In his very first Mini Stock start in 2008, Warren Paxton went to victory lane with the win at Flamboro Speedway’s biggest event of the season – Ocktoberfest. Now in his sixth season of racing, Paxton has won his first championship. How did he win the championship? Let’s look back at 2013!
Warren Paxton showed right away why he was going to be the man to beat as he won three of the first four features. He was beat on the second night of racing, though, when Billy Swartzenburg was able to go to victory lane.
Swartzenburg had the quickest car the first week, but had mechanical problems that took him out of contention. Farm Brothers Racing teammates Ryan Oosterholt and Chris Mulders crossed the line 1-2, but neither got the victory as they were DQ’d. Paxton crossed the line third and got the win. Ben Melenhorst, who finished second in points, finished second to Paxton that night.
Swartzenburg started third the following week and as stated previously, he took the win ahead of Paxton and Eric Yorke.
Paxton would return to victory lane on week three after making a pass on Belanger just past halfway. Yorke would finish second, keeping close with Paxton, but not able to make the pass.
The fourth feature of the month would be a little more interesting in the form of how we found our eventual feature winner. Let’s just say it previewed some issues we’d have with lap cars to come.
Tyler Johnston held the early lead ahead of the field, though was passed by Townsend on a lap five restart. Townsend would lead till lap 12, when he was passed by McFerran. Now McFerran would begin to pull ahead of the field and start passing cars that were one, two, even three laps down. Trying to divulge his way through traffic, Warren Paxton would get to second and begin to close the gap. He closed the gap and going into the last couple of laps, he was right on McFerran’s bumper. In the final corner on the final lap, McFerran would find himself stuck behind lap cars, three-wide, blocked in. taking advantage of the situation, Paxton took the low line and snuck past for the victory. McFerran got second, followed by Podewils, Yorke and Clodd.
After coming up short on the win at the end of May, Brandon McFerran would start off June in victory lane with a feature victory. He would get the win after taking the lead on lap three, and holding off Warren Paxton and Ben Melenhorst on a late restart.
Paxton would return to victory lane a week later after battling hard for the win with McFerran in the final laps of the race.
Paxton also played well by the consistency rule as he won each of the four heats that he ran for the month of June. Brandon McFerran had the second best average at 1.25 after three heat wins and a second. Ben Melenhorst would have the third best average at 2.25 after a win, a pair of seconds and a fourth. While Melenhorst wasn’t one of the key players mentioned above as a winner, he was consistant in his features as well with a third and fourth.
After taking the lead on lap six of the feature, Ken Townsend would never look back as he led the rest of the way to score his first Mini Stock career feature victory to start off the month of July. Ben Melenhorst continued his consistency with a second with Paxton third.
The second feature of the month saw Brandon McFerran work his way to the front after starting 18th to take the lead on lap 12 from Swartzenburg and grab his second Sunset Speedway victory. Swartzenburg finished second, followed by Eric Yorke, Paxton and Ben Melenhorst. On that night, Swartzenburg was looking for the hat trick as he had won both of his heats earlier in the night.
In the 28 heats ran this year, Paxton had 26 top fives. One of his non-top five finishes cam during the month of July as he would be running upfront when contact with McFerran saw him restart at the back with eight to go and unable to get back into the top five. Melenhorst, meanwhile, had a win, a pair of seconds and a fourth for an average finish of 2.25.
Brandon McFerran would score his second straight feature victory of the season to start off the month. The night as a whole was solid for McFerran as he won both of his heats, as well.
On August 11th, Paxton started mid-pack and made his way to the front, passing Steve Belanger on a restart with 13 laps to go. Eric Yorke finished second as he had closed the gap between himself and Paxton in the final laps, but couldn’t get by Paxton.
On August 17th, Nicole Podewils made her way through the traffic and past Ben Melenhorst on lap 15 to take the lead and her first feature victory of the season. Billy Swartzenburg slipped by Brandon McFerran in the closing laps to take second. Paxton and Yorke rounded out the top five.
McFerran picked up his fourth feature victory of the season after passing Melenhorst on lap 20 for the lead and holding Paxton off till the final caution came out on lap 23 of 25. Trevor Hemingway got sideways off of turn two and blocked up the track, resulting in Kendra Adams making hard contact with the side of Hemingway’s car. In behind, McFerran would dodge the wreck while second and third place runners Paxton and Melenhorst would come together trying to get stopped. Now considering things, this looked like it could change the points picture with the fact of how Yorke had ran. However, due to being involved after the initial time of caution, Paxton would get to finish second with Melenhorst third.
Paxton rebounded with another feature victory at the end of the month after grabbing the lead from Ken Townsend on lap 11. Paxton held off Billy Melenhorst to grab the victory.
To close out the season, Billy Swartzenburg would win the feature after holding off Ben Melenhorst in the final laps. Meanwhile, Warren Paxton kept his strength and consistency going with a third place finish to win the championship.
In total this year, Paxton had 14 wins and 26 top fives across the 28 heats, as well as five wins and 14 top fives across the 14 features.
While the year in review has focused primarily around a group of drivers, I would be wrong without mentioning the following: kudos to the rookie crop this year. Each of the rookies improved as the year went on, including some heat wins for a couple of them. Steven Belanger, Kendra Adams and Shawn Gerrior all finished in the top 10 in points and put on a show for the rookie title.
Also, look for Gehrig Halliday to win a feature in 2014. He came close on a couple different occasions and showed that he can run upfront with the best of them, finishing fourth in points.
Consistancy is the key. You hear it said many times, but it is so true. Terry Woodley and Brian Love were quietly consistent all year and tied for fifth in points. Congrats to both drivers!
There are so many other things that I could say about the Mini Stock division as each driver in their own right deserves credit.
See more photos from the 2013 Sunset Speedway season at http://www.racinginformative.com