A large and rowdy crowd was on hand to witness the 33rd Annual Clay Cup Nationals at Deming Speedway on Saturday night. As the dust settled, it was Fresno, CA driver Jake Hagopian claiming the top prize as Clay Cup Champion of the 600 division in the biggest win of his storied career. Liam Ryan won his seventh Clay Cup title in the 1200 class, with Colby Thornhill repeating in the 600 Restricted division and Jaden Whitney winning his first Deming Speedway main in the Junior Sprints.
The Speedmart Hoosier 600 Open division was the night’s Main Event with 40 lap and $7,500 on the line for the winner. Jake Hagopian was the man all race long, leading all 40 laps to score the victory, Hagopian led the initial start that was called back, as pole position car Liam Ryan encountered trouble on the front straightaway. Start number two also didn’t fly, as three cars came together resulting in another caution. The third start was good, seeing Hagopian cruise out to the early advantage. Jared Peterson passed Chance Crum to take over second and gave chase to Hagopian as the three started reeling in the back of the field. Kaden Holm came to a stop on lap eight, bunching up the front three again for a restart. Jake was once again on point, streaking away from Peterson as they came back to green, with Peterson changing lines frequently to try and find a combination to both catch and pass Jake. The race went uninterrupted the rest of the way, and as Hagopian entered slower traffic late race, Peterson and Crum closed right up to Jake’s rear bumper but could advance no further as Hagopian took the victory and top prize. Peterson was second for the second straight year followed by Crum. Chase Schmidt raced forward 10 spots to pick up hard charger honors.
The Shots 2 Go Espresso 1200 Main Event went to Liam Ryan, who went wire to wire for the victory. Ryan was pressured all race long, at first by Jake Helsel before Jake lost a chain on lap 12 that ended his evening. Chance Crum was the next contender to try his hand, chasing Liam amongst heavy traffic as the pair bobbed and weaved amongst the lapped cars. Derek Holmwood lost his engine on lap 36, giving Ryan clean air and Crum a chance to start right behind him. On the restart, Crum also lost an engine, setting up another restart with Steven Hendrickson and Jared Gundersen right in behind him. Ryan was perfect on the final restart, driving away from the pair to score his fifth 1200 Clay Cup win and seventh overall. Gundersen passed Hendrickson over the final few laps to take second and moving Hendrickson to third. Nate Vaughn was the hard charger, moving forward 11 spots.
History was made in the Mytrafficman.NET 600 Restricted division as Colby Thornhill repeated his 2016 Clay Cup Championship by taking home the 2017 edition, the first driver to repeat in the division’s five year history at Clay Cup. Thornhill was absolutely dominant, leading every lap of the main with little challenge. Colin Mackey scored a solid second place run, holding off a hard charging Caeden Steele over the final ten laps to grab the runner up spot and relegating Steele to third. Blaine Granberg earned hard charger after winning the B Main, starting 17th in the A and finishing 5th.
Jaden Whitney made his first Deming Speedway count in a big way, winning the Clay Cup Nationals in the Kasey Kahne Junior Sprints. The initial start was led by Mitchell Helsel, but the start was negated by a caution. On the second try, Levi Hillier got the jump on Helsel and took the lead. Cautions on lap seven and nine slowed Hillier’s march toward a race win, but it was mechanical failure that brought Levi to a halt on lap 13, handing the lead to Helsel who had been in hot pursuit. Helsel would only lead two laps, as he and Jesson Jacobson tangled in a battle for the lead on lap 15 causing a caution. This handed the lead to Jaden Whitney, who had Jade Avedisian all over him trying to take the top spot. Avedisian had made a move to pass Whitney and take the lead on lap 23 but a yellow flag negated the pass and gave the lead back to Jaden. The young man would capitalize on his good fortune, driving away from Avedisian on the restart to take the win. Avedisian captured hard charger in her second place run, coming from second to take the runner up spot. Isabel Barnes rounded out the podium with a third place effort.