By Lonestar Speedzone
Fifteen-year-old Jake Kruger of Bastrop beat some of the best Late Model and Super Late Model drivers in Texas in claiming his third TSRS Late Model feature win of the season Saturday night at Thunderhill Raceway in Kyle.
Racing in the “Kyle Area Chamber of Commerce 75,” Kruger used his inside, second row starting spot to hang out seasoned-veteran Robert Barker on the outside at the start to move into second place behind Cody Smith – another young gun in the popular TSRS LM Series – going through turns one and two.
Smith apparently didn’t get the bite he needed coming off the second turn and Kruger forced his way under and made it stick to take the lead before a lap was in the books.
Two more teens – Levi Krauss and Dillon Spreen – took advantage of Barker’s unfortunate outside predicament a lap later and brought Super Late Model star Casey Smith with them. Barker finally found a way to the inside, but not before he was well back in the pack.
On the third circuit, Krauss saw the same opening that Kruger had taken advantage of a lap or two earlier and got under Cody Smith to claim second.
Meanwhile, right behind the top three Spreen was feeling lots of pressure from Casey Smith – and perhaps Smith’s front bumper – on the fifth circuit. Spreen hung on for half a lap, but Casey Smith was not to be denied and he scooted under Spreen, bringing Barker with him and dropping Spreen to sixth.
A lap seven spin by Robert Walton brought out the first caution flag.
On the clean restart it was Kruger, Krauss, Cody Smith, Casey Smith, Barker, Spreen, TSRS point leader Bobby Teer and Cary Stapp with everyone holding their line for a lap as Kruger opened a few car lengths advantage over Krauss and the rest.
As Kruger’s lead widened, the field began stacking up behind Krauss, who was driving a very consistent, steady line. On lap, 16 Casey Smith worked his way past Cody Smith (no relation) to take over third. The experienced Smith then started to work on Krauss as Kruger opened up an even bigger lead. Smith looked inside and outside, but Krauss wouldn’t make the driving error that Smith was hoping for.
Over the next 10 laps, Smith gave Krauss a love tap or two in the turns, but Krauss held solid.
The field had a chance to cool their tires a bit at the lap-29 point when the yellow flag flew for a spin by Kendall Bumbera down the front straight.
Taking the green on lap 35 were Kruger, Krauss, Casey Smith, Cody Smith, Robert Barker, Spreen, Teer, Craig Selman and Bumbera.
Kruger moved out cleanly as the green waved and quickly opened a small gap on Krauss, who took a big bump from Smith going through turns three and four. Krauss was again able to fend off the challenge and again the field stacked up behind him. Casey Smith showed the patience of a veteran, but everyone in the place knew that something had to give soon.
Sure enough, a few laps later Casey Smith began to get serious and after a bit of paint swapping he was able to get under Krauss going down the back straight and took over second as Cody Smith took advantage of the same opening to move Krauss back to fourth.
Over the next several laps the Smiths began a fierce battle for second with lots of beating and banging. Cody Smith was finally able to force his way past Casey Smith, but, a lap later, Cody Smith went sliding off the track into the weeds off turn three with a flat tire. Cody Smith pitted and rejoined the field at the rear on the restart.
The rest of the way, Kruger was able to maintain the point as Smith was unable to mount an effective offensive. But the battle for third through six became intense as the laps wound down. Krauss and Barker put on a show for third for the fans as did Teer and Cody Smith for fifth.
At the checkered, it was Kruger by two car lengths over Casey Smith, who had a couple of car lengths on Krauss. Teer won the war for fourth over Cody Smith while Barker had to settle for sixth.Email | Print