by Jacob Hord, @HordRaceWatcher
It was a rare Friday night of racing action at Fremont Speedway with the AFCS Sprints. With Attica Raceway Park off for the fair, Fremont decided to host a two-day AFCS show, both nights with added money throughout the 410, 305, and dirt truck purses. As BOGO pizza slices flew out of the pizza boxes, things also got wild on the track.
TJ Michael and Stuart Brubaker would lead the field to the green flag for the 30 lap, $4,000 to win feature event. Both Michael and Brubaker were searching for their first win of the season. Cale Thomas, AFCS and Fremont points leader Cap Henry, and Brian Smith completed the top five starters.
Brubaker was able to use the outside to get a jump on Michael and take the lead with Michael, Henry, Thomas, and Zeth Sabo in tow. With one lap completed, disaster struck for Cap Henry. Similar to his heat race, he lost control in turns one and two, but this time, he got clipped and the front end was knocked out of the red 33W machine. This could have major points implications as Henry’s night came to a premature end. Brubaker, second in AFCS points and third in Fremont points, nailed the restart, as Thomas challenged Michael for the second spot. And here came seventh-starting Byron Reed into a battle for third! Brubaker quickly built a 1.162 second lead as Reed hounded Thomas for third. Action came to a halt once again on lap five for a Darin Naida spin.
Michael was able to stay closer to Brubaker on the restart, but Brubaker held his ground. Soon enough, Michael had his hands full with the black #5 of Reed. As the 5T of Travis Philo found some speed and catapulted himself into fourth, the caution came out yet again.
Brubaker nailed this restart, but Michael had a run down the backstretch. The run wasn’t quite enough and Michael couldn’t get by for the lead. Brubaker went low in turns one and two as Michael went high, but here came Byron Reed for second. Reed nabbed the second spot coming down the backstretch on lap nine, but Michael retaliated and slid Reed into three and four, but Reed, the wily veteran, was able to maintain the second spot, bringing Philo with him into third. Meanwhile, Brubaker was on cruise control, gapping the #5 cars by 2.303 seconds.
TJ Michael, now fourth, had fallen into the grips of Zeth Sabo, and Chris Andrews. Those three waged war for fourth, as Philo mounted an attack on Reed for second. Reed and Philo spent the majority of laps 13 and 14 side-by-side. Philo was able to best Reed for second on lap 15. This allowed Brubaker to build up his lead to 2.686 seconds as lapped traffic loomed.
Brubaker wouldn’t see the lapped traffic, though, as the yellow came out. The following few laps off the restart are what Sprint Car writers dreams are made of. Either Philo stumbled on the restart, or Reed and Sabo got perfect restarts, because they blew by Philo in turns one and two, and they were gunning for Brubaker hard. Sabo was all over Reed for second on lap 16 as they got closer to Brubaker. Reed went side-by-side with Brubaker on the following lap and then the top three found themselves nose-to-tail. Reed got a run down the backstretch on lap 18 and had the lead, but the yellow flag came out once again, negating Reed’s pass, giving the lead back to Brubaker.
Brubaker, having learned his lesson, didn’t let Reed or Sabo get close on the restart, as Philo and Sabo battled for third. Brubaker started getting away from Reed, who now had Sabo wanting the second spot. Sabo got under Reed down the backstretch to claim second, but Brubaker now had a 2.008 second lead with eight circuits remaining. The lead grew another three tenths as Philo got by Reed for third. The lead stayed around 2.3 seconds as Brubaker neared lapped traffic. Sabo was able to cut into the lead, but it was too little, too late. Brubaker went on to tally his first win of 2023 by 1.794 seconds over Sabo, Philo, Reed and Chris Andrews rounding out the top five.
After a myriad of top five and top ten finishes this season, Brubaker was relieved to finally get into the win column, and gain about 70 points on Cap Henry in the AFCS standings in the process.
“Yeah, finally.” Brubaker said. “We were really fast out of the box this year, and then we got crashed over here during Speedweek and it kind of set us back. I feel like we’ve been set back for a few weeks, that car’s tore apart, trying to figure out what’s going on, and I feel like we’re back to where we need to be, and figuring Fremont out, finally,” Brubaker said with a laugh.
When asked if he was going to be able to sweep the Fremont weekend, Brubaker responded with, “Yeah, that’s the plan. Go out there and win.”
Brubaker’s full post-race interview can be found here: Stuart Brubaker post-win at Fremont 8/4/23