Robby Sawyer Wins Thriller at Petaluma Speedwaypetaluma
By Sean Stanish
With two rounds of the 2017 IMCA All Star Modified Tour season complete, some of the best modified drivers on the West Coast headed to Rick Faeth’s Petaluma Speedway, which saw Bakersfield’s Robby Sawyer capture his first Tour victory after a great race Saturday night. This was Sawyer’s first visit to the 3/8s mile adobe clay track, where he was able to beat past track champion Nick DeCarlo of Martinez and last year’s Tour race victor, Oakley’s Kellen Chadwick.
DeCarlo and Chadwick would lead the field to the green flag, but the 25-lap feature started off rough, with Martinez’s Anthony Slaney and Santa Rosa’s Freddie Plourde bringing out yellows before one lap was complete. Once the race got underway, it was pole-sitter Nick DeCarlo out front, leading Kellen Chadwick and Plumas Lake’s Duane Cleveland early. Chadwick pushed hard and peaked to inside and outside of DeCarlo, looking for a way by, to no avail. The battle for the lead would be halted momentarily for Anthony Slaney, who looped it around in turn four on lap seven.
Nick DeCarlo continued to lead, but Salinas’ Cody Burke’s got around Kellen Chadwick and was now on DeCarlo’s heels. A lap later, calamity ensued in turns three and four, with Livermore’s Brian Cass, Freddie Plourde, and Brentwood’s Trent Wentworth getting swept up in an accident. Cass was done for the night, but the other two managed to continue.
DeCarlo darted away, while Cody Burke, Kellen Chadwick, and Robby Sawyer went three wide down the back stretch for second. Sawyer would come out of it sitting pretty, gaining two spots in less than a lap. Sawyer quickly chased down Nick DeCarlo, but was unable to make a move for the lead. The next yellow would come out on lap 13, when Petaluma regular Jeff Faulkner of Rohnert Park spun in turn four.
Nick DeCarlo again pulled away from the field, while Sawyer battled with Chadwick for second. Two more quick yellows, both for Rio Linda’s Raymond Lindeman, saw his night come to an end on lap 14. With 11 laps to go, Nick DeCarlo led Kellen Chadwick, Robby Sawyer, Duane Cleveland, and Bobby Hogge IV of Salinas back to the green.
On the restart, Kellen Chadwick got a run down the back straight and muscled his way by DeCarlo for the lead in turns three and four, bringing Robby Sawyer along with him. Farther back, Bobby Hogge IV’s night came to a bitter end after contact from Duane Cleveland sent him around. Hogge had started 11th and was running in fourth when the incident occurred. This set up an 8 lap dash to the finish, with Kellen Chadwick now out front. A three way fight for the lead with Chadwick, Sawyer, and DeCarlo ensued, with Chadwick barely holding onto the lead for the time being. Sawyer fell back to third, but hit the top side perfectly in one and two, and sailed past DeCarlo and Chadwick down the backstretch coming to the white flag. Out front, Sawyer pulled away, but the fight for second with DeCarlo and Chadwick was not over. Chadwick, in a last ditch effort to catch Sawyer, blasted into turn three and caught a rut, which sent him up the track and lose a couple positions. Meanwhile, Robby Sawyer would take the win by one and a half seconds over Nick DeCarlo, with Cody Burke coming home third. Kellen Chadwick fell back to fourth and Austin Burke rounded out the top five.
In victory lane, a jubilant Robby Sawyer exclaims, “I’ve raced at probably 30 different tracks, and Petaluma is one of my favorites. Great people. Thanks to all the awesome people that came out t
onight, first off. Wonderful facility. Paying a thousand bucks. I’m happy, baby.” Sawyer thanked his sponsors and crew, and further explained, “I’m not very good on the short runs, there was a long run in there, and that’s what I wanted. Started picking them off and I knew I was better than DeCarlo and it started getting greasy…” “Kellen showed me the top, but he didn’t stay committed to it, he started protecting the bottom, and I figured, I came to win, that’s all I ever come to do, so I gave ‘er 100%, and it worked out tonight.”
Second place Nick DeCarlo: “I had an awesome time. There’s nothing better than racing with people. For a while there, I was wondering, ‘Where are they? Where are they?’ before they kept coming and they did, and it was awesome and fun and I’m happy to be second place.”
With three races in the books, the points fight could not get any closer. Kellen Chadwick and Olivehurst’s Ryan McDaniel are tied for the lead and Cody Burke sits in third, just six points back. The next chapter in the 2017 IMCA All Star Modified Tour season will unfold May 27th at the Marysville Raceway in Marysville, CA.