LaSalle, Illinois- The second and final night of the 7th annual Hoker Trucking Thaw Brawl was held on Saturday night, March 31st and 39 Lucas Oil MLRA Late Models were in attendance chasing the $15,000 payday. The night started off with Illinois native Scott Schmitt setting the night’s overall fast time with a 14.453 second lap before Chad Simpson, Jason Feger, Chris Simpson and Ricky Weiss won the four qualifying heat races, putting both Simpson brothers on the front row for the night’s 75-lap, $15,000 to win main event.
Chad Simpson jumped from the pole to the lead on the start with Chris Simpson in tow. Jason Feger and Ricky Weiss raced side by side for third over the first pair of laps until Weiss was able to take the spot and then raced by Chris Simpson into second a lap later. With Weiss in second on lap three, Simpson continued to lead while Weiss, Chris Simpson and Feger tried to search for the fastest way around.
Simpson raced around at the front of the field for the first sixteen laps until the first caution of the event flew for a Dennis Erb Jr. spin on the frontstretch. On the ensuing restart, Simpson took back off into the lead but his brother put his #32 car on the cushion and blasted by Weiss into second and the stormed by Chad into the lead on lap 18. Once Chris was out front, he lead the next eight circuits uncontested before the event’s second caution flew for a three car crash in turn four, which Simpson was collected in as he tried to take evasive action to avoid. Simpson’s right rear sustained some slight damage, but all in all he was unscathed.
Back out front, Simpson raced back out front away from the field while Rusty Schlenk appeared in the top three just before a lap 27 caution flew as Jason Feger, who was running as high as fourth on lap 14, suffered a broken rear end and rolled to a hault, ending his night and bunching up the field once again.
Once the field rumbled back to life, Simpson again charged away from the field with Schlenk taking the second spot and chasing Simpson around the cushion, while Brian Shirley and Shannon Babb picked up a spirited battle for fifth. Laps continued to clip off with Simpson working his way through lapped traffic, putting cars down a lap with ease, while Schlenk was trying to stay within striking distance. The race ran 43 laps of green flag racing in a row with before the final caution of the event flew on lap 70 for a Ryan Unzicker spin.
Simpson restarted the five lap dash to the checkered by driving away from Schlenk, never to be challenged again en route to Andy’s Frozen Custard Victory Lane. Simpson beat Schlenk to the line by 1.882 seconds for the $15,000 victory, while Weiss edged Chad Simpson for third and Shirley rounded out the top five.
Simpson told the crowd how happy he was to win the Hoker Trucking sponsored event, as Hoker is a sponsor his race team as well. He thanked his crew, him family and his great sponsors, while being a little surprised at himself for running as well as he did up on the cushion for much of the race.
Simpson lead the final 58 laps to claim his first victory of the 2018 season in front of a hearty group of race fans, who braved the cold weather for the second night in a row. The race lasted 35 minutes and was slowed by four cautions. Seventeen of the original twenty two starters were running at the finish.
On behalf of the entire Lucas Oil MLRA and the staff and management of the LaSalle Speedway, we thank everyone for attending this weekend’s Thaw Brawl and hope to see you again next year.
Canadian Ricky Weiss will lead the current series point standings as the tour heads to the next Lucas Oil MLRA event, which is set for a weekend doubleheader at the Spring Nationals on Friday and Saturday nights, April 13th and 14th at the Lucas Oil Speedway in Wheatland, Missouri.