Kole Raz Dominates A Chilly Willy Marathon

Raz

Kole Raz and his crew celebrate their Chilly Willy 150 triumph Saturday night at Tucson Speedway. (Aaron Creed photo)

TUCSON, Ariz. – Patience and persistence finally led Kole Raz to one of the most long-awaited victories of his racing career at Tucson Speedway.

Raz, the 2020 super late model division champion at the three-eighths-mile oval, had done everything there except win the track’s crown jewel event – the Chilly Willy 150 – until Saturday night.

The 20-year-old from Lake Oswego, Ore., weathered a three-hour marathon, 13 caution flags, three red-flag stoppages and a persistent challenge from reigning ARCA Menards Series West champion Sean Hingorani to finally park his No. 27 Port City Race Cars Ford in victory lane after 150 laps.

Raz earned $15,000 for his victory in the 11th running of the winter super late model spectacular, which kicked off the NASCAR Advance Auto Parts Weekly Series season.

“For a while, I wasn’t sure if that race was going to end,” said Raz, the younger brother of former NASCAR K&N Pro Series West (now ARCA West) competitor Gracin Raz. “It felt like the first half of last year’s [Chilly Willy 150], when we were one spot shy.

“She got a little beat up in this one tonight, but that’s part of it and I’m glad we were able to come away with the win,” Raz continued. “I love racing here. It’s like my home away from home. The ability to run multiple lanes here is so much fun and provides great action for the fans.

“I’ve been wanting this one for a while and we finally got it.”

Though Raz started on the pole in his familiar No. 27, it was West Coast veteran Michael Scott who soared from the second starting spot into the lead on the initial green flag, as Raz, fellow Friday night winner Hingorani, and others faded into the pack early in an effort to save their tires.

Early cautions on laps five and 13 – for a broken suspension on Jeff Hillock’s No. 36j and a heavy turn-three crash by Ryan Philpott, respectively – slowed the race pace but did nothing to stop Scott’s advantage at the front of the field.

More chaos unfolded two laps after the second restart of the night, as 15th-running Garret Archer lost power and free-fell through the pack, while Jennifer Hall and Joe Paladenic tangled behind him.

As Scott continued to control his pace out front, Raz began a stealthy climb forward after the lap-20 benchmark. He powered from seventh to second in eight laps on the extreme bottom groove, as a six-car pack snarled around him trying to claim positions throughout the top five.

Hall’s second incident of the night – a lap-33 spin at the entrance of turn three just in front of the leaders – allowed the frontrunners to catch their breath briefly, but the action was far from finished.

On the ensuing restart, Scott’s yellow No. 82 slowed dramatically with major issues, allowing Kyle Reid to slip through a four-wide scramble to claim the top spot before Scott took his car pitside for the night.

Reid’s pass opened up Pandora’s Box at the front of the field, as Brett Yackey surged to the low side of the track to take his first lead of the night on the 44th lap – the third different leader to that point.

Yackey pulled away by nearly one second by the time the night’s fifth caution waved on lap 55 for a spin by David Smith, the largest margin by anyone through the first third of the event.

At that point, the red flag was displayed and the field was stopped on the frontstretch, as track crews spent time cleaning a trail of fluid that extended from the top of turn two all the way down the back straightaway. Smith spun again on lap 57 and collected Andre Prescott, forcing the red once more.

The second red was turned into the “halftime break”, with Yackey, Reid, Raz, Kleyn and Hingorani lining up first through fifth for the extended second segment of the race after adjustments were made and two fresh tires were bolted onto all the frontrunners’ racecars.

After nearly an hour’s worth of delays between the pair of stoppages, green-flag racing resumed with 93 laps left, seeing Reid surge ahead from the low lane to retake the lead from Yackey.

Behind that duo, a fierce side-by-side battle between Kleyn and Raz for third raged for nearly 10 circuits, allowing Reid and Yackey to escape by more than a second before battling amongst themselves.

Just before the lead battle could reignite, however, 10th-running Zachary Riehl slowed to a stop in turn three to bring out the night’s seventh yellow flag.

That incident, combined with a third spin for Jennifer Hall, brought the caution tally to eight before the halfway point. The fun, however, began six laps prior to the crossed flags when Raz ducked past Yackey to take second place and then did the same on lap 73 to reclaim command from Reid.

Reid’s night turned disastrous moments later, when he was shuffled into a four-wide battle for second off turn two and ended up contacting Kasey Kleyn. The contact cut down the left-front tire on Reid’s black No. 42, grinding it to a halt off turn four in a shower of sparks.

Remarkably, Reid’s crew was able to get the tire changed and get him back in the race without losing a lap. He dropped to the tail of the field, however, while Raz led the field at the official halfway point.

A heavy crash in turn one a lap after halfway saw Vanessa Robinson’s night end, with additional damage to Reid’s machine, setting up a duel to the finish between heavyweights Raz and Hingorani, who moved into second moments before Robinson’s incident.

The duo was wheel to wheel by lap 78, both running their personal best times of the race, before Raz used the momentum from the high groove to retain his slim lead. Hingorani stayed close, however, stalking and waiting to try and pressure Raz into a mistake as the duo hit lap traffic with 60 to go.

A looped David Smith ended the longest green-flag run of the night, reilluminating the caution lights for the 11th time and setting up a duel to the finish between Raz and Hingorani, with Kleyn back in third.

With Raz high and Hingorani low, the duo sized one another up for a lap-113 restart, and Hingorani tracked Raz but could not make a move for the lead before a third red flag appeared for a vicious crash with 24 laps left.

Ryan Phipps and John Dillon spun on the backstretch battling for seventh, before Brandon Carlson came into the fray with nowhere to go and sheared off the left door of Phipps’ machine in a heavy hit.

Both Phipps and Carlson climbed from their mangled vehicles, but their nights were over.

Raz held serve on the ensuing restart and appeared to be home free, with a superior long-run car compared to Hingorani, but the slowing Joe Paladenic machine set up a nine-lap shootout for the win.

Though Hingorani tried to get underneath Raz on the final restart, he could do nothing to challenge and had to settle for runner-up honors by .609 seconds.

“We got one spot closer this year, but that wasn’t enough for us tonight,” said a disappointed Hingorani. “Just put so much into this week … and hopefully it’ll pay off when we come back here next year, but not what we wanted at the end of that one.”

“We had to be perfect when it counted,” added Raz. “I love driving these Port City Race Cars. They’re so much fun to drive and their people in North Carolina and Maine do such a great job giving us the tools and resources we need to be successful on the West Coast. We put a lot of work into this weekend.”

Kleyn crossed the line a distant third, followed by Bruce Yackey and Brett Yackey, who battled to the checkered flag in a photo finish for fourth place.

A full replay of Saturday’s Chilly Willy 150 can be streamed through FloRacing, the official streaming home of all NASCAR Roots properties.

The finish:

1. 27-Kole Raz [1], 2. 13h-Sean Hingorani [3], 3. 1k-Kasey Kleyn [4], 4. 12-Bruce Yackey [11], 5. 32-Brett Yackey [10], 6. 11-John Dillon [22], 7. 69p-Zandar Peters [6], 8. 34-Rudy Vanderwal [13], 9. 81-Darrell Midgley [23], 10. 05s-David Smith [24], 11. 63-Joe Paladenic [28], 12. 57-Jennifer Hall [27], 13. 22p-Ryan Phipps [15], 14. 14c-Brandon Carlson [17], 15. 52-Ryan Philpott [16], 16. 54-Jake Bollman [8], 17. 26-Dylan Jones [12], 18. 43-Kody Vanderwal [19], 19. 42-Kyle Reid [14], 20. 14-Vanessa Robinson [25], 21. 7-Zachary Riehl [5], 22. 3c-Cassidy Hinds [7], 23. 80-Andre Prescott [21], 24. 1h-Tyler Herzog [18], 25. 82-Michael Scott [2], 26. 5-Garret Archer [9], 27. 8-Mariah McGriff [20], 28. 36j-Jeff Hillock [26].

Lead Changes: Five among four drivers

Lap Leader(s): Kole Raz Grid, Michael Scott 1-33, Kyle Reid 34-43, Brett Yackey 44-57, Kyle Reid 58-72, Kole Raz 73-150.

Laps Led: Kole Raz 78, Kyle Reid 35, Michael Scott 33, Brett Yackey 14.

Hard Charger: 63-Joe Paladenic (+17)

Raz

Kole Raz is interviewed following his Chilly Willy 150 win Saturday at Tucson Speedway. (Rebecca Noble/NASCAR photo)

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About Jacob Seelman

Jacob Seelman is Motorsports Hotspot’s News Editor and Race Face Digital’s Director of Content, as well as a veteran of more than a decade in the racing industry as a professional, though he’s spent his entire life in the garage and pit area.