Spokane, WA – Haeden Plybon hadn’t won his Super Late Model in 2022, but that all changed Sunday night at Hermiston Raceway (OR). The 2022 Kulwicki Driver Development Program finalist has been strong in the Pro Late Model ranks, with multiple wins, but struggled to pull off a full effort to win the race in the Northwest Super Late Model Series Presented by Racing Dynamiks (NWSLMS), after two wins. in 2021. The Spokane, WA racer took the lead from 2019 NWSLMS champion Trevor Cristiani on lap 74 and never looked back to earn the $4,500 Atomic 125 win.
The win was a welcome relief for the NWSLMS Rookie of the Year competitor and it was just what the doctor ordered ahead of the final two races of the season.
“It feels great and I hope we can get going here and get more wins. It gives us good speed and momentum heading into the Wenatchee race (Valley Super-Oval) in a few weeks. It’s definitely great to get another win, that’s what we came here to do is win. I’m glad we came here and did what we wanted to do with a fast time and the win. It leads to a good night.”
Plybon opened the night by winning the AFCO Racing Products/Longacre Racing Products Fast Time Award with a 14.862-second lap on the 3/8-mile paved oval. But it was 14-year-old competitor Kasey Kleyn who took pole position for the main event. Former SRL champion Jonathon Gomez drew the number two position with Trevor Cristiani, BJ Tidrick, Plybon, Cory Allard, Max Schroeder and Andy Beaman the remaining entrants from the new draw.
Gomez got off to a great start and battled his way to the lead in the slower top rut to lead lap number one. Cristiani was able to get under Kleyn a lap later and Plybon followed to move up to third place. Plybon only needed two extra circuits to drop below Cristiani for second place and set his sights on Gomez. On lap six, Plybon caught Gomez’s rear bumper, causing the veteran racer to take the lead. By lap 10, Max Schroeder had moved into second when Gomez backed through the field, caught in the top rut.
Schroeder, the 2021 series Rookie of the Year runner-up, had a strong finish to the race when electrical problems once again plagued the Racing Dynamiks team, falling out of contention on lap 25 and ultimately retiring. Evan Goetz then chased after Plybon, with Cristiani in tow. The trio raced to a caution on lap 32 for Tom Abercrombie. As the field slowed down, Corey Allard and runner-up Nick Gibson joined in, both moving to the back of the field. Allard finished just 10 extra laps.
On the restart, Cristiani used the dominant bottom rut to pass Goetz for second, but a red flag incident slowed the field six laps later with Gomez and Tidrick now holding the rest of the top five. Another restart found Goetz back in second position, but Cristiani fought back and secured second position. Cristiani then closed on Plybon and slipped under the rookie on lap 56 to take the lead. Cristiani would start with a one-second lead, but Plybon began to close in again, overtaking the former champion with the help of lap traffic on lap 74 as he described the movement and action.
“It was fun. He got into that bent car a little bit and I tried to take advantage of it, because I knew it would take him down a little bit and he wasn’t as quick afterwards. I got in there and he was trying to plug the hole. My crew was telling me to try to get him past as fast as I could because Evan (Goetz) was closing in. I tried to plug the hole, but I got into it a little bit, but it closed it back up, which is good, but it was a fun race.”
Cristiani’s hot streak would come to an end just a few laps later, when contact with Tom Abercrombie ended his night with suspension damage, leaving Plybon, Goetz, Kaiden Anderson, BJ Tidrick and Casey Kleyn in the top five in lap 77.
On the restart, Anderson jumped into second with Goetz in third before another caution on lap 92 changed their positions again after the restart. Anderson would retake second a few laps later, but a caution on lap 96 caught Anderson in the outside rut again for the subsequent restart. This time both Goetz and Ashton Cristiani were able to drop the championship leader to fourth place, while Plybon moved into the lead.
The young Cristiani continued his position from the age of 19the starting, slipping below Goetz for second on lap 100. Anderson was also able to overtake Goetz several laps later, but neither he nor Cristiani had anything for Plybon as he posted a 1.6-second win over all 23 cars. countryside.
For Cristiani, it was a great ending to a challenging weekend that began with his Pro Late Model effort the night before and the challenges that effort presented. On Sunday night he was able to pass several tests that found him one lap behind at one point.
“It was crazy, we had a bad weekend,” Cristiani recalled. “We got hit in the nose twice, went down one lap and went back up. He was pretty crazy and just plain crazy.
Despite starting 19the in the field, Cristiani was able to save enough tire to come in strong at the finish.
“I think in the middle of the race everyone was driving a little hard and I was just trying to save my tires for the end, because I know this track is not good for tires,” Cristiani opined. “I was just trying to salvage them a little bit, and it worked out for us in the end.”
Championship leader Kaiden Anderson also had a poor qualifying effort, coming from 14the on the starting grid.
“We screwed up there in qualifying so we put ourselves in a position where we had to use our tires to get through the field,” Anderson described. “By the time we got through the field and caught the leaders, we had nothing else for them. Other than that, it was a good night and a good points night, so we’re heading to Wenatchee.”
Despite the poor qualifying effort, Anderson had a shot at victory late in the race. He was set for a second-place finish, but multiple starts in the outside rut were detrimental to tire wear, dropping him to third at the finish.
“I think we really had a good car there for most of the race. Unfortunately we got stuck on the outside in second place and hurt our tires badly. We lost traction and couldn’t stay there at the end.”
Evan Goetz finished fourth after struggling in the top five all night. BJ Tidrick drove the Derek Ball Super Late Model home to fifth place. Jim Franklin came out strong at the end of the event for sixth place, followed by Nick Gibson, Jonathon Gomez, Todd Connell and Terry Halverson. 14 of 23 entrants finished the event with 10 on the lead lap.
The next Northwest Super Late Model Series event will be at the Wenatchee Valley Super-Oval and the traditional “Neal Newberry 125” on September 18.the. It will be Round #6 of the seven-race schedule. Anderson will enter the event with a 22-point lead over Plybon after both Nick Gibson and Max Schroeder had tough nights.
Results: 1. Haeden Plybon*, 2. Ashton Cristiani, 3. Kaiden Anderson*, 4. Evan Goetz*, 5. BJ Tidrick, 6. Jim Franklin, 7. Nick Gibson*, 8. Jonathon Gomez, 9. Todd Connell , 10. Terry Halverson, 11. Dave Garber, 12. Andy Beaman, 13. Wyatt King, 14. Jeff Mullins*, 15. Kasey Kleyn*, 16. Ken Bonney, 17. Trevor Cristiani, 18. Tom Abercrombie, 19. Clint Habart, 20. Christopher Kalsch, 21. Corey Allard, 22. Max Schroeder, 23. Mitch Kleyn.
*Rookie of the Year contender