MONROE — Leading with a half-lap to go, Dylan Lupton only needed to hold his place over the final few hundred yards to win Saturday night’s NASCAR K&N Pro Series West race at Evergreen Speedway.
A late tap on the bumper from rival David Mayhew changed everything.
In a dramatic finish to an exciting race, Mayhew’s car banged the back of Lupton’s car in the third turn of the last lap and the minor collision gave Lupton a brief loss of control. That was all the advantage Mayhew needed to surge past and take the checkered flag, with Brandon McReynolds also slipping past Lupton, who finished third.
The closing sprint to the finish line was the only lead of the night for the 32-year-old Mayhew, a resident of Atascadero, Calif.
“That was right down to the wire,” said Mayhew, who won for the second time in 10 series races this season. “We didn’t have the fastest car all night long. … I’d pretty much given up (on winning). I was going to run second.”
But when Lupton slowed going into the turn, trying to hold his inside line, “that allowed me to get to him,” Mayhew said. “And that last lap, that last corner, we weren’t going to give it up. So I had to give him the old bump, and I’m just lucky it worked out for us this time.”
The smack on the rear bumper “was just enough to get (Lupton) up out of the way and not wreck anybody,” he added. “But the last corner of the last lap, you’ve got to at least try.”
Moments later, Mayhew celebrated by pulling his car in front of the grandstand, and then climbing onto the open driver’s window and raising his arms in triumph. Lupton, meanwhile, got out of his car a short distance away and immediately threw one of his racing gloves in disgust.
“We had the car to win,” he said, his eyes damp with emotion. “Maybe (Mayhew) knew it and he used us up right there. … It wasn’t just a little push. It was pretty good little nudge right there.
“This is a disappointing one for me,” added Lupton, who won last year’s K&N series race at Evergreen Speedway. “ I thought we were going to make it two in a row. We just lost it in that last corner.”
“It was good, hard racing,” said McReynolds, who lives in Mooresville, N.C. “David did a real good job there at the end.”
The 150-lap race started with series points leader Greg Pursley slipping ahead of McReynolds, the pole sitter, on the first lap. Pursley would lose the lead a few laps later, but then went in front again and stayed in first place up to the mid-race break.
On the second-half restart, Lupton went in front for the first time, shooting ahead of Pursley on the back straightaway. As it turned out, Lupton would hold his lead until the final lap.
Saturday’s win was a nice turnabout for Mayhew, who was making his “third or fourth” career appearance at Evergreen Speedway.
“It’s awesome,” he said. “The first couple of times I raced here, we killed cars. We just had bad luck. But some other guys had some bad luck (Saturday) and we got away with one.”
Mayhew picked up the first-place prize of $6,000, with McReynolds pocketing $3,000 for second and Lupton, who lives in Wilton, Calif., receiving $2,500 for third.
Aside from Lupton, maybe the most disappointed driver on Saturday was 16-year-old Nicole Behar of Otis Orchards in eastern Washington. Pursley, who had gone to the pits for a few laps with a battery problem that took away his chances of winning, bumped with Behar in the first turn, sending her into the wall and out of the race on lap 128. She was running sixth at the time.
The race started with 19 cars instead of the expected 20. Braden Havens of Spokane, who had the ninth-fastest lap in practice, ended up blowing a motor in practice earlier in the day and had to withdraw.