Logan Seavey might be a dirt track star, but on Saturday, he was a short track star. The World of Outlaws racer overcame a wreck in qualifying to beat the NASCAR feeder series regulars in Saturday Night Thunder at Bristol Motor Speedway. Seavey took the lead late in the feature to score the victory.
Saturday Night Thunder was organised in the wake of a massive entry list during last Sunday’s eNASCAR iRacing Pro Invitational Series race at Texas Motor Speedway. While Cup Series regulars duke it out in the PIS, lower series drivers are expected to race their way in, but the absurd number of entrants forced NASCAR to introduce the support round for Bristol to give such racers some seat time. SNT drivers ranged in iRacing experience and hailed from NASCAR’s lower leagues like the Xfinity, Gander RV & Outdoors, ARCA Menards, Whelen Euro, and PEAK Mexico Series.
For the race, the field ran ARCA cars, though the lack of Ford models led to various Xfinity drivers like Chase Briscoe and Austin Cindric not participating.
“This is an old Chevy body nationwide (now Xfinity) car that we put ARCA physics model on,” iRacing head Steve Myers explained. “We stripped the branding from it so it could be painted to be any of the three manufacturers. We did the best we could for Ford and Toyota. Not everything’s going to be perfect.”
The event consisted of three heat races of twenty laps apiece, followed by two Last Chance Qualifiers and the 150-lap feature; the top four drivers in each heat and the top six in the LCQs advanced to the final. The original plan was four heats and one LCQ before being modified shortly after the third and final heat.
Seavey started fifth in Heat #1 beside Xfinity driver Kaz Grala, while others in his qualifying race included longtime veteran Blake Koch on the pole and Truck driver Landon Huffman in second. Derek Kraus, racing for Truck Rookie of the Year honours, was the highest-starting lone national series full-time driver in the heat in third next to ARCA East driver Chase Cabre. The rest of the grid consisted of Truck drivers Ryan Truex and Stewart Friesen, Cup driver Joey Gase ad 2011 Daytona 500 winner Trevor Bayne, Trucker Christian Eckes, and Cup veteran J.J. Yeley.
A poor start by Huffman quickly dropped him out of the transfer range as Koch led early. Cabre, Seavey, and Grala ran in the qualifying spots with Grala left to fight off Kraus as the others pulled ahead. However, Kraus overdrove his car and hit the turn four wall, knocking him off the pace. At the front, Koch drove to the heat win ahead of Seavey, Cabre, and Grala. Rounding out the top ten were Kraus, Huffman, Truex, Eckes, Gase, and Ankrum
Heat #2 saw Kyle Weatherman and Josh Bilicki, both of whom have Cup experience, on the front row. 2017 Pinty’s Series champion Alex Labbé, who impressed with a strong run in the PIS race at Texas after winning the LCQ, started third next to Truck driver Jesse Iwuji. Tailing them were Brennan Poole, Brandon Brown, Bayley Currey, Ryan Ellis, reigning ARCA East champion Sam Mayer, Michael Annett, Chandler Smith, and Jeb Burton.
Weatherman and Labbé took off at the green flag. Six laps in, Poole and Smith’s battle led to the latter being turned and collecting Ellis. As cautions were disabled for the heats, the race remained green, effectively eliminating them from qualifying. At the front, Labbé chased down Weatherman, but a last attempt in the final turn failed. Bilicki and Iwuji respectively finished third and fourth to move on. Relegated to the LCQ were Currey, Brown, Boyd, Ellis, Smith, and Poole.
A pair of Xfinity drivers in Anthony Alfredo and Justin Allgaier sat on the front row for the third heat, ahead of lower series racer Will Rodgers, Xfinity drivers Joe Graf Jr. and Matt Mills, three-time Mexico Series champion Rubén García Jr.. A trio of Xfinity racers followed in Justin Haley, Harrison Burton, and Myatt Snider, while the back end consisted of Truck driver Ty Majeski, Scott Stenzel, and Xfinity driver Stephen Leicht.
Chaos ensued almost immediately as multiple drivers including Graf, García, and Burton wrecked coming to the start/finish line. On lap four, Mills brushed the wall while running fourth, allowing Majeski to move into the transfer spot. As the heat crossed the halfway mark, Rodgers took second. Alfredo continued the trend of pole sitters winning the heat ahead of Rodgers, Allgaier, and Majeski. Mills, Stenzel, Leicht, García, Graf, and Haley closed out the top ten.
For the first Last Chance Qualifier, Kraus led Mills, Brown and Truex, and Leicht and Ellis in the top three rows. Behind were Gase and Graf, Mayer and Yeley, and Snider and Burton.
Once again, wrecks began almost immediately as Burton and Yeley crashed. Upon rejoining the track, Burton committed to his lane and blocked Kraus, enabling Mills to take the lead. On lap 10, lapped traffic struck the leader again as Mills was clipped by Graf, who was racing with his hood covering his windshield in seventh. The damage was too substantial for Mills as he retired from the race. As a result, Kraus regained the lead and went on to take the LCQ win. Truex, Brown, Gase, Burton, and Snider—also with his hood up—advanced to the feature.
Mills voiced his displeasure with Graf on Twitter.
Currey sat on the pole for the second LCQ ahead of Huffman, Stenzel and Boyd, Eckes and García, Smith and Ankrum, Haley and Annett, Friesen and Burton, and Bayne. However, Currey’s race virtually ended before it began as his car stalled on the pace laps and was turned by Stenzel, which Huffman took advantage of to take the lead on the outside.
After the chaotic start, Huffman led García and Boyd at halfway. Haley took third from Boyd on lap 11, followed by Burton passing Boyd a few laps later. This left him fighting with Smith and Friesen for the fourth, with Boyd both losing out. At the front, Huffman took the dominating LCQ win, beating García by nearly two seconds. Haley, Burton, Friesen, and Smith advanced.
The three heat winners started on the top three spots with Koch ahead of Weatherman and Alfredo. Seavey joined Alfredo in row two, followed by Labbé and Rodgers. Cabre and Bilicki, Allgaier and Grala, and Iwuji and Majeski comprised the remaining heat advancements. The bottom half consisted of the LCQ drivers with Kraus and Huffman sharing row seven. Behind them were Truex and García, Brown and Haley, Gase and Burton, Burton and Friesen, and Snider and Smith.
A strong start by Koch propelled him to the lead ahead of Weatherman. In turn three of the opening lap, multiple cars including Majeski, Brown, and Huffman spun though no caution was called.
On lap 26, García spun off turn four and was impacted by Huffman, Burton, and Friesen. After a lengthy caution, the race resumed on lap 45. Cabre immediately jumped on the restart to take second, while Weatherman kept Alfredo at bay for fourth.
Koch, on older tyres, continued to hold off Cabre until the next yellow came out on lap 51 after Smith and Snider spun after making contact. Another green flag waved on lap 57 as Koch and Cabre resumed their battle.
Labbé entered the lead picture until the third caution came out on lap 66 after Huffman was turned by Brown on the frontstretch; Huffman had attempted to avoid the spinning Snider. Koch pitted under yellow to surrender the top spot to Labbé.
The lap 80 green flag saw Labbé and Cabre battle it out for first. Meanwhile, Weatherman’s hood propped up as carnage unfolded in front of him on lap 85 as Kraus, Alfredo, and Koch were all involved in a massive wreck in turn two.
The race resumed on lap 90 with Cabre leading Majeski, Seavey, and Snider. Two laps later, Burton’s woeful day continued after being turned by Huffman in a multi-car crash.
As the event went into the triple digits, Majeski cleared Snider for second. Seavey and Allgaier fought for third until various drivers like Alfredo and Smith wrecked behind them on lap 106. The next green flag came on lap 112. As Cabre continued to lead, Seavey fought with Majeski until they collided and the latter hit the outside wall on lap 129.
With second secured, Seavey began to hunt down Cabre. On lap 138, he caught up to Cabre and used the inside line to pull ahead. A desperate attempt to hold Seavey off failed as the dirt racer cleared him for the top spot.
Seavey distanced himself from the field to take the Saturday Night Thunder win. Cabre settled for second ahead of Labbé, Alfredo, Weatherman, Majeski, Allgaier, Koch, Gase, and Burton. Comprising the top twenty were Haley, Friesen, Huffman, Snider, Iwuji, Rodgers, Grala, Brown, Smith, and Bilicki. Outside the top twenty were Truex, Kraus, García, and Burton.
“It was a long race, I think we all kinda knew that was coming,” Seavey said after the race. “I think we were all prepared for a lot of cautions early. I kinda put myself in a good spot and my team put me in a good spot. We were in third on fresh tyres and I thought we were gonna come out with the lead but then came the crash and I thought that was gonna be the end of our day.
“But we were able to switch strategies around and kind of ride it around at the back most of the day, really to save tyres and pit as much as we could. The last 50 or 60 laps, I knew we weren’t coming in, so I stayed until the last 20 or 30. I knew I had enough to run down Chase and Ty there, so I just went hard to push him.”