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  • Writer's pictureTodd Rose

Photo Finishes and Flips Provide Plenty of Excitement at Sands Speedway

Updated: Jul 15, 2019

Brett Wittler (#64) lands on top of Elliot Sampela (#14) in a grinding backstretch crash.

It was another wild day of racing at the Sands Speedway Sunday afternoon as fans were treated to great racing, exciting finishes, and a breathtaking Brett Wittler barrel roll.

In the Auto Value Super Stock/Experimental divisions’ second heat race, Brett Wittler spun out of turn two, clipping the car of Elliot Sampela in the right rear. The impact sent both cars spinning. While Sampela stayed grounded, Wittler wasn't as lucky. His car turned over onto its roof and rolled a complete two times before slamming upside down onto Sampela’s driver’s side window. (Pictured above.) Both drivers climbed out okay, but their days were over. Wittler said after the crash that he would probably be sore the next day, but hopes to be racing again next week.

Modified Four Cylinders

The old adage, “It’s never over until it’s over,” proved true in the first feature race of the afternoon at Sands in the Modified Four Cylinder division.

For the race’s first 19 laps everything had run smoothly, especially for Todd Maki who had grabbed the lead in the early laps of the race. Over the course of the race, Maki built up a substantial lead over second place Ray Belmore and the rest of the Mod Four field. But with the white flag in sight, the race win would be ripped out of Maki’s grasp.

After a dominant performance, Todd Maki sits stationary in turn four just over one lap away from a surefire win.

Entering the third turn, Maki’s car went out of control and began slowing rapidly. Maki held on to the car but was unable to do anything about his lack of power. He rolled to a stop at the exit of turn four, just feet away from where the white flag should have been displayed. The color of the flag, instead, was yellow. As Maki was pushed back to the pits, Ray Belmore inherited the lead.

In a green, white, checkered shootout, Belmore would hold off Jeremy Yelle to claim the win.

Stock Four Cylinders

The Stock Four Cylinder feature followed in a similar pattern to the Mod Four feature that ran before it.

Tom Crawford grabbed the race lead from an outside front row starting position while Tom Waselesky and Anthony Karnack would swap the second position back and forth. Just past the race’s halfway point, Mick Goldworthy slowed on the front straightaway, bringing out the caution.

Following the restart, Waselesky was hot on the heels of Crawford for the race lead. While Waselesky was hard on the attack, Crawford was countering with a defensive racing line. With the two drivers battling as hard as they could, it was only a matter of time before something happened, and it did as the two made contact that sent Crawford spinning in turn one. Waselesky was sent to the rear of the field where he was soon joined by Crawford who had made a brief stop in the pits.

Moments after contact, Tom Crawford (#92 1/2) spins into turn one as Tom Waselesky (#21) watches.

The winner in all of this was Anthony Karnack. After running in third all day, the trouble for the leaders handed him the top spot, where he would remain until the finish. Behind him in second was a hard charging Dustin Livingston who almost grabbed the lead several times in the closing laps. Stacy Hammond, driving nephew Tyler's car, followed in third while Tom Waselesky recovered from his troubles for a solid fourth place finish.

Auto Value Super Stocks & Experimental Division

A thinned multi-class field made up of the Auto Value Super Stocks and the Experimental division emerged from the pits next for their feature. Several cars had been taken out earlier in the second heat race in the aforementioned Wittler/Sampela incident. Regardless of the fewer cars on track, the race was jam-packed with amazing action.

Maverick Morrow, in his first appearance at Sands in 2019, made his way around the lone Experimental class competitor, Victoria Hawley, for the race lead on the third lap. At first it appeared like Morrow would run away with things, that couldn’t be further from the truth.

For the race’s entire second half, Morrow would be under pressure from two hard charging drivers, Ray Keskimaki and Ross Olsen Sr. Keskimaki ran alongside Morrow lap after lap, unable to grab the lead despite his valiant efforts. Olsen then jumped to the outside of Morrow, where he would stay for the remainder of the race.

Maverick Morrow (#57) slides to the win in his 1957 Chevy ahead of Ross Olsen Sr. (#29) on his outside.

Morrow and Olsen raced each other hard but clean in the closing laps, neither driver gaining an advantage over the other. As they came out of turn four, both cars were sliding all over the place! Somehow, they managed to hang on. At the line it was Maverick Morrow edging out Ross Olsen Sr. to claim the win. Ray Keskamaki crossed in third. Victoria Hawley followed in fourth overall, but claimed the Experimental class win by default as her opponents watched from the pits.

Late Models

The deciding photo of the Late Model finish used to determine Rob Goodwin the winner over Charlie Bell. (Photo courtesy of Curtis Aho Photography)

Who won the Late Model feature? It all depends on who you ask and what picture you are looking at, really. Regardless of the victor, it is undeniable that the Late Model feature, once again, provided an incredible race that will leave fans talking for weeks.

A different angle of the finish tells a slightly different story. The outside retaining wall, however, obstructs a clear view of the front of Goodwin's car.

Charlie Bell and Rob Goodwin crossed the line dead even at the end of 20 laps, and only after reviewing several camera angels was it determined that Rob Goodwin was the victor. The race itself was a great showcase of two drivers putting it all on the line to win. As the race wound down, Bell held strong on the inside while Goodwin tried to make the outside work, something he was having trouble with.

“I was having a real hard time with the outside line,” said Goodwin, “I was basically out of tires and in a constant four wheel slide.”

Despite the issues with grip, Goodwin made the outside work to just barely beat out Bell at the line. Goodwin’s lack of grip, though, almost cost him the win with the checkered flag in sight.

“ I had the run coming out of four and hit the wall with the rear of the car,” Goodwin remarked, “It slowed me down some.”

Goodwin added he was lucky that the contact didn’t pull the front of the car into the wall as well, something that happens many times in that scenario.

The finish is sure to keep fans buzzing for weeks, and maybe years. Sands Speedway returns next week for the 2019 Kids Day featuring coloring contests, bicycle raffles, ice cream, and much more. Qualifying begins at 1 p.m. EST with racing at 2 p.m. EST.

By Todd Rose

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Hi everyone! First of all, the website is now up to date with all of our work from the 2019 and 2020 racing seasons now archived here. Secondly, I would like to thank everyone for their support over t

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