Kasey Kleyn made his first Northwest Super Late Model Series win memorable, surviving a last lap challenge from Kulwicki Driver Development Program (KDDP) finalist Haeden Plybon, to win the “Liberty Launch Academy 125” at Findlay Stadium Stateline Speedway. The margin of victory was a mere 0.015 seconds in Round #3 of the championship season.
Kleyn began his afternoon earning the AFCO Racing/Longacre Racing Products Fast Time Award. Haeden Plybon went second with Jason O’Neil, Nick Gibson, and John Newhouse the top-five. With the top-eight redrawing, O’Neil drew the pole with Plybon, Max Schroeder, Braeden Havens, Zach Riehl, Gibson, Kleyn, and Newhouse the starting line-up.
O’Neil got a good start at the green leading the field, as Plybon settled into second. As Plybon applied pressure he was able to get under O’Neil for the lead, as the field completed 10 laps. 15 laps later, Schroder was able to repeat the move and grab second. Kleyn was on the move from seventh grabbing third on lap 30 before a Competition Caution came out on lap 39.
The restart found Plybon back to the lead with Kleyn pressuring Schroeder for second. It took only five laps for Kleyn to grab the position and take up the chase of Plybon. The field settled down and clicked off 35 caution-free laps, when Evan Goetz stalled in Turn 2 after getting into the wall on lap 74, erasing a big lead for Plybon. As the field took the green, Plybon skirted out front again, and Newhouse began to work the outside line on Schroeder, grabbing the third spot on lap 79. Lap 81 found Matt Doyle hard into the Turn 3 wall to bring out a caution, just after moving into the top-five.
Another restart saw Plybon and Kleyn battling side-by-side with Kleyn in the upper groove. It took two laps for Kleyn to edge ahead, clearing Plybon a lap later. As the laps wound down, Kleyn was able to extend his lead, with Dave Garber now up to fifth behind Newhouse and Schroeder.
The caution flew once again on lap 117, when Zach Riehl ended up turned around in Turn 2, spinning from sixth. The restart saw Kleyn choose the outside line with Plybon edging ahead to the inside. But Kleyn was able to battle back, getting to the inside of Plybon, and grabbing the top spot on lap 121. As Plybon battled back, the final caution came out on lap 122 for a spinning Dave Garber, who was battling for fourth.
The final restart, with three laps to go, saw Kleyn on the inside and Plybon alongside. The duo raced side-by-side until the white flag flew, as Kleyn cleared Plybon entering Turn 1. Plybon crossed over the Rookie-of-the-Year competitor in Turn 2, and raced down the backstretch, diving low in Turn 3. The two made contact, beating, and banging through Turn 4. Coming off Turn 4, Kleyn was sideways as they made contact again. As they crossed the line together, Kleyn eked out a narrow victory by 0.015 seconds, with Plybon a disappointed second. Newhouse crossed the line third with Schroeder and Wyatt King completing the top-five.
For Kleyn, he had to make his way forward from the seventh starting position, so he had to manage his tires, as well as advance to the front.
“I was being passive-aggressive at the start, taking what I could get as quickly as I could, without wearing out my car”, Kleyn recalled. “I knew if I let Plybon get out to a lead by himself, I’d have nothing for him. So, when we got to third before the Competition Caution, I was just riding (after that). I was able to get by him on a restart and we just had a battle over the last 20 laps. I have never had a race that was that close. But I give props to him. It was fun, hard, clean racing. There was nothing wrong on his part and that was super-fun.”
As the field took the final green flag with three laps to go, Kleyn knew he would have his hands full to grab the win, as he described the final lap.
“I knew he was gonna move me, and my spotter told me to go high”, Kleyn recanted. “It was just racing there. We got together and I just stayed in the throttle, powered it down, and tried to keep my nose in front of his, so I had a chance at the line. Somehow I had that, and from my point of view, I almost thought he had it, but maybe I was sideways, and my transponder was ahead. I’m just glad I got that one.”
Plybon led a majority of the race, and at times looked unbeatable. But the KDDP finalist knew he was in for a battle, and that Kleyn was going to be tough to beat.
“I knew the car needed a little work”, Plybon began. “I knew where Kasey was, but I didn’t know how much he was using it. I should have run a little higher sooner, but I didn’t know that was the line. It kinda sucks when you are controlling the race, but it was fun.”
Plybon continued, in regard to the last lap of the race. “I think I should have given him a little bumper a little sooner, but it is fine, and it was fun. At least we didn’t spin out. It was a good race.”
The next event for the Northwest Super Late Model Series will be at Hermiston Raceway on June 17th for a 125-lap event. It will be Round #4 of nine 2023 events.
1. Kasey Kleyn*, 2. Haeden Plybon, 3. John Newhouse, 4. Max Schroeder, 5. Wyatt King*, 6. Cory Allard, 7. Nick Gibson, 8. Ken Bonney, 9. Wyatt Gardner*, 10. Dave Garber, 11. Garret Sawyer, 12. Jason O’Neil, 13. Zach Riehl*, 14. Christopher Kalsch, 15. Matt Doyle, 16. Evan Goetz, 17. Braeden Havens
ABOUT THE NORTHWEST SUPER LATE MODEL SERIES
The Northwest Super Late Model Series is the premier regional touring Super Late Model series in the Northwest. The series has many valued partners including RaceCals, Hoosier Racing Tire, McGunegill Engine Performance, Gibson Diesel Performance, AR Bodies, Joes Racing Products, Penske Racing Shocks, Five Star Bodies, AFCO/Longacre Racing Products, Atomic Screen Printing and Embroidery, Franks Racing Radio, BLP, Jefferson Racing, Impel Motorsports, and The Ti Company. For more information on the series visit www.nwslms.com or on Facebook and Twitter.