BRL GN S9 R10 Recap
12 Mar 2022
Bootleg Racing League | Season 9 | Round 10
Grand National Series | Irwindale Speedway
Austin Boelke with Different Path Motorsports came home with his first win of the season tonight with the Bootleg Racing League Grand National Series at Irwindale Speedway ahead of Justin Morton and Mathew Thunhorst. Boelke took the lead on the second lap and maintained it for the remainder of the race protecting the outside line for 99 of the 100 laps. “It feels really good. It’s been a long time coming since I’ve won another oval race. I haven’t won a single one this entire season, so it’s been really nice.”, Boelke commented amidst victory celebrations, “It feels really good to be in victory lane again.”
Rubin Altice led the field to the green at the start of the evening with Austin Boelke to his outside. The outside line around Irwindale Speedway is the preferred line giving the advantage to Boelke right away and Boelke took the lead away on the 2nd lap with Mathew Thunhorst close behind overtaking Altice as well. J R Shepherd started further back in the field and was struggling to find his way forward and settled into 8th place behind James Lowe to wait for an opportunity for forward progression.
Kurt Smith lost his car coming out of turn four on the 8th lap bringing out the first caution of the night. The restart put Boelke to the inside of Thunhorst, but a strong launch gave Boelke a chance to clear Thunhorst and continued to lead. Shepherd moved from 8th to 5th behind Justin Morton quickly as the inside line couldn’t find the speed below him and were forced to fall back. Every driver scrambled to get single file along the outside wall to hold onto what positions they could.
Jeffrey Hardin and Ryan Senneker battled over 10th place when contact between them sent Senneker around in the middle of the track on lap 24 and brought out the second caution. Boelke again led the field on the restart from the inside line with Thunhorst to his outside. Another great launch cleared Thunhorst as Boelke held onto the lead along the wall. Jason Menda was caught out and started dropping back to 6th from 3rd able to quickly slide into line ahead of James Lowe causing a checkup behind. Shepherd still held onto 5th as the field lined back up around the track.
The top 5 drivers were pulling away from the rest of the pack as they approached the halfway point in the race and the 3rd caution of the night came out when Todd Listen got loose coming out of turn two. Listen was able to recover but had dropped below the speed threshold on track bringing out the caution. Boelke again launched early enough to slid up in front of Thunhorst for the lead. This time Shepherd found himself stuck to the inside and made a quick move to clear Menda for 4th place that caused a hard checkup from Menda sending him back to 7th.
Kenny Kibbey made contact with the wall coming through turn four soon after the restart which gave Shepherd the chance to take 3rd place away. Thunhorst took notice as he showed signs of his patience running thin with Boelke with a tap to Boelke’s rear bumper as Shepherd quickly closed the gap between himself and Thunhorst. The top 5 drivers again pulled away from the field albeit with obvious signs of tire wear amongst the lead pack. On lap 68, the stewards threw out the 4th caution of the night. Chris Wolfson made contact with the outside wall going into the turn three and made hard contact with the track exit sending himself spinning back into traffic collecting several other drivers behind him.
Boelke again cleared Thunhorst off the restart to take away the outside line. Shepherd was stuck on the inside as Morton closed the door and Shepherd slid in behind in 4th place. With 25 laps remaining, drivers all throughout the field were showing more aggression battling for every position. Thunhorst also felt the pressure as he tried to get around the inside of Boelke but couldn’t hold it giving Morton 2nd place. Shepherd tried to slam the door on Thunhorst, but Thunhorst secured 3rd as Shepherd made contact with the wall and had to drop back holding onto 4th place.
The 5th caution was thrown out as Senneker spun to the inside of the track coming out of turn four. The restart had Thunhorst in 3rd place to the inside of Shepherd as Boelke cleared Morton for the lead. Shepherd stayed tight on Morton to deny Thunhorst a way up to the wall. Thunhorst battled for several laps but eventually had to concede and slide in behind Shepherd. There was heartbreak on the final lap for Shepherd as Thunhorst dove to the inside trying to get a nose ahead, but contact was made between the two championship contenders that sent Shepherd around dropping him back to 14th as Boelke took the checkered flag. Boelke became the only driver this season to claim a win other than Thunhorst and Shepherd with his near flawless run tonight.
Mathew Thunhorst leads in the point standings now by 15 points over J R Shepherd. Justin Morton holds onto 3rd with 369 which is closer to Shepherd than Shepherd is to Thunhorst with only 15 points separating them. Austin Boelke is in 4th place with 330 points after tonight’s win and Adam Schoen is tied with Ruben Altice for 5th, both at 303 points. The final round of the season will take place at New Smyrna Speedway next week and Shepherd has an uphill battle to close the gap in the standings. Catch the action live on March 19th at 8:55PM EST only on the Virtual Grip Network!