Austin Reedy had a dramatic victory at Daytona last week in the MPI Cup Daytona 500. Reedy’s second-consecutive series win on Sunday at California was not quite as dramatic.
While there was a lot of action in the race, thanks largely in part to the uncontrollable nature of the NetxGen car, Reedy was still clearly the class of the field en route to his second victory to start his MPI Cup championship quest.
Reedy and Eric Stanford would lead us to green, but it wasn’t long before the caution flag flew as Sean Kailst spun and got the wall hard on lap two, knocking him out of contention.
Just a handful of laps after Kalist’s incident, season four MPI Cup Series champion Ross Harlow checked up on exit, got loose, spun to the inside, and took out Shayne Wyatt as well.
Another former series champion, season one victor Ray Rodgers, found trouble and also made heavy contact.
On lap 17, Stanford made a furious push to the lead, and powered past Reedy.
Stanford, who led the most laps in this event last year, was pretty evenly matched with Reedy and was one of the few cars able to even keep up throughout the duration of the race.
But, on lap 24, Reedy would reclaim the lead.
Behind Reedy and Stanford, Austin Shoemaker, Steven Stempien, Alex Muscarella, and others had an amazing battle for third.
On lap 27, there was an absolutely massive collision behind Richard Swavely, who was running sixth.
It all started when last year’s California winner, Zach Wilson, slammed the outside wall while running seventh. Wilson was then hit by Lawson Peel, and a chain reaction ensued.
By the time the wreck was done, almost ten cars had received some form of damage in the crash.
When green flag racing resumed, there were just three laps to go until the end of stage one.
Stempien found himself in second after a great restart, but had nothing for the dominant Reedy. Swavely would get around Stanford for third at the line.
The entire field came down for fresh tires during the stage break, with Reedy and Stempien remaining on the front row for the restart.
Coming out of turn two, Swavely, who restarted in fourth, would spin along with Justin Hendry, sending them all the way to the back of the field. Even worse for the Daytona 500 runner-up, the track remained green, leaving Swavely without a pit opportunity, 22 second behind.
The laps ticked away, with the front five creating over a two second gap back to sixth. That all disappeared on lap 49, as Brandon Banks and Ross Harlow made contact.
When green flag racing resumed, Stempien wasted no time taking the lead from Reedy.
Reedy continued to face pressure from Spencer Higgs and Stanford. Higgs would not just get around Reedy, but challenge Stempien for the lead as well.
Stempien though, using a monstrous push from Reedy, would clear Higgs.
In his first (and really only) mistake of the night, Reedy would hit the wall on exit of turn four, and lose a bunch of positions. Then, entering one, Reedy had a huge moment, and nearly spun. But somehow, he held onto it, minimizing the damage and only falling to P10.
Oddly enough, even the mistake — it turned out — was actually a good thing for Reedy though. On the front stretch, Stempien make contact with Higgs, sending Higgs into the wall hard. Both drivers came back across the track, making contact with almost ten cars. Stanford made it through with Austin Shoemaker and Wyatt Brackett, but this wreck took out a number of competitors.
When we returned to green, Mario Merenda, who started back in 37th, and Reedy, sliced their way through the top ten.
After a clean seven lap run to the stage break, Eric Stanford would take the Stage 2 win. Merenda would be second, Chris Shoemaker third, and Reedy fourth.
After pit stops, Merenda would steal the lead away, followed by Stanford and Reedy.
On the restart, Stanford got loose in turn two and fell all the way back to eighth place, and immediately after, there was another big wreck as a number of drivers could not control the cold tires.
Three different groups of drivers, including leader Merenda, lost control of their racecars. Merenda, as a result, would fall back to 20th place.
There was another wreck inside the top ten as Wyatt Brackett began to spin, and then a third group further back spun as well.
At this point, the top ten was made up of almost entirely new faces.
Warren Kieth, who was a fringe top ten driver all day, now found himself in second over halfway through the race.
The race restarted with 70 laps to go, and Kieth actually found a way around Reedy. However, Reedy didn’t sit in second for long as he stole the lead back just a lap and a half later.
The two would battle it out side by side, allowing Merenda, who came from nowhere, to use his momentum to rocket into second.
Merenda then stole the lead from Kieth. The three would keep battling until another caution would fly.
Everyone would come down pit road except for Warren Kieth. They’d restart, and almost immediately wreck. But, by the time the caution had flown, Merenda would regain the lead.
Reedy and Ryan Kendall had also passed Kieth.
After the latest wreck, we had the longest green flag stretch of the day, which actually included green flag stops.
A few drivers did not pit at all, but for the most part, everyone came down for four tires and gas between 25-15 to go.
No one had a better pit stop than Reedy, who found himself with over a four second lead on Kieth and Merenda by the time there was just ten to go. He then spent the final ten laps ripping through the drivers who had stayed out, and would make it around them comfortably with over five laps to spare.
Reedy would go on to win by over four seconds.
Alex Muscarella, Wyatt Brackett, and Brandon Banks, all of whom did not stop, were running second, third, and fourth at the white flag.
But, Brackett and Banks would both run out with under two miles left.
Banks would fall outside of the top-20, while Brackett would coast around to finish ninth.
Muscarella however, pulled off the unthinkable, and managed to finish the race without stopping, and he earned second place. Merenda, Kieth, and a rebounding Stanford made up the rest of the top five.