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March 20, 2022

BRL GN S9 R11 Recap

by Ryan Senneker

19 Mar 2022
Bootleg Racing League | Season 9 | Round 11
Grand National Series | New Smyrna Speedway

J R Shepherd with Different Path Motorsports took the checkered flag tonight in the season finale of the Bootleg Racing League Grand National Series presented by Gargamel’s Kitchen at New Smyrna Speedway ahead of Kenny Kibbey and Mathew Thunhorst. Coming home in third was enough for Thunhorst to take the season championship over Shepherd by only 1 point after a long, intense season between the top 2 drivers. “Very hard-fought season for sure but being able to win the last race in the grand national car is extremely cool so I was glad I was able to get up there and be able to do that tonight.”, Shepherd told us while celebrating his win tonight. Thunhorst had an uphill battle through the night struggling to climb back through the pack and joked with us after being named Season Champion, “I never want to have another race like this again… I’m happy that we’re on the back side of this one.” Thunhorst left it all out on the track tonight as the checkered flag came out.

Rubin Altice started the night off in the pole position with Jason Menda to his outside as the green flag came out. Menda was able to get around Altice’s outside taking the lead as the night started off rough for Thunhorst when he and Kibbey made contact going into turn three sending Thunhorst hard into the outside wall bringing out the caution. Thunhorst restarted from the rear of the field only 2 laps into the race. Menda held the lead off the restart with Kibbey close behind moving into 2nd. The second caution came out on lap 8 from contact between Thunhorst and Kurt Smith in the back of the field sending Smith around.

Menda had another good launch, but Kibbey stayed to his outside and started challenging for the lead 13 laps into the night. Kibbey was able to clear Menda 2 laps later with Justin Morton following suit along the top taking 2nd place. Menda pushed the car too hard coming out of turn four in the battle and sent himself around on the track bringing out the third caution of the night. Thunhorst had already climbed up to 13th through the field at that point showing a strong pace. Kibbey took the green as Morton battled from the outside but couldn’t clear Kibbey as the 4th caution came out. James Lowe and Altice made contact going through the corner spinning Altice into traffic and collecting several other drivers as the line behind him checked up hard.

25 laps into the race, Thunhorst was back within the top 10 with Shepherd in 3rd. Kibbey had a strong restart clearing Morton quickly holding onto the lead off the restart. Chris Davis brought out the 5th caution when he went into the corner too hot sending himself around and wasn’t able to recover quick enough to prevent the caution from coming out. Thunhorst was up to 7th as he continued his hard charge to the front as the green flag came back out 35 laps into the evening. Morton again tried to get around Kibbey on the outside line securing the lead as another caution came out when John Heyn got loose making contact with Joe Segalla spinning around both cars.

Morton held the lead through the restart followed single file by Kibbey and Shepherd. Thunhorst cleared into 6th place as the steward again put out the caution flag from contact between Todd Liston and Ryan Senneker bringing the field back together for another restart. Shepherd challenged for 2nd over Kibbey to the outside with a good jump but wasn’t able to clear before a pile up involving the majority of the back half of the field brought out yet another caution. The restart gave Thunhorst an opportunity to clear Adam Schoen for 4th place now directly behind Shepherd with 43 laps to go.

Kibbey again battled Morton from the outside clearing for the lead. Shepherd moved to the outside to repeat Kibbey’s move taking 2nd place as Thunhorst was pressuring from behind. The caution again came out with contact between Michael Smith and Senneker in the rear of the field and the drivers stacked back up led by Kibbey. Shepherd and Thunhorst were in 2nd and 3rd as the green flag came back out with 33 laps remaining. Shepherd was able to clear Thunhorst holding onto 2nd. Running single file, Kibbey, Shepherd, Thunhorst, and Morton started to pull away from Schoen in 5th as the 10th caution of the night was thrown out because of contact between Chris Davis and Kurt Smith sending Smith around on the track.

The green flag came back out with 16 laps remaining and Shepherd challenged for the lead over Kibbey running the outside line and cleared just before the 11th caution was thrown when Segalla and Altice came together coming out of turn four. The green came out for the last stretch with only 8 laps remaining with Shepherd leading the field followed by Kibbey and Thunhorst. Kibbey was able to clear Thunhorst holding onto 2nd with Morton starting to pressure Thunhorst for 3rd. Shepherd was able to hold off Kibbey across the line taking the checkered flag for the last time as the Grand National Series gets retired from the Bootleg Racing League and replaced next season with the Super Late Model Series.

Mathew Thunhorst took the championship for the final season of the Grand National Series with a total of 429 points beating J R Shepherd by only 1 point. Justin Morton took 3rd in the point standings with 406 points ahead of Kenny Kibbey, who had 341. Adam Schoen rounds out the top 5 with 338 points. As the Grand National Series gets retired from the Bootleg Racing League, everyone starts to prepare for the Super Late Model Series taking its place next season. “The [super] late models are going to be different for sure. I think you’re probably going to see a different group of guys be strong in those cars just because of their driving styles. Those cars are extremely tricky as far as what I’ve run in the past.”, Shepherd commented in regard to switching cars. A new season with a new car beginning with Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway on March 26th broadcast live at 8:55PM ET only on the Virtual Grip Network!

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