Spokane, WA – In what was a wild race, for opening round of the Northwest Super Late Model Series, it was only appropriate that the winner was not declared until after the checkered flag flew on the “54th Annual Bonney’s Branson Tractors Apple Cup 125” at Tri-City Raceway at RMEC (WA). Kyle Tellstrom was running third on the final lap of the eventful race, but was declared the winner, after Kasey Kleyn made contact with race leader Jonathon Gomez, sending him into the spin cycle. When the dust settled, Gomez would finish eighth, with Kleyn placed to the rear of the lead lap cars. Tellstrom would be the $10,000 beneficiary of incident and score his first series victory, in his first series start.
Tellstrom was excited with the outcome, after losing a motor on Friday, and working hard all weekend on the Lee Hackney owner Pro Late Model, which he used in Sunday’s race.
“Coming here with our small team, it is honestly a big deal”, Tellstrom began. “We came for the “Pro” race and said “we’re here and we have a good enough car, let’s run the “Super” race. We put everything we had into it and brought a great group of guys. We are probably one of the few teams here with no pit box, just a rolling toolbox. We had to swap wheels back and forth and only bought six tires for the weekend. This is really big, and I can’t thank Terry Senneker enough for working with us. It is a big win for the little guys, and I have been extremely lucky to do some cool stuff. You couldn’t write it any better.
The race would see a little bit of everything with eight lead changes, an early half-time break, leaders colliding with lapped cars, eight yellows, two reds and nearly an hour rain delay, which slowed the action on the ½-mile triangular oval. Tellstrom would never lead a lap, but he was declared the victor after the race, when Kleyn was penalized. It was an eventful day for the near capacity crowd.
Haeden Plybon got things rolling by earning the AFCO Racing / Longacre Racing Products Fast Time Award and an additional $100 from Street Rods Unlimited. Tyler Brown, Jonathon Gomez, Kasey Kleyn, and BJ Tidrick would round out the top-five qualifiers. With an eight-car redraw, Tidrick would grab the pole, with Dave Garber, Tyler Brown, Kyle Tellstrom, Haeden Plybon, Jonathon Gomez, Max Schroeder, and Kasey Kleyn the top-eight starters.
The initial green flag saw Tidrick out to a quick lead, but the caution fell on lap three for a Jason O’Neil accident, ending his day. The restart found Garber battling to the front from the outside groove, with Tidrick falling back, as Plybon jumped to second. It took the 2022 Kulwicki Driver Development Program finalist only three additional laps to grab the top spot from Garber, utilizing the inside groove. Gomez dispatched of Brown and Garber to move to second by lap 10. Lap 28 saw Brown muscle his way back to the runner-up position just in time to lead lap 35, when Plybon was unable to avoid a spinning Dylan Caldwell.
After repairs, Plybon returned to the tail end of the field, as Brown jumped to the lead after the restart leading Tidrick, Kleyn and Tellstrom, with Wyatt King dispatching Gomez from the top-five. A few cautions led the field to a turning point on lap 61, as contact from Kleyn’s bumper loosened up Tidrick from the runner-up position. A lap later, Tidrick went around off the bumper of Wyatt King to bring out another yellow. King was sent to the rear from fourth.
The restart found Kleyn battling by Brown to the lead, from the outside groove, only to have the caution come out two laps later, when Nick Gibson crashed into the outside Turn 3 tire barrier. An early halftime break was called due to the cleanup, but rain would dampen the track before the break was complete, with Kleyn leading Brown, Tellstrom, Gomez, and Max Schroeder.
Nearly an hour delay was followed by another restart, as Kleyn retained the lead from his outside starting position. Gomez and Plybon were on the move, as Gomez fought to third and Plybon to fifth on lap 70, from his earlier trip to the back. The next round, the caution came out again for a spin by the struggling Caldwell in Turn 3. The ensuing restart found Kleyn to the lead with Brown, Tellstrom, Plybon, and Gomez battling side-by-side and nose to tail. The trio would drop Brown to fifth by lap 90 as Plybon and Gomez would swap positions back and forth.
On lap 102, Gomez began to flex his muscles, grabbing the runner-up position from Tellstrom. As the field raced to lap 115, Plybon fell off the pace with a right rear flat tire, just as Randy Marshall Jr. collided with the lapped car of Ken Bonney, ending his fine fifth place run. Plybon would lose only one lap, but his chance at a win was done.
The final restart found Gomez grabbing the top spot from the inside, after several laps of side-by-side racing. The duo of Gomez and Kleyn separated themselves from the third-running Tellstrom, as Gomez was unable to put any distance on Kleyn. The final lap found Gomez with a two-car advantage as they entered Turn 3, the final corner. Gomez chose the second groove, but Kleyn sailed it in deep, making contact just before they exited Turn 3. Gomez went around, and Kleyn crossed the finish line first, with Tellstrom a few seconds behind. The win would not stand however, as Tellstrom was declared the winner, and Kleyn was relegated to the final car on the lead lap in ninth. Gomez would finish eighth.
Tellstrom was happy to take advantage of the last lap contact, knowing well that it was a possibility on the last lap, as well as his only shot at the win.
“He (Kleyn) was obviously pretty excited and led a lot of laps”, Tellstrom explained about the last lap incident between Gomez and Kleyn. “But he (Kleyn) is young and probably one of the first times he was in that kind of position. I knew when he got to Gomez, he would try to run him over. Jonathon actually opened up the entry and gave himself plenty of room, knowing it was coming. Kleyn chased him so far up the hill to go get him, that it turned Gomez around. I knew there was a chance, and I knew that was all that I had at that moment.”
Tellstrom continued, speaking about the advantages and disadvantages of his Pro Late Model, “I just needed more laps with the big motors versus the crate motors, but I’d rather be lucky than good any day and I’ll take it any way I can get it.”
The next event for the Northwest Super Late Model Series is the “Leonard Evans 150” at the Wenatchee Valley Super-Oval on April 22nd. The eighth annual event will pay $5,000 to the winner, where Evan Goetz scored his first career NWSLMS victory in 2022.
1. Kyle Tellstrom, 2. Wyatt King, 3. BJ Tidrick. 4. Zach Riehl, 5. Tyler Brown, 6. Max Schroeder, 7. Doni Wanat, 8. Jonathon Gomez, 9. Kasey Kleyn, 10. Haeden Plybon, 11. Dave Garber, 12. Dylan Caldwell, 13. Ken Bonney, 14. Scott Walker, 15. Andy Beaman, 16. Randy Marshall Jr., 17. Christopher Kalsch, 18. Zach Telford, 19. Nick Gibson, 20. Dan Lowther, 21. Tim Babcock, 22. Garrett Evans, 23. Jason O’Neil.
-Story by: Kevin Peters, Northwest Super Late Model Series
-Photo credit: Shari Garber