Ryan Vargas Steals Win at Nashville Superspeedway to Secure Spot in Monday Night Racing’s Championship Four
Ryan Vargas had speed all night. Most of the race, he found himself consistently in the top five. But, for about the first ninety percent of the race, it didn’t look like a top five run would be enough advance in the playoffs.
It was that last ten percent of the event that changed everything.
In what was an utterly ludicrous cutoff race at Nashville Superspeedway, Ryan Vargas found a way to take the checkered flag.
In the very first corner of the race, chaos struck as outside pole sitter DJ Cummings was turned by pole sitter Adam Cabot.
After the caution, it was Cabot and Huffman who controlled the early-going, as they swapped the lead and battled side by side for a good portion of the first 25 laps. But a lap 26 caution would allow for a reset, as David Schildhouse, Gary Sexton, and Robby Lyons would claim the first three spots off pit road, followed by Huffman and Cabot.
It wouldn’t take long for Huffman to reclaim the top spot however, as by lap 45, he had driven around Schildhouse. Cabot soon followed, and about halfway through the 120 lap event, Cabot and Huffman were back to side by side racing.
Cabot would get by on lap 70, and take control of the eight car pack fighting for the lead.
On lap 73, Huffman would try to retake the lead, which opened the door for Collin Fern to make it three-wide, causing a huge incident. Schildhouse, Vargas, Josh Bilicki, and DJ Cummings all wrecked, bringing out a caution. This also really hurt playoff contender Will Rodgers and front-runner Anthony Alfredo, as both had taken green flag stops just a lap prior and were now a lap down.
Rodgers would stay a lap down for a good chunk of the race.
Cabot would retain the lead following pit-stops under the yellow. Max Kennon jumped to second with a great stop, and would be followed off by Garrett Smithley, who started 30th, Vargas, and Huffman.
Cabot would have a great restart, and Smithley would use that inside line advantage to take second, only to have it taken back by Huffman just a lap later.
Max Kennon meanwhile immediately fell from second to seventh.
But then a caution came out with 37 to go. And another with 31. And another with 25. The cautions just kept coming.
Second place bounced around between Caruth, Huffman, and others, but upon each caution and ensuing restart, Cabot got a great launch.
On the next restart with 22 laps remaining, Vargas would get loose and nearly wreck it. But, thanks to some heads up driving by Huffman, the race remained green, albeit with Vargas and Huffman back to 12th and 15th respectively.
Kyle Busch was the biggest gainer from the stack up, as he would find himself in P6.
With 18 to go, Collin Fern, who was running fourth at the time, smacked the wall. Gabe Wood, the fifth place driver, followed Fern high and also smacked the wall. Seven or eight more cars would pile in. After all of that, Alfredo was back into seventh after being a lap down, and TJ Majors, who was a non-factor for most of the race found himself in sixth.
The race returned to green with 14 to go, and Cabot hit the gas on the exit of turn four, which gave him a huge advantage. Rajah Caruth powered his way past Smithley for second, but was impeded by Mark Rebilas, who was rejoining the track from pit road, and Smithley stole second back.
Caruth would try to regain second with 11 laps to go, but the caution flew as Brandon Brown wrecked hard.
The next restart would come with seven to go, and like he had all night, Adam Cabot nailed it. Smithley was able to maintain second. Meanwhile, fighting around the top-10 was Will Rodgers who had fought through the field to try and throw his name back into Championship Four contention. But, not a lap later, Rodgers was put in the middle of a three wide, washed up the track, and wrecked, taking Gary Sexton with him, ending his playoff hopes.
Rodgers would end up 27th.
That incident would set up a G-W-C finish. Cabot, using maybe his best restart of the night, got a massive lead. Garrett Smithley maintained second yet again. However, in third and fourth, we saw a season long rivalry make itself relevant once again, as Rajah Caruth and Anthony Alfredo made contact coming to take the white flag.
Both would wreck hard and be knocked out of contention. Alfredo and Caruth had had their fair share of issues all year long, but this was by far the most critical, as Caruth would go on to finish 33rd. After looking like a sure-fire member of the Championship Four right before the restart, his championship hopes ended.
Now, with Rodgers and Caruth out of contention, Max Kennon and Ryan Vargas, who were dead in the water, had a shot to make it.
The first overtime restart went predictably. Cabot got out to a huge lead, Smithley second, and third place driver Kyle Busch did Kyle Busch things as he saved a racecar that was as good as wrecked. Midpack, a huge crash would occur bringing out another caution. The next overtime, however, did not go as predictably.
Cabot, after restarting perfectly no fewer than eight times from the front, finally cracked and had an ugly start. Smithley managed to enter turn one right on the back bumper of the #17 machine. There was a wreck on the backstretch, but officials decided to keep the race green. Cabot took the white flag, ahead of Smithley and a charging Vargas.
Smithley faked high and sent it low on the apron going into turn three, pushing Cabot up the track and creating room for Vargas to make it three wide.
Coming to the checkered flag, Cabot turned left and wrecked Smithley, leaving room for Vargas to steal the win after only leading a single lap all evening.
Everyone in the top seven scrambled trying to avoid the wrecking leaders, and somehow, someway, TJ Majors found himself in second. Smithley, who had a phenomenal drive from the back would end up third. David Schildhouse finished fourth. Adam Cabot, after dominating the race, would end up fifth.
However, despite missing out on his second win of the season, Cabot, along with Iowa winner Colin Fern, points leader David Schildhouse, and race winner Ryan Vargas, will be heading to Charlotte for the season finale.
1. Ryan Vargas
2. T.J. Majors
3. Garrett Smithley
4. David Schildhouse
5. Adam Cabot
6. James Bickford
7. Kyle Busch
8. Landon Huffman
9. Matt Stallkencht
10. DJ Cummings
11. Colin Fern
27. Will Rodgers
31. Max Kennon
33. Rajah Caruth