Philip von Borries won his eighth career Corvega Cup Series victory at none other than the Eight Bowl Super Speedway, in a fuel mileage thriller that saw six lead changes in the final six laps of the race.
Eight Bowl Super Speedway played host to the sixth race of the season, at a track where it’s figure-eight shape creates one of the more unique races on the Corvega Cup Series schedule. The quarter-mile long front stretch bridges over the back, while the mile long turns make you feel like your constantly turning along the 2.5 mile lap. A unique challenge for drivers, and spotters alike, those in the left lane take the inside of turns one and two, while they end up in the high line of turns 3 and 4. The pit entrance here is treacherous, leading to crashes here in the past, as cars have to slow down and move to the right, as pit road bends to the left and lines the outside of turns one and two. This layout offers some of the craziest racing the series has to offer, and this race was no different.
Rookie of the Year contender Itzel Vasquez led the field to the green flag after winning her first career pole in group qualifying, but not with the fastest overall lap. Ben Smith, who ended up qualifying in the 11th position, took the track record in the first round of qualifying, and with fewer cars in the final round, Vasquez and others were unable to best the new time.
The race began much like the Nuka-Cola race the day before, with many lead changes in the opening laps, and two and three wide racing aplenty. As the first round of pit stops began, so did the cautions.
Seemingly every round of pit stops was plagued by a caution flag following shortly there after, or during the green flag stops. The first, on lap 37, saw Mary Capuzello come to pit road a little too fast, and too close to the wall separating pit road from the race track. Capuzello clipped the pit wall, and shot across the entrance to pit road, into Ishesha Devore. Devore, making her first start of the season, after failing to qualify for the first five races, collected Daytona 500 winner Michelle Mostiler, and driver Lora Williams. Williams and Mostiler’s cars both ended up getting air, with Mostiler ending up on her roof as a result, and all three would be done for the day.
With that caution coming during the early stages of pit stops, drivers Ben Smith, Marissa DeShields, and Casey Blandford each ran out of fuel during the caution and each lost a lap.
The second caution waved on lap 77, again during green flag pit stops. This time, Inga Miller was turned around by Ashley Mendez, after Mendez tried to make her way to pit road at the last minute. This resulted in Mendez collecting the barrels protecting the end of the pit wall, while Miller spun into turn one collecting Marissa DeShields and Kirby Ammons. The wreck resulted in a 17 minute red flag to clean up debris from the pit barrels and replace them.
The third and final caution involved the final round of green flag stops. In the last wreck, Alexi Alejandra misjudged the pit entrance, clipped the pit barrels replaced after the previous incident, and spun right in front of Fred Martin. Martin, who had nowhere to go, collected Lindsey Bumgardner as well.
With the final caution of the race coming with around 45 laps left, it put most teams right at the fuel window to make it to the end of the race, barring a late caution to shake things up. Once the race resumed, the intensity began to pick up, with the lead changing hands 20 times in the final green flag run of the race. Most of the pack remained intact for the last run of the race too, with many three wide battles for the race lead, and throughout the field.
As the laps counted down, many began to wonder if the fuel would last until the checkered flag, since many of the cars made their last pit stop before the previous caution came out, meaning some had used a bit more fuel than others. With about five laps to go, those questions began to be answered as Lewis Black and Casey Blandford hit pit road for a splash of fuel. Then Ben Maloch led Mark Luft and a half dozen others to pit road with four to go.
What was once a pack of about 30 cars had dwindled to just 10 with two laps left. Joseph Tanner led, looking to defend his win at Eight Bowl from last season, while teammate Urban Jaklin pushing in second, Matthew Adams and Tyler Itell made up a four car break-way at the front, with a bit of a closing gap to Philip von Borries in fifth. At the white flag, Jaklin dove for pit road, while Adams and Itell led through turns one and two. By the time the leaders worked their way to turn 3 for the final time, Von Borries took the outside (left) lane while Adams took the inside (right), and Adams began backing up his line as the car started to run out of fuel. This paved the way for von Borries on the high line, with help from Rookie of the Year driver Leigha Reid to take the top spot, with von Borries and Reid finishing side-by-side at the line, a margin of victory at just three one-hundredths of a second, the closest at Eight Bowl Super Speedway.
Not only was the finish the closest at the track, but the race featured a track record 99 lead changes among 22 drivers. This ranks third for the Corvega Cup Series all-time across all sanctioned tracks, trailing only Rimouski Super Speedway’s 100 from last season’s regular season finale, and the series record 105 lead changes at Talladega in last season’s fall event.
Von Borries’ second win of the season extends his points lead over Joshua Wilkinson by 36 points, and will officially qualify him for the Chase this season, something he just missed out on last season. Von Borries remains the only driver this season to complete 100% of the laps ran so far, and is the only driver that currently has a single digit average start and average finish position (8.50, and 5.00 respectively). Runner up Leigha Reid not only takes over the Rookie of the Year lead, but also gained a whopping ten positions in points, up to 19th, the most of any driver. Valerie Cabanilla also improved nine spots to 22nd, and Zachary Maloney up seven to 23rd. Drivers involved in the big wrecks of the day took big hits in points as well, with Lora Williams falling the most (nine spots) to 29th, while Nik Kustak, who had engine trouble, fell seven spots to 30th.
The series heads to Texas Motor Speedway next for race seven of the season, where Josh Snyder looks to defend his win from last season, TJ Howard looks to go back-to-back in consecutive races at the track, and Philip von Borries looks to go back-to-back races this season, and looks to win his third race at the track.