Teen Mazda Challenge West kicked off its season in Southern California May 16, and the big fields produced some intense racing on the high banks of Auto Club Speedway.
Starts always produce some chaos at Turn 3, where the superspeedway empties into the infield portion of the racetrack. On lap one, everybody got through OK, but three laps later the field was still pretty tight. Roy Fulmer Jr. got bumped in the braking zone, which pinged him off Robbie Rodriguez and John Mueller, ending his race then and there. The rest of the field made it through and the race resumed.
By that time, the three leaders separated from the pack for a while, but as Teen drivers Matt Million, Will Rodgers and Mason Filippi battled for position, the rest of the field had bump-drafted efficiently enough to catch the leaders. As the race progressed, there was more carnage in Turn 3 and still more in Turn 5. Late in the race, double yellows came out, bunching up the field for what would result in a green-white-checkers finish.
“I got a pretty good run and Matt Million ended up making a mistake going into 3,” said Rodgers, who finished second. “Mason Filippi ended up going off into the grass, because he got a little nervous about Matt and I was able to slot into the lead position for almost a whole lap.”
Meanwhile, Justin Casey had been methodically clawed his way through the pack to finish third, after starting from 15th of 28 cars.
“I worked with my teammate Matt Cresci and did some strategic bump-drafting, and after one quick restart, finished third overall,” Casey said. “First time here at this track and I’m really happy with how I did.”
On the last lap, Filippi had a mishap going into the infield, but was able to find his way back to the top step of the podium.
“On the restart, we went out and then everyone went really deep into Turn 3 on the restart,” Filippi said. “Matt and I went in the dirt and Will came out first, and Cresci was on the left in the grass. We came out and I was following Will through the rest of the track, and I got a little bit better run out on the banking and I ended up drafting and passing him at the last second before the checkered flag.”
Sunday’s race start was mired by a crash caused by a missed shift at the front of the field. Crews weren’t able to clean up the front straight in time, so the race never really started, and finished under double yellow.