Neisius wins Big 8 Series race at Hawkeye Downs as Adrian, Willett tangle
Rosemount, Min. driver takes the $1,000 win at the Clash at the Downs III after leaders wreck with 7 to go
CEDAR RAPIDS — The 2016 edition of the Big 8 Series Late Model Clash at the Downs ended with Caleb Adrian in the Turn 1 wall and Michael Bilderback in Victory Lane after several furious laps of side-by-side racing.
The 2017 edition was just about a carbon copy.
This time, though, it was Rosemount, Minn., driver Joe Neisius who took the win on a late restart after Adrian ended up in the wall for the second straight year — this time after a tangle with Alburnett’s Brody Willett.
Neisius was rolling in fourth behind Adrian, Willett and Bilderback, and said his spotter told him to stay up on the wheel because the leaders were, “really racing hard.” A wreck and a restart later, and Neisius had the biggest win of his career.
“It was a little bit survival of the fittest,” Neisius said. “When you’re running third or fourth and were as loose as I was, you have to wait and hope there’s a caution. Those guys eliminated themselves there. It worked in my favor. You’ve got to bide your time and keep it in one piece. If you go off on the hook, you’re definitely not winning.”
While Neisius, who started on the pole, got to celebrate the $1,000 win — in the first race in a new racecar — after a power move on the final restart with seven laps to go, the dramatics were elsewhere.
Adrian started second and led the bulk of the race. Willett started eighth, and spent the first 40 laps of the race steadily working his way forward. Willett caught Adrian and Bilderback, who were racing hard for the lead with less than 20 to go, and made a move to go from third to side-by-side for the lead with 12 to go.
From there, Adrian and Willett ran side by side for five laps, bouncing off each other and working lapped traffic without giving an inch.
With seven to go, the pair went down into Turn 1, made contact and Adrian spun up into the wall.
To ask Adrian, Willett “left-reared me.” To ask Willett, Adrian, “ran out of talent.”
Under caution, Adrian retaliated by hooking Willett’s right rear and spinning him into the outside wall. Willett was penalized and moved to the tail end of the lead lap as part of a “cause of or involved in an incident,” ruling from Big 8 Series officials, and ended up 10th at the finish.
Adrian’s frustration was in his ending up in the wall for a second straight year.
“I don’t know if he drove it in too deep or what, but he just left-reared me and it was the same situation as last year where I backed it into the wall and have to put another rear clip on it,” Adrian said. “He needs to know he can’t drive like that. He needs to learn. If he raced me clean, he probably would’ve won it.”
Adrian said the pair didn’t talk after the race, and he has no plans to talk to Willett about what happened any time soon.
Willett’s frustration was — in his view — running down the leader, having a faster car, and not being raced the way he’d have liked.
“My guys gave me a first place car and we showed it; we proved it,” Willett said. “As for (Adrian) when the same thing happens two years in a row, you have to think, ‘Maybe I’m the problem.’
“You’ve got to give a guy a lane to race and when you can’t do that, you have to accept the repercussions. He’s only got himself to blame, and then he spins us out on the back stretch like a baby. If you want to retaliate like that, that’s cool.”
Two young drivers — both of whom are regulars at Hawkeye Downs — putting on the show they did for a handful of laps had the Hawkeye Downs crowd on its feet.
Even a guy like Neisius, who needed the caution they provided, watched intently. His win, ahead of Griffin McGrath and Bilderback in third, came from the patience to weather the storm, and executing on the final restart.
“They were racing hard and racing hard and I said, ‘I’ll hang around and see what happens; maybe they’ll screw up and we can get by,’ and that’s exactly what happened,” Neisius said. “I got in hotter than I should’ve on the last restart and slid up and hit (Bilderback). I talked to him about it and we’re cool. We just kept racing and sometimes that’s how it goes.”
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