Sarah Cornett-Ching earned her first career late model victory in dramatic fashion on Aug. 13 at Motoplex Speedway near Vernon. The 20-year-old Penticton racer edged her #99 Snap-On Tools-sponsored car past race leader Mark Berrieau on the final turn to steal the win.
“I don’t think I could have imagined a finish much more exciting than that,” said an exuberant Cornett-Ching after the race. “The crew worked hard all day long to get the car faster and it felt great for the feature. This is awesome.”
Cornett-Ching was among the fastest throughout the day’s practice and qualifying run, but the team spent time chasing mechanical issues. The crew fixed a vibration in the car and also addressed vapour locking in the fuel system caused by extreme heat during qualifying. Adding to her mechanical issues was a neck injury Cornett-Ching suffered at work. Despite the issues she still qualified fourth fastest.
“With the neck injury and our challenges through the day I hardly had the victory lane in my sights,” said Cornett-Ching. “I actually had my dad bring his driving suit in case I didn’t feel well enough to race. I’m glad I stayed in the car.”
With the 100-lap Hot August Nights feature race underway, each car was required to make a pit stop for a right rear tire. Cornett-Ching entered the pits in fourth-place on lap 27 and rejoined the race as the leader with a 13-second lead. That evaporated when the caution flew and the field bunched up for the restart.
“My crew on pit road was outstanding,” she recalled. “They made no mistakes and we gained valuable track position. The caution came out taking away our 13-second lead, but we made the right changes on pit road and were able to keep my car in the top three all night.”
A late-race caution set the stage for an exciting finish. With five laps left on the restart Cornett-Ching lined up on the outside of Berrieau. When the green flag flew, she battled door-to-door with the veteran for the top spot. On the final lap she seized opportunity.
“I could see that Mark was sliding up the track,” said Cornett-Ching. “I rolled out of the throttle a little early heading into turn three and I was able to drive under Mark and beat him to the finish.
“It was an amazing feeling to race with one of the best drivers in the province to the checkered flag, and to beat him at the line was icing on the cake,” she continued. “This win is important to give my crew and myself the extra confidence we need going into the second Hot August Nights race on Aug. 27.”
Cornett-Ching sits second in points, just 12 behind points leader Berrieau. The race on Aug. 27 will decide who takes home the Hot August Nights title.
For more information on Sarah Cornett-Ching and to follow her racing accomplishments, please visit her newly revamped website, www.sccracing.com or visit her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/sccracing.