by Jacob Hord, @HordRaceWatcher
Year number five of the AFCS Series came to a close Saturday night at the Fremont Speedway. Once again for Cap Henry, he just had to avoid trouble and make the feature to be crowned 2023 Champion, a night after claiming his second Attica track championship. Cap took care of business in his heat race and transferred to the feature. The next task at hand for Cap was to cut into Travis Philo’s Fremont points lead.
Henry drew the two to start outside pole, while Philo had to come through the BMain. Larry Kingseed joined Henry on the front row, with Stuart Brubaker, Chris Andrews, and Tim Shaffer rounding out the top five starters. Kingseed, going for his first career 410 win, and Henry led the field to the green flag for the 30 lap, $5,000 to win feature event.
Kingseed got the jump on Henry on the start as Andrews snuck into third and sixth-starting Bryce Lucius ran fourth. Before the first lap could be completed though, the caution came out for a Creed Kemenah spin in turns three and four. It would be a complete restart. Bad news for Kingseed, good news for Henry.
On the second attempt, Henry was able to get by Kingseed for the lead, and Brubaker was able to hold onto his third starting spot. Henry started to run away with the lead, boasting a 1.396 second lead on the second lap. Brubaker was all over Kingseed for second, and needed to get by Kingseed quickly if he wanted to track Henry down. Over the next two laps, Henry added another second to his lead.
This is when the movers started moving forward, and the battles within the top ten heated up. Lucius made his way around Shaffer for fifth on lap five, and twelfth-starting Zeth Sabo was now hounding Shaffer for sixth. Meanwhile, Greg Wilson, who came through the BMain, was already up to tenth. Mind you, this is just five or six laps into the race. On lap eight, Henry was checked out. The gap to Kingseed was 3.444 seconds. Kingseed was able to slip away from Brubaker, who had fallen into the clutches of Chris Andrews.
Henry reached lapped traffic on lap eleven, taking a 3.257 second lead with him. Lucius now found himself in fourth after getting by Brubaker, and Wilson was still passing cars, now up to seventh. The 33W machine was having a hard time getting through lapped traffic, and the lead started to shrink, down by a second on lap 13. Meanwhile, Lucius passed Andrews to get into third, and Wilson cracked the top five on lap 16. The yellow would come out for a second time then on lap 16 for Kasey Jedrzejek. This got Henry out of lapped traffic and into clean air, but it would put Kingseed back on his bumper.
The clear track is what Henry needed though, as he zipped away from Kingseed. Andrews got back by Lucius for third, and was hounding Kingseed for second, as Wilson almost passed into fourth. Andrews got by Kingseed on lap 19, and started his charge towards Henry. Andrews needed to make up a 1.222 second gap in order to catch Henry and get his first win of the year. Henry was too fast on the clear track, though, and extended his lead to 2.313 seconds as Kingseed started to reel Andrews back in, and Tim Shaffer, who caught a second win, was reeling in Kingseed for third.
The yellow would come out for a third time on lap 19 after Trey Jacobs had an off-track excursion. This wiped out a 2.801 second lead for Henry and he would again have cars right behind him. Henry got another good restart, as did third place Kingseed and fifth place Wilson. Kingseed was all over Andrews for second, and Wilson was working on Shaffer for fourth. Kingseed and Andrews found themselves side-by-side going down the backstretch, with Kingseed claiming second on lap 25. Andrews had a moment off the exit of turn two, and smacked the backstretch wall. This may have broken something in the 15C machine, as Andrews then found the turn four softwall, bringing out the final yellow flag.
This set up a five lap shootout for the win. Could Cap hang on for another restart? Does Kingseed nab his first 410 win? Could the W20 go from the BMain to Victory Lane? Not surprising, but Henry nailed the final restart, leaving the others no chance to steal a win. Henry would win by 2.146 seconds. That’s win number ten on the season for Henry and Jeff Ward Motorsports, and the win put the icing on the cake for their 2023 AFCS Championship.
“I saw that it was going to be a big deal getting into clean air early,” Henry said after the race. “The bottom of [turns] one and two was pretty good early– there was some mud down there to get into. I knew I had one shot to get him [Kingseed] cleared at the start and luckily it went our way and we were able to beat him from turn four to the flagstand. Leading the first lap was a pretty big deal there.”
Cap gave a lot of credit for the win to his crew chief, Zack Myers, for helping him find the right places to run on the track after Kingseed cut into the lead early on: “The track for a little while was kind of narrow, and I think I kind of got myself boxed in where I was really committed to the bottom. Luckily the caution came out and got us back into clean air and we got rolling again. I got really lucky that Zack was paying attention, and where he stood in turn two, I could see him.”
“I don’t know at what point in the race it was, but he pointed that I needed to try moving up, and I think we moved up just in time. Having somebody that saw that made a big difference there at the end of the race,” Henry continued.
As mentioned before, this wrapped up the AFCS Championship for Cap Henry and the Jeff Ward Motorsports team, a championship they controlled for most of the season. A pretty impressive feat considering that this is Henry’s first year in the 33W.
“It means a lot. To repeat what we did in 2020 and get into double-digit wins, it’s really cool. It says a lot about the whole team of Jeff and Gary, Zack, Chris and Chad. To do this in our first year means a lot and I’m really thankful for what Duane [Hancock, AFCS director], and Jack, what those guys do to make this a bigger and bigger deal, it really means a lot.
There’s still races left to be won for Henry, though, and the win gives him some good momentum going into next weekend’s Jim and Joanne Ford Classic at Fremont with the All Stars, a race Henry wants to win.
“I want to win another All Star race to get Jeff his first one. Jim Ford’s a huge weekend; it’s something I’ve always wanted to try and achieve. We won the Friday night portion before, so I’d really like to try and win the Saturday night. We’ll see if we’re good enough or not,” concluded Henry.
Cap Henry’s post-race interview can be found here: Cap Henry Wins at Fremont, Claims AFCS 410 Title 9/9/23
In 305 action, John Ivy held on for the win, his first win at Fremont in two years.
Paul Weaver’s commanding AFCS points lead went away, as part-way through the feature, his wing collapsed. Weaver nursed the wing, and a flat right rear tire for the duration of the feature, coming home with a 20th place finish, while title combatant Jamie Miller finished third.
Weaver was able to finish ahead of four cars, and after calculations were made, those four cars-worth of points is what Weaver needed to win the AFCS 305 Championship, by a mere six points. This is Weaver’s fourth AFCS 305 Championship in a row.