Jax Hughes did what he had to do and comes away with Rookie of the Year!
First off - we want to say a big thanks to Colorado National Speedway, all the great people there, and the race fans that make it possible for us to come out and play.
The final points race of the year. It came up faster than anyone knew. Luckily, the season was just long enough to have a chance to make up the points posted by Levi Greenly, and just short enough to stay ahead of the hard charging Jared Keener.
The pressure was on in the last two races, knowing that 7th place finishes in each race would be what it takes to pass Levi Greenly in 4th place in season points and claim the Rookie of the Year title. We kept it low key, knowing our 8th place car was going to have to perform with everything it had left, and Jax would have to drive with all his heart to make sure he could get it there. One race ago, an 8th place main finish added to a second place dash finish made enough points to turn that magic number into an 8 for the last race. In our two weeks off, we changed the clutch and went through every nut, bolt, hose, and wire on the car to make sure nothing could fail.
September 19 - As we arrived at the track, Jax was greeted by track photographer Joe Starr. Joe wanted to get some pictures of Jax and the car on the track before the action got started as he had a good shot at beating Levi's total. Jax decided that he'd rather wait than jinx it, so he declined. After all, he still had to finish several positions ahead of Darrell Smith in tonight's main just to hang onto 5th place. Practice was good, but not great, and seeing Taylor Bellomy and Mike Steward in the field for the last race made the suspense even worse. Every hot-shoe that shows up tonight will make it that much harder to get that 8th place finish. Luckily, the 09 of John Patee and Levi's dad, Scott Greenly, were noticeably absent.
Qualifying found Jax in the 9th position. With 17 cars in the grid, that would put him first in the dash and a chance to make up a point or two with a good finish. But, just as luck had it in the past two races with 6-deep inverted starts, this week they put him in as the last car in the fast dash. But the luck had changed! The fast dash pill draw was very kind to him, drawing second, and starting the main on the front row with Curtis Heldenbrand.
The first few laps went as expected, with Brett Yackey and Mike Cox ready to take the front spots as quick as they could get there. Curtis hung onto the lead for the first three laps until settling in in third, where he would eventually finish. Jax showed Brett his driver's door getting loose in one, but was able to keep it straight and out of trouble. Soon he was fifth, then sixth as Jared and Taylor found their way around him. Next was Chuck Kilpatrick, with new-found confidence and skill from recent practice. Jax, now in 7th place, hung with Chuck's back bumper for several laps, but saw that front group gain a little ground with every lap. Good news - the gap between him and George Gallegos in 8th was getting a little bigger, too, as George battled side by side for position with Mike Steward. The laps started winding down and the gaps in front - and in back - got just a bit bigger every time by the flag stand. Finally, the welcomed white and then checkered flags came and he was a solid 7th place. Yackey took the win, with Cox in second.
The track called him to tech after the race where an inspection of the carburetor and rear end gears passed and it was official. He had done it. 4th in season points, and 2015 Rookie of the Year.
Congratulations to Brett Yackey on his Super Stock Season Championship! All in all, we know we got a big break with Kyle Patee moving up to Late Models and Levi Greenly unable to make the last two races with work commitments. Darrell Smith had some bad breaks in the season, starting with the very first race, and was just a tick behind in points. Before the season, Darrell told us that the last guy he sold a car to had beat him in points and this year would be different. We can't thank Darrell and his son, Shawn, as well as Jan, Mike, and the rest of the 02 team enough for the help and support through the season, and in particular one night that we would have missed the main without their help. A big thanks to Tom Morrey in the pits as well as Troy Grote, Max Sedbrook, Riley Grivette, and James Waller, who all put some time in with us. We are also lucky to have received help from lots of people in the community, Eric Meisner, Kyle Patee, Curtis Heldenbrand, Mike Cox, Taylor Dragoon, and George Gallegos to name a few. A big shout out to Troy Grote and Showtime Towing, Al Lovi at Colorado Axle and Gear, Kenton Grote, and our best bud at the track, Joe Mares, Jr.
And of course, more thanks than we can express to my wife, Kelli, and daughter, Julianna, for the support and understanding throughout the past two seasons. We'll get rid of some of those tires next week, I promise!
We look forward to seeing everyone for one more time around the track at Challenge Cup on October 3rd.