After a disappointing finish in his fresh car at Willow Springs in May, Tyler Vance was glad to be back on the podium at the races at Buttonwillow Raceway Park in June. It helped that he was standing on the top step holding the biggest trophy on Saturday.
When his father built the new car, he mistakenly put the rear springs up front and vice versa. Needless to say, the car did not handle well. Problem solved, Vance started from second, with Teen Mazda Challenge drivers Charlie Hayes behind him and Joey Bickers on pole.
At the start, Bickers established a gap until Vance, Hayes and Joey Jordan worked together in a draft to catch Bickers. Once they caught up with Bickers, he couldn’t hold Vance off and he lost the position.
“They caught up to me and Tyler was just running really well, not making any mistakes,” Bickers said. “He got by me and I couldn’t catch up to him.”
That left Bickers and Hayes to battle for second. After Jordan fell back a bit, Bickers and Hayes were left to dice on their own. They were so close there was nose-to-tail contact in the Buttonhook. Then on the last lap, Bickers and Hayes were approaching out-of-class traffic so Hayes went left after the Esses just before the last turn onto the front straight.
“I was basically two wheels in the dirt all the way down that last back stretch to the apex curb and he tried pinching me on the apex curb, and I rode up on it, we touched doors,” Hayes said.
When the two exited the last corner, Bickers had the better line and the momentum that comes with it, and he went on to take the win.
“It was just whoever could keep it from getting so loose that you could get a decent enough exit out of the last turn, and I guess I managed to get the run down the straight.”
For Sunday’s action, Vance led early on but Jordan had found his speed and passed Vance in the Phil Hill turn with Bickers on the other side of Vance — three wide over the hill! Bickers emerged in the lead with Jordan in pursuit ahead of Hayes and Vance.
Late in the race, Jordan made a pass that took three turns to execute, with him and Bickers door to door through Sunset, Buttonhook and finally Cotton Corners where Jordan nosed ahead to take the lead he held to the finish. Bickers finished second with Hayes in third.