It was just a matter of who minimized their mistakes.”
Corey Day’s valiant drive aboard the Meyers Constructors/Four CCCCs Construction No. 14 not only earned him the runner-up spot, but it was also worth the night’s Swift Metal Finishing Hardcharger as he advanced 13 spots.
“I was just kind of hammering in,” Day said of his all-out approach. “When it curbs up around the top like that, that’s my style. Noisy had the car really good for it to be able to do that.”
Completing the podium was Justin Sanders in the Farmers Brewing Co./Mittry Construction No. 2X. It marked Sanders’ sixth NARC top-three of the season.
“I feel like I won the normal man’s race,” Sanders joked. “You got Rico who is an Outlaw guy, and Corey Day is the next Kyle Larson, so I guess I won the normal California race. I’ll take it.”
The balance of the top-10 included Dominic Scelzi, Cole Macedo, Shane Golobic, Austin McCarl, Kyle Hirst, Mitchel Moles, and Tim Kaeding.
FUJITSU GENERAL USA FEATURE (30 laps): 1. Rico Abreu 24 2. Corey Day 14 3. Justin Sanders 2X 4. Dominic Scelzi 41 5. Cole Macedo 21T 6. Shane Golobic 17W 7. Austin McCarl 88 8. Kyle Hirst 83JR 9. Mitchel Moles 01 10. Tim Kaeding 83 11. D.J. Netto 88N 12. Mitchell Faccinto 21 13. Dylan Bloomfield 83V 14. Justyn Cox 42X 15. Jonathan Allard 0 16. Bud Kaeding 69 17. Blake Carrick 38B 18. Billy Aton 26 19. Willie Croft 29 20. Tanner Carrick 83T 21. Craig Stidham 36 22. Bill Balog 7 23. Justin Peck 17 24. Kaleb Montgomery 2K 25. Mauro Simone 10.
METTEC TITATIUM LAP LEADERS: Scelzi 1-18, 20-24. Abreu 19, 25-30
SWIFT METAL FINISHING HARDCHARGER: Corey Day 15th to 2nd
ARP FAST QUALIFIER (31 Cars): Mitchell Faccinto 13.544
BROWN AND MILLER RACING SOLUTIONS HEAT ONE (6 laps): T. Kaeding, Hirst, Balog, Faccinto, Myers Jr., B. Carrick, Mittry
KIMO’s TROPICAL CAR WASH HEAT TWO (6 laps): Scelzi, Macedo, Carrick, Allard, Montgomery, Shaw
DIRT.TRAVEL CLUB HEAT THREE (6 laps): Abreu, Peck, Croft, Netto, Aton, Danell
KAEDING PERFORMANCE HEAT FOUR (6 laps): Bloomfield, McCarl, Day, Golobic, Stidham, Simone
METTEC TITANIUM HEAT FIVE (6 laps): Sanders, Moles, B. Kaeding, Cox, Forler, De Wees
SUNNYVALLEY “POWERED BY BACON” TROPHY DASH (8 laps): Scelzi, Moles, Abreu, Peck, Bloomfield, Macedo, Sanders, McCarl, T. Kaeding, Hirst
STARR PROPERTY MANAGEMENT SEMI (12 laps): Montgomery, Stidham, Aton, B. Carrick, Myers Jr., Forler, Shaw, Danell, Simone, De We