This is what Charley Michel had been missing.
Michel came from the back of the pack with four laps to go on Friday night to win the B-Stock Main Event in the Sprint Car Invitational at Twin Cities Raceway put on by the Kenai Peninsula Racing Lions Circle Track Division.
Other Main Event winners at the three-eighths-of-a-mile dirt track were Scott Braswell in A-Stock, Celina Jackson in trucks, Wyatt R. in Late Models and Pete Ischi in sprints.
The Sprint Car Invitational continued Saturday night as the Clarion went to press.
Michel has won the B-Stock points title at the raceway three years in a row, but she had skipped the first two races of the season because the first-year nursing student at Kenai Peninsula College's Kenai River Campus was so occupied with other responsibilities.
"I'll be here (Saturday), but I don't know about after that," Michel said. "I'm just so busy. I love it. I didn't realize how much I missed it."
After finishing second to Chet Soares in the Trophy Dash, Michel quickly regained her touch by winning Heat 1. In the 15-lap Main Event, she had a gaping lead after the 11th lap, but that collapsed when she blew a tire and spun out.
"I had a flat tire for four laps," she said. "It was helping me get around the corners, but then it got so hot it blew."
Enter Dan Michel, Scott Steger, Josiah Warren and another man from whom Michel didn't even get a full name. The pit crew threw on a tire in time for Michel to join the back of the pack as the raceway went from yellow to green.
"I didn't know if I'd get back out there," Michel said. "They were really fast. I was overheating too. They got everything down and I got back out there."
If Michel looked like a woman on a mission when she got back on the track, that's because she was.
"When I got back out there, I had my mind set on winning," she said. "I was doing so well in the beginning, I didn't want to lose it then.
"I really wanted first place. I was going to do everything I possibly could, legally, to win."
Michel quickly got back into third place, then took over second place when Ken Carlock spun out on the 14th lap and brought out the yellow flag. That yellow flag had the additional benefit, for Michel, of a restart that allowed her to get right on the tail of leader Soares.
By the backstretch after the restart, Michel passed Soares and then pulled away for the victory.
"I'd have to say that was one of the funnest races I've been in," she said.
Pete Ischi's win in the Main Event and in Heat 1 were not nearly as dramatic. In both races, Ischi took the lead on the first lap in his Dairy Queen car and kept it. Cameron McGahan and his Tesoro car used the same tack to win the Trophy Dash. Ischi finished second in the Trophy Dash, while McGahan was second in Heat 1 and the Main Event.
"Running up front is a lot easier than eating somebody else's dust when you're trying to pass them," Ischi said.
One of Alaska's best servers of that dust is Anchorage's John McDonald, but McDonald's car broke down in the Trophy Dash and he was done for the evening.
"John's definitely a benchmark," Ischi said. "It was too bad he couldn't race tonight."
Ischi used some home cooking to regain his feel behind the wheel. Just five days ago, he returned from a seven-week trip to Ohio where he participated in about 10 or 12 races and made the A Main in five or six races. He said the highlight of the trip was racing at Eldora Raceway, a half-mile dirt track where the sprint cars hit speeds of 125 to 135 mph.
"I didn't do as well as I'd hoped to down there," Ischi said. "I was never able to get comfortable in my car."
He said part of the reason is that racers do not get to run as many laps down there. If Ischi did not make the A Main, he said he'd typically only see 22 laps. On Friday, he said he toured the track about 55 times.
"I was really happy," Ischi said. "The car was comfortable to drive for the first time all year."
Braswell, in his second season at Twin Cities Raceway, continued to improve at the track by beating out Kris Maxie in the A-Stock Trophy Dash and Main Event. Maxie won Heat 1 while Shawn Anderson was second and Braswell was third.
Braswell picked up his first career victory at Twin Cities in the opening event of the year on May 23. He said the tires and parts made possible by main sponsor Peninsula Towing have made a big difference for him this year.
"I also want to thank my family for supporting me," he said. "They're putting up with me being in the shop until 11 or 12 every night."
With all the work Braswell was putting into his car, it was just a matter of him gaining experience at the track.
"I'm starting to learn the track," he said. "I only came out here a couple of times last season. I'm starting to get it dialed in."
In trucks, Steven Blunk took the Trophy Dash and Heat 1, but wasn't able to finish the Main Event, allowing Jackson to collect the win.
A similar battle of attrition took place in the Late Models. Joey Essex took the Trophy Dash, while Frank Soares was second. Soares' car broke down before Heat 1, leading to the cancellation of that event. Essex was not able to finish the Main Event, allowing Wyatt R. to take the victory.
Sprint Car Invitational
Friday at Twin City Raceway
Trophy Dash -- 1. Scott Braswell; 2. Kris Maxie; 3. Shawn Anderson; 4. Jimmie Hale; 5. Todd Charlesworth.
Heat 1 -- Kris Maxie; 2. Shawn Anderson; 3. Scott Braswell; 4. Todd Charlesworth; 5. Lyn Disque; 6. Jimmie Hale; 7. Carrie Hagedorn.
Main Event -- 1. Scott Braswell; 2. Kris Maxie; 3. Carrie Hagedorn; 4. Jimmie Hale; 5. Lyn Disque; 6. Shawn Anderson.
Trophy Dash -- 1. Chet Soares; 2. Charley Michel; 3. Richard McGahan; 4. Sissy Bird; 5. Ken Carlock.
Heat 1 -- 1. Charley Michel; 2. Ken Carlock; 3. Sissy Bird; 4. Richard McGahan; 5. Chet Soares.
Main Event -- 1. Charley Michel; 2. Chet Soares; 3. Ken Carlock; 4. Sissy Bird; 5. Richard McGahan.
Trophy Dash -- 1. Steven Blunk; 2. Celina Jackson.
Heat 1 -- 1. Steven Blunk; 2. Celina Jackson.
Main Event -- 1. Celina Jackson; 2. Steven Blunk.
Trophy Dash -- 1. Joey Essex; 2. Frank Soares; 3. Wyatt R.
Main Event -- 1. Wyatt R.; 2. Joey Essex.
Trophy Dash -- 1. Cameron McGahan; 2. Pete Ischi; 3. Tyler McDonald; 4. Doug Fisher; 5. John McDonald.
Heat 1 -- 1. Pete Ischi; 2. Cameron McGahan; 3. Tyler McDonald; 4. Doug Fisher.
Main Event -- 1. Pete Ischi; 2. Cameron McGahan; 3. Doug Fisher; 4. Tyler McDonald.
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