Michigan Natives Wrap Up CLASH on the Coast in Florida
Baker, FL (Monday, March 6, 2023) - The final two nights of racing at Northwest Florida Speedway were contested on Friday and Saturday night for the IMCA CLASH on the COAST. Throughout the week, over a half dozen drivers from the Mitten tried to cash their ticket for victory lane, including AJ Ward, Collin Thirlby, Chase Rosebrugh, Dale Kaake, Ryan Heskett, and Rob Brillhart in the Crate Racing USA Street Stocks.
On Friday night, Brillhart finished 4th in his heat race before finishing 8th during his 20-lap main event. Brillhart consistently finished in the top 10 all week long.
For the IMCA Modified drivers, transfer spots were hard to come by on Friday night. In heat race number two, Heskett struggled to keep his 05 moving in the right direction, falling from 6th to 9th. In heat race number three, Collin Thirlby missed the transfer by just two spots, going from 7th up to 5th. Chase Rosebrugh followed him up the ladder two spots as well, finishing 7th. Kaake led the field to green in heat race number four, but fell back to the fifth spot by the finish of the race. AJ Ward was the lone Michigan representative to transfer into the show from the heat races, driving from 7th all the way to the third and final transfer spot of his sixth heat race.
A 13-car B-Main number one featured Kaake III rolling off from the outside of row two. Despite his best efforts to stay near the front of the field, Kaake slid back to 7th, well outside of a transfer spot. Another 12 cars were ready for B-Main number two, with Heskett searching for a ticket to the show; he finished 11th. In the final B-Main of the night, Thirlby and Rosebrugh squared off with 10 other competitors for the final two transfer spot. Thirlby couldn't quite hang on finishing 4th and Rosebrugh didn't have enough in the tank to chase down a transfer spot, coming up short in 5th.
Those results left AJ Ward as the lone Michigan driver in the 25-lap Feature event. Ward rolled off in the 16th spot and hung right in that area for the entire race. Ward was scored in 15th at the line.
On Saturday night, the Grand Finale unfolded for the CRUSA Street Stocks and IMCA Modifieds. Brillhart had his best night of the week on Saturday, coming from 3rd to finish 2nd in his heat race before posting a top five in the feature, finishing third.
A solid night for the Michigan Modifieds as well, starting with heat race number one where Rosebrugh went wire-to-wire to pick up the heat race win. Kaake III was on the loud pedal in his third heat race going from 8th to 4th, just one spot shy of a transfer spot. Collin Thirlby was impressive in his heat race number six. The no. 47 went from fourth to first and held the top spot to collect the win.
In the third B-Main, Kaake started on the pin, but missed the setup on the no. 18K falling back to 6th by the end of the race.
In the main event, Rosebrugh brought the field to the green flag in his no. 17 machine. The West Branch, Michigan native led for the better part of the race, however, coming out of turn four, the car jumped sideways on Rosebrugh and he couldn't gather it back up before spinning in front of the field. Rosebrugh encountered some minor damage, but retired from the event earning a 24th-place finish. As for Thirlby, the Traverse City native posted his best finish of the week earning a top five.
While none of the Michigan Modified drivers were in contention for the top ten in CLASH on the COAST points, Thirlby's backup car was. The E47 was piloted this week by Jesse Enterkin, who finished 7th in event points. Meanwhile, Brillhart brought home sixth-place points honors in the CRUSA Street Stocks.
Story - Zach Hiser
Photo - Byron Fichter