The inaugural UNOH Battle at the Beach kicked off on Monday night with the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series race. The race took place on a 0.4 mile track set up on the Superstretch of Daytona International Speedway. The 150 lap race was wild with nine cautions and a final turn spin-to-win by Earnhardt-Ganassi development driver Kyle Larson.
Larson, who will run the full Nationwide Series schedule for Turner Scott Motorsports, battled hard with C.E. Falk III over the final 10 laps but when it looked like Falk would win the Late Model race Larson put the torn up bumper of his No. 98 to Falk's No. 40 coming off of Turn 4 and spun Falk to the inside to take the win for himself.
“It was good short-track racing," Larson said. "We swapped the lead and got into each other several times. It seems like it always comes down to the fourth turn. C.E. and I are good buddies. I’ll have to talk to him. I hope he’s not too angry.”
The race started with 15-year old Ben Rhodes on the pole in the No. 46 with Larson in second. Both of them won the two heat races earlier on Monday. The race never got in a groove of green flag racing with nine cautions in the first 109 laps. Coleman Pressley had a strong car in practice but brought out the first caution on lap 14 when his car stopped with an issue on the track.
On the lap 25 restart Falk got by Larson for second place. The second caution was on lap 32 for an accident when Jake Crum spun and was run into by Austin Wayne Self. Both cars were done for the night.
Caution after caution would fly without a full green flag lap being completed due to contact between cars ending in spins. The fifth caution flew on lap 70 when five cars were caught up in a chain reaction incident. Matt Leicht got the worst of the accident with heavy damage to his No. 21 that ended his night. Also involved were Anthony Enders, L.B. Skaggs, Matt Bowling, and the 2012 Whelen All-American Series champion Lee Pulliam.
On a restart on lap 87 Rhodes relinquished the lead for the first time to C.E. Falk who got by on the inside on lap 88.
The caution trend continued up to lap 109 when Nate Monteith blew an engine while running in fourth. The final restart took place on lap 114 with Falk leading Rhodes and Larson. Falk began to pull away and Larson knew it was time to go. He put pressure on Rhodes for second and on lap 122 made heavy contact with Rhodes' right-rear fender in Turn 1. The contact made the front bumper of Larson's No. 98 come loose. He kept digging though and was able to pass Rhodes clean on lap 126.
He had 24 laps to close a 15 car gap that Falk had opened. By lap 140 Larson was right on the back bumper of Falk and he laid the bumper to him on lap 141 to get by for the lead. Falk would fight back and get right back by on lap 142. Larson then used the bumper a few more times to no avail and finally fell a car length back. But on the final lap Larson caught Falk again and used the spin-to-win off Turn 4.
“I got wrecked,” Falk said. “We had a great car. We worked really hard to get this car ready. He got into us really hard. I think I got monster-trucked at the end. It tore my car all to heck.”
Rhodes slid by for second with Falk coming across third. Anders and Deac McCaskill rounded out the top five.
Tomorrow night the UNOH Battle at the Beach continues with two more races. The NASCAR Whelen Modified Series will race at 7 p.m. ET on SPEED followed by the NASCAR K&N Pro Series at 8:30 ET on SPEED. Kyle Larson is entered in both of those events as well.
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