AJ Sanders Takes Home $7000 at The Freedom Factory
Before the 2nd annual Winter Warm-Up at the Freedom Factory, Dan Wilson dropped a bombshell. He felt that the winner of this event should run for more than the $2,000 that was being paid. The National Compact Touring Series, presented by REV X, is an elite traveling series, and The Freedom Factory race is their premier race. Dan put out a challenge to all those racing. All they had to do was video them putting product into their car, running a decal, and winning the race. He would throw in a $5,000 bonus, bringing the purse to $7,000. The drivers excepted that challenge and stepped it up. Cleetus McFarland had a fast time in 2022 with a 6.97, a record at the Freedom Factory. 6 Drivers broke that time, with Tim Canipe topping the speed charts by qualifying at 6.72.
Heat race winners were: Clayton Oliver, Tyler Casper, Joe Workman, Rodney Russell, and Jerime Damron.
Rodney Russell won the C-Feature, with Tyler Casper, Jeff Sayles, Sheldon Lindlag, and Ricky Shahid rounding out the top 5. The top 4 were able to move up to the B – Feature. Will Slaughter, 3rd in the 2022 event, had to miss qualifying and was put on the back of the pack of the B-Feature. Racing through traffic, Will won the B-Feature, with Marcus Vitali, Cameron Sontag, Jay Workman, and Jay Rheaume finishing in the top 5. The top 4 from the B were put into the A-Feature.
The A-Feature started with a four-wide salute, which is a fan favorite. Robbie Yoakam and Jerime Damron let the field to green. Raymond Powell took his car sideways between turns one and two, stacking the field behind him and losing multiple positions, but he was able to save it. Damron took the early lead with Clayton Oliver on his tail. Cleetus McFarland ran in 10th position taking his time, knowing it was a 50-lap race. Cleetus broke his transmission on lap nine and had to pull into the infield. Lap ten brought out a caution as Clayton Oliver turned the leader Jerime Damron. Clayton was sent to the back for causing the caution. Damron was under attack from Shane Canipe and AJ Sanders, fighting off every attempt to get under him. Lap 20 Damron slipped up the track allowing Canipe to get his nose under Damron. The two connect spinning Damron. The 18 of Chuck Wall had no place to go and drove into Damron’s door. Both would go on, but with damage to both cars. Canipe was sent to the back for causing that caution. Damron was forced to go into the pits giving up his first-place position to change tires. He was able to come back before the green to take the tail of the field. This gives AJ Sanders the race lead, with Robert Strmiska starting on the outside heading to the green.
At the restart, Will Slaughter started from the back after winning the B-Feature and lined up 6th. Parts flew off Chuck Wall’s car, causing Jessie Yopp to spin into the grass across the infield. The second attempt at the green put AJ Sanders in the lead, with the damaged car of Wall in second and Strmiska third. Sanders took a massive lead over the pack as Strmiska passed Wall for third. Lap 27, Shane Canipe spun on his own, bringing out another yellow flag. After the restart, Michael Tucker worked his way up to third behind Strmiska and the leader AJ Sanders.
With 15 to go, your leader is Sanders, second Strmiska, and Tim Canipe. While trying to move inside Strmiska with just a little contact, Canipe took his car for a spin, pulling out the caution, and sending him to the back of the field. At the restart, Sanders and Strmiska fought side by side, not giving the other any room. 10 to, and Sanders bobbled just enough to allow Strmiska to get by him. As laps wound down with 5 to go, your leader is Strmiska, second Sanders, third, Tucker, Slaughter in fourth, and Damron coming back from the damage is 5th.
Robert Strmiska took the checkered flag. During the post-race inspection, he was DQ’d for tires giving AJ Sanders the win and making him $7,000 richer. Michael Tucker, Will Slaughter, Jerime Damron, and Chuck Wall finished out the top 5.
The National Compact Touring Series will be at Bristol, TN, on April 22, then on to Berlin Speedway. For a complete schedule, please visit nationalcompacts.com.