The Super Stock division can be summed up in two words: youth and new. While young talent emerges to the surface and showcases its skills, others are working with new equipment this season. Though in the midst of that, emerges a battle between youth and experience. Past champions find themselves in battles with the young kids each week.
So far this year, it seems experience has the upper hand as 2008 Super Stock champion Herb Walters has won three of the four features. However, the youth has been right there at his heels as 16-year-old and last year’s champion Lane Zardo won the other feature.
The first night started with Zardo’s title defense getting off to a rocky start after contact with Dan Archubald sent him into the front stretch wall. Zardo was done for the night due to a broken rear axle, starting the year off with a last place finish. On the restart, Walters would pass Matt Bentley for the lead as the pair started the feature first and second. A late race caution would come out with three laps to go when contact between second place driver Nick Roth and Donny Beatty would put Beatty into the wall. Walters would hold Bentley off on the final restart to take the win. Nick Roth finished second, followed by Bentley, Dan Archibald and Paul Maltese.
The second feature of the year would showcase the level of young talent that the Super Stock division has. For about 10 laps, 16-year-old Lane Zardo and 12-year-old Cayden Lapcevich ran side-by-side for the lead. Zardo would make the pass on Lapcevich and go onto the win the race. Dan Archibald finished second, followed by Nick Roth and Walters. Lapcevich would finish fifth in his first full feature of the 2012 season. He had to pull off early in the feature on opening night due to mechanical problems.
Lapcevich would once again look for that feature win as he would take the lead early in the 30-lap feature from Brian Wilson Jr. A spin by Nicole Johnston on lap 24 would line the rookie up side-by-side with past Autumn Colors winner Shawn Chenoworth. The pair would battle side-by-side for two laps, before contact would send Lapcevich for the spin. Chenoworth was put to the back as a lap car, handing the lead over to Herb Walters. Herb Walters would lead the final five laps for his second feature victory of 2012. Lane Zardo finished second, followed by Paul Geniole Jr., Nick Roth and Dan Archibald. Lapcevich would come back up to finish eighth in the final running order.
On May 26th in the fourth feature of the year, Lapcevich would be a contender once again as he would take the lead from Richard Butler on lap two. Zardo would be up front contending with Lapcevich for the lead, however would have a flat tire mid-race and bring out a caution. The ensuing restart would see Lapcevich start alongside four-time Super Stock champion Randy Rusnell. On lap 24, Lapcevich would get in the grass a little, allowing Herb Walters to make the move under both Lapcevich and Rusnell to take the lead. Walters never looked back as he scored his second straight win. Lapcevich would finish for his best career finish, followed by Rusnell and Bentley. Zardo worked his way from the back after the lap 15 flat tire to finish fifth.
With all that has happened in just the four races in the month of May, we have learned a lot already.
Lesson #1: Herb Walters is the guy to beat this year as he is on a roll right now. The dominance he has shown early this season has a lot of people thinking back to his 2008 championship season.
Lesson #2: 12-year-old rookie Cayden Lapcevich is the real deal. With three back-to-back top 10s, including a second place finish, he has already proved he’s going to be a front runner all year long. If he’s able to put a full solid feature together, it is very well possible that he could score his first career win to become the youngest feature winner.
Lesson #3: Lane Zardo is going to be in the hunt all year. There’s no doubt that if you want the championship, you’ll have to dethrone the champ. Even with the wreck on the first night, he has made his way up to third in points, 50 points behind Walters. If he can stay out of trouble, he’ll be picking up some feature wins during the month of June.
While those three have dominated the headlines early this year, they certainly aren’t the only stars of the show as Randy Rusnell and Nick Roth have both looked strong.
Nick Roth has been a strong front runner early this year as he has finished second, third, fourth and 10th so far this year. With this marking his first full-season at Sunset after running Flamboro, Roth has already impressed many as they have their eyes on him.
Randy Rusnell came into the year, hoping to be winning features each week. After all, he bought the car that Kyle Donaldson drove to 13 feature wins in 2010 and the championship. However, the No. 72 team has struggled so far this year finding the right set-up. The result is two sixth place finishes and a 12th in the first three weeks. Last weekend, they began to find the set-up with the help of Kyle and his dad Ken Donaldson as Rusnell came home in the feature third. He then went on to win round one of the McColl Pro Series on Sunday. With the set-up underneath him and momentum on his side, he may begin to make his charge.
Bad Luck Blues: Mike Weeda, Donny Beatty & Brian Wilson Jr.
Mike Weeda was hoping to have a solid season this year, however has ran into some mechanical problems. He would pull off on the second lap of the first feature of the year due to problems. Then during practice on the third night, Weeda would blow the motor. The result would be Weeda missing the third night of racing.
During the off-season, Donny Beatty bought Frank Davey’s super stock as Davey was moving up to Late Model. Beatty came into the year, pumped for the year and looking for success. However, contact from Nick Roth on the first night would put Beatty into the wall hard. Beatty would then miss the next two nights due to the length of time to make repairs. He made his return to Sunset on the fourth night of racing, though didn’t start the feature due to problems.
Last year’s rookie of the year Brian Wilson Jr. was hoping to come out this year and have a strong season. However, the year hasn’t gone as he would have planned. The first night would be his best so far this year as he came home with a best career finish of 12th despite having to make a green flag pit stop. However, the rest of the year hasn’t gone as planned with three finishes outside the top 14.
Early Season Shoutouts: Paul Geniole Jr., Richard Butler & Mike Hearty
While these people haven’t stolen the headlines, they deserve an early season shoutout for their performances so far.
Shoutout to Paul Geniole Jr. for scoring a third place feature finish on May 19th. Entering his third year in the Super Stock division, Geniole Jr. is looking for first feature win after winning his first heat last year. Geniole Jr. has finished in the top eight in every feature this year so far.
Shoutout to Richard Butler for scoring a best career finish of sixth last weekend. It marks his second top 10 finish of 2012 as he finished ninth on opening night.
Shoutout to Mike Hearty for making the eight hour trip to Sunset last weekend. Hearty says he makes the trip ‘cause he enjoys the people and the racing at Sunset. Bonus shoutout to the driver of the No. 20 for finishing ninth for a nice top 10 finish.
Temper Temper: Dan Archibald
In the first three features, Archibald finished fourth, second and fifth. However, in the fourth feature this year, he finished 17th. The result was his temper getting the best of him as he and Shawn Chenoworth had some incidents and about got into a tussle. If he can keep his temper in check, he could certainly be a top five points contender this year.
While May brought forth some lessons and some stories, certainly it’s only a preview of what the rest of the season holds. Now that each driver has a feel for their car and is getting into their groove, the action on track is only going to get more exciting.