LAS VEGAS, NEVADA (December 2, 2023) – Aaron Willison of Langley, British Columbia, Canada led wire-to-wire for the richest payday in pavement open wheel history, a $50,000 USD or $67,480 Canadian haul, after the 100-lap Riskon360! Open Wheel Showdown for Winged Sprint Cars at the Bullring at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
Willison was joined by Kingsburg, Calif.’s Kody Swanson and Dave Danzer of Oswego, New York as winners at the richest short track event in the country for the 2023 season.
“We need equipment to go racing and this is going to fund our entire year. I work really hard on my restarts. We work really hard on our motor program. We work really hard on getting the thing to take off. There’s a lot of effort that goes into that stuff behind the scenes. You got to have a well-rounded skillset if you think youre going to hold off the best in the country. This was the greatest race car I’ve ever driven today and it’s been a dream season.”
Willison earned pole for the 100-lap contest after claiming Friday’s fast-dash. The C- and B-Main Events narrowed the 52 Sprint Cars on the grounds to 26 starters for the feature event on the .375-mile oval.
Bryan Gossel spun in turn four for the first caution flag on lap two. The choose cone allowed track-record holder Jason Blonde of Litchfield, Michigan to drive up alongside Willison on the restart. Willison held the top spot however. Willison, Blonde, and Franklin, Mass.’s Bobby Santos III broke free of the large pack of Sprint Cars. Anthony Quintana of Idaho spun in turn four and collected Canadian Jeff Montgomery for the next caution flag, ending both of their evenings on lap seven.
Eighth-starting Ryan Litt of London, Ontario, Canada challenged Santos for third in lapped traffic but couldn’t complete the pass with a three-wide maneuver. A restart allowed him to later gain the track position for third.
Willison led Blonde, Litt, Santos, and Tacoma, Washington’s Evan Margeson into the lap 50 break for fuel and a fresh right rear tire.
When racing resumed, Falcon, Colorado’s Mike Hathaway crashed hard into the front stretch wall in an incident which tangled up Audra Sasselli of Selma, Calif. as well.
Blonde back pedaled significantly on the subsequent restart, drifting back to the eighth position. Litt slowed from the third position while Canadian Richie Larson and Oregon’s Kyle Alberding crashed in the fourth turn for a caution on lap 69. Idaho’s Mike Murgoitio also stopped and had to be retrieved. Spins followed on two successive restarts before track workers had an extended stop to clean fluid from turns three and four.
Willison dominated the final 30 laps of the proceedings for the $50,000 pay day with a 4.882 second advantage at the checkered flag. Santos finished second followed by tenth-starting Davey Hamilton, Jr. Canadian Robbie Price and Idaho’s Bryan Warf rounded out the top-five. Margeson surrendered a top-five finish with just two laps to go due to mechanical issues and was scored tenth. Santos earned $20,000 for second while Hamilton was a $10,000 third.
The all-time winningest USAC Silver Crown driver Kody Swanson of Kingsburg, Calif. charged from tenth on the grid to win the $10,000 to win Riskon360! Open Wheel Showdown for Midgets. Swanson drew the ten inversion with assistance from Indianapolis 500 winner Buddy Rice after setting quick-time over the field of Midgets.
“Yeah I mean it means a lot to me. You asked in terms of my career it certainly does. For me, racing is deeper than just myself. I’m so thankful for this,” Swanson said. “This is the type of drive you drive from Southwick, Mass. for. There’s a lot of people I’m so blessed to have in my life. This is a challenging race track and that’s what makes it so fun to drive. There’s a bunch of a really good cars and drivers that made it special.”
Swanson’s teammate Todd Bertrand of Danielson, CT appeared poised to win the feature. He fended off a challenge from 2023 Little 500 winner Jake Trainor of Medway, Mass. to lead lap 12 in lapped traffic. Swanson worked his way up to second position by lap 21. Trainor drove inside of Swanson on a restart but Swanson held the position. Swanson was running second on lap 31 with an eight tenth deficit to Bertrand. He tracked down Bertrand, then knifed underneath him on the backstretch to lead lap 38.
Bertrand Motorsports wrapped up a one-two finish followed by Trainor, Kody Swanson’s younger brother Tanner, and two-time USAC National Sprint Car champion Justin Grant of Ione, Calif. rounded out the top-five finishers.
In Speed Tour Super Modified action, 2023 Oswego Classic winner Dave Danzer prevailed in a wild 30-lap feature worth $5,000 to win. The Speed Tour had a ten-car inversion which saw fast-time qualifier Danzer and weekend long contender Davey Hamilton start on the fifth-row. Hamilton advanced into the lead by lap 11. A pair of hard crashes on both ends of the track stopped the action, but the drivers involved were uninjured.
Hamilton separated himself from Danzer by a few car lengths before tangling briefly with a lapped car. The contact caused damage that stuck Hamilton’s throttle open, sending him barreling into the turn three wall and onto his side for a caution on lap 24. Danzer inherited the lead and paced the final six circuits for the coveted win followed by Canadian Jim White and Colorado’s Cris Muhler rounding out the podium.
Race fans can learn more about the Open Wheel Showdown at www.OpenWheelShowdown.com or on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.