Sunset Speedway Super Stock Year in Review: Rusnell’s Rocket vs. Roth’s Consistancy
In a year full of close competition between a variety of drivers, it marked one of the years to remember in the Super Stock division as the championship would come down to a tie breaker between Randy Rusnell and Nick Roth following a dramatic end to the season. In the end, it’d be Rusnell taking the crown virtue of his six feature wins. The strength in Rusnell’s dominance shows when you realize that those six wins came following a blown motor at the end of June.
In trying to relive the championship battle, let’s see how it got to such a thrilling ending.
The battle started off the first night with Roth finishing second, with Rusnell sixth. Roth finished third on the second night while Rusnell finished 12th. Roth got another third on the third night while Rusnell continued to struggle with his new car, finishing sixth. Rusnell would begin to turn it around with a third on the final night of May with Roth finishing 10th.
With the consistency he had shown, everybody was just waiting for the night that Roth would crack victory lane. That happened on June 23rd, marking his first Sunset Speedway feature victory. Roth made the switch from Flamboro Speedway to Sunset during the off-season, and immediately seemed to adapt to Sunset’s track style.
However, on the flip side, Rusnell would run into troubles on June 23rd, blowing the motor on lap eight while running third to Roth and Paul Maltese. Coming into the season, Rusnell was one of the championship favourites after buying Kyle Donaldson’s 2010 Championship car, which had dominated by winning 13 of the features. Though two months into the season, it looked like Rusnell was going to be left out of the championship battle.
When July came, it seemed like blowing the motor gave Rusnell a big swift kick in the rear ‘cause he began a dominate streak of winning. On July 7th, he would take the victory for his first regular night victory of the season. Rusnell backed that up with a win in the M.R.E Pro Series on Wednesday July 11th, followed by a win on July 14th for his second regular night victory of the year. July 21st, Rusnell would continue his new found success by finishing second in the feature. On July 28th, Rusnell would return to victory lane, scoring his third regular points night victory of the season on his birthday weekend.
Rusnell would take his show on the road to begin August, winning Sauble Speedway’s Dash for Cash, before scoring his fourth regular points night victory on August 4th while Roth finished fifth. Rusnell and Roth, finishing second and third respectively, would battle hard in the second feature of August while Zardo took the win. Rusnell would then cap off the wins with a fifth to end off August. Roth would see some struggles this night, having a flat tire on the second lap, finishing 10th.
Following the blown motor for Rusnell back in June, he was behind by just over 60 points. Now, following his dominance, he would only be behind by 10 points.
To start off the final month of racing, Rusnell and Roth would find themselves in a four-way battle for the lead with Matt Bentley and Lane Zardo. In one of the fan favourite features of the season due to the high level of competition, the final three laps would see the four drivers stay in a tight, tucked together battle. In the end, it was Rusnell beating Zardo at the line by inches to take the victory, while Bentley got third and Rusnell fourth.
September 8th would get rained out, making September 15th the final night of points racing for the 2012 season. With Rusnell leading Roth by four points coming into the night, everybody knew that each position meant everything. They stayed even through the heats, meaning that Roth had to beat Rusnell by two positions to take the championship.
At the start of the feature, the pair would stay close with Roth making the holes and passes, and Rusnell staying on his tail, following him through the traffic. They’d be up to seventh and eighth by lap 11 and then sixth and seventh by halfway. On lap 17, Roth was able to clear Rob Morrison and Rusnell looked to be able to do the same on lap 18. However, that’s when trouble struck for Rusnell as Morrison would make contact with Rusnell, sending him for a spin. As a result, Rusnell would have to restart the race at the back with 12 laps to go.
In one of the most dramatic features of the season, Rusnell began to make his way through the field, up to 10th with seven laps to go, and then ran eighth under a yellow with five laps to go while Roth ran fourth. In the final five laps, Roth moved up to third, though Rusnell would come from eighth to fourth. As a result, the season ended with Roth and Rusnell tied for the points lead. Due to Rusnell winning six features while Roth won one, it’d be Rusnell taking the championship.
On the flip side, the race for the lead would have its dramatic conclusion as Bentley took Zardo and Maltese three-wide and then battled with Zardo throughout the second half of the feature, barely beating Zardo at the line for the win.
Zardo is strong, though fails to defend with misfortune………Following last year’s strong championship run, 16-year-old Lane Zardo was pinned as the championship favourite. He started the year off strong with a win on the second night of racing, followed by a second and a fifth after wrecking the first week in May. The fifth place finish on May 26th was the result of hard driving by Zardo following a flat tire early in the race.
However, misfortune throughout the season would have Zardo come up short. With three wins and 11 top fives in 13 feature starts, it was still a solid season. Though what hurt Zardo the most was completely missing July 14th after blowing a motor in practice. Zardo bounced back strong from it, winning the feature the following week.
Walters is strong early in year……….Early in the season, there was strong belief that Herb Walters would lock down another super stock championship. That was backed up with a feature victory on the opening night, followed by a fourth and two more wins.
However, the middle of the season would see Walters fall off a bit. It all started when he failed to finish the feature on July 7th after sustaining damage during his second heat. The damage added insult to injury after working hard before racing started to just get out there after breaking a rear end in practice.
Walters would bounce back with a fifth on July 14th, though had a flat tire with two laps to go on July 21st, finishing 13th. He’d finish off July with another fifth.
12-year-old Cayden Lapcevich impresses………..At the beginning of the year when word got out that Cayden Lapcevich would be joining the super stock ranks, many people questioned about it. However, in the end, Lapcevich proved that he belonged with five top fives and nine top 10s in 14 feature starts in 2012. He also scored a heat win, becoming the youngest heat winner in Sunset Speedway history.
However, the most impressive part, is that the success for Lapcevich started early. The first night didn’t go well with him having to pull off due to mechanical problems. However, the second night, he would battle with Lane Zardo for the lead for the opening 10 laps, before finishing fifth overall.
He also came close to winning on the third night of racing, leading all the way till contact with Shawn Chenoweth with three laps to go would result in Lapcevich going around. The 12-year-old would finish eighth. He would back that up with a second place feature finish to end off May after being passed late in the race by Herb Walters.
Throughout the whole 2012 season, Lapcevich was fast and a contender for the top five. However, he found his fair share of bad luck, having a couple of late race spins that took him out of contention in those races.
Temper, Temper…………With the close racing in the Super Stock division, there was some incidents of temper, temper throughout the 2012 season.
One of the headlines was Dan Archibald vs. field as he would have run-ins with Shawn Chenoweth, Lane Zardo, Cayden Lapcevich, Steve Cashmore, Donny Beatty, among others. In the side of entertainment in response to all the black flags that had been thrown his way, Archibald began running a black flag attached to his roof as a joke.
Lapcevich would also have a run-in with Bentley as in the feature on July 21st, Bentley would give Lapcevich a small tap to get by him for position. The result was Lapcevich giving Bentley a small tap coming off of the track, resulting in Lapcevich missing July 28th.
You also had Matt Bentley and Marty Monette battling hard on July 7th as Monette spun Bentley in the first heat as the bottom lane showed up behind Richard Butler. The two drivers would have a short on-track conversation, though raced hard and clean the rest of the night.
Tough Luck for Beatty………Coming out of the off-season, Donny Beatty was excited about coming back to Sunset Speedway for the 2012 season. However, bad luck early in the year would put those plans into perspective. It all began with a hard wreck on the opening night following contact with Nick Roth.
Tough Luck Continued…….Mike Weeda was all-set for a solid season, however he ran into some trouble early in the year with a mechanical problems on the first night and then a blown motor on the second night during practice. The result would be Weeda missing the third night of racing.
Following a solid rookie season, Brian Wilson Jr. was hoping to show improvement in 2012. There would be some signs of improvement, including his first top 10 feature finish late in the season. However, tough luck would cause the Brampton, Ontario driver to miss some nights.
So what did we learn this season?
- Sometimes wins can beat solid consistantcy as Randy Rusnell made one of the biggest comebacks in track history to win the championship
- Age is just a number, not a measure of talent, as shown by both Lane Zardo and Cayden Lapcevich
- Bad luck can hurt any drivers season as even with the talent and solid finishes that Zardo and Herb Walters racked up, it was bad luck that took them out of contention
- Dan Archibald always put on interesting show for the fans, but every track needs a driver that adds some spice to give the racing some flavor
- 2013 is going to be a big season of a good solid racing if all the regular suspects return……..