MADERA, CALIFORNIA (March 18, 2023) – Madera’s Robbie Kennealy, 17, stormed to his first career MAVTV-televised Lunkerdaddy Pro Late Model feature win, taking the $5,000 to win Speed Fest at Madera Speedway on Saturday night. 11-year-old Vito Cancilla of Martinez claimed the 51FIFTY Jr. Late Model Series feature while 15-year-old Ethan Nascimento of Manteca scored the INEX Legends Tour win. INEX Bandoleros were won by Andrew Williams. Photos by Ethan Smith
Kennealy previously tied atop the 51FIFTY Jr. Late Model Series standings in 2022 after a season finale victory in October, ultimately finishing runner-up in the championship after the points tie-breaker. Saturday’s Pro Late Model victory continues a red hot streak of momentum for the 17-year-old.
“Man I need to catch my breath right now. I can’t believe we just did that. That one is for my grandma, she passed away a couple weeks ago,” Kennealy said. “It was just about being patient and making the right adjustment. We had a really good adjustment thanks to John Keller. Just stayed in third and when it was time to pounce, we did. It’s a long season, but after that – I don’t’ know how you couldn’t be looking forward to the rest of this season.”
Kennealy earned fast-time in qualifying on the one-third asphalt oval, then rolled off fourth in the 100-lap feature. 2021 Jr. Late Model champion Brody Armtrout of Smartsville drew the pole and held the lead at the start. San Jose’s Jay Juleson was pinned on the outside and fell back to seventh from his third starting position on lap 15. His teammate Matt Erickson of La Grange, a four-time season opener winner, started ninth but drove up to fifth within the first 20 laps.
The first caution flew on lap 35 when Howard Ferguson, Jr. spun in his series debut. Armtrout picked the inside of Shelden Cooper of Clovis for the restart. A slide for Armtrout allowed Cooper to use the outside to seize the lead on lap 36. The caution flew on the following lap for Loomis’ Kenna Mitchell having trouble in turn three.
Juleson got pinned on the outside again and fell back to eighth, being passed by Eagle, Idaho’s Jacob Smith for seventh. Cooper led the field into the break on lap 50 ahead of Armtrout, Kennealy, Tyler Herzog of Fresno, and Erickson. Cooper selected the outside on the restart with Armtrout driving inside of him to take over on lap 52. Eric Nascimento, Jr. spun rear first into the turn one wall for a caution on lap 54. Erickson fell outside the top-five, then had a prolonged pit stop for repairs.
Cooper and Armtrout collided on the backstretch on a lap 56 restart, sliding into a nose-to-nose contact in turn three to end their duel for the lead. Cooper was unable to continue while Armtrout restarted at the back.
The skirmish allowed Robbie Kennealy to assume the top position with Tyler Herzog leaping into second. Jason Aguirre of Atwater spun after tagging Smith on the restart and was eliminated from the race as well. Rick Thompson of Fresno worked his way up to fourth position by lap 61, then was a part of some of the tightest battling over the second half of the event.
Juleson and 16th starting Keith Nelson of Ukiah battled side-by-side for third for several laps until Juleson cleared Nelson on lap 94. Kennealy drove ahead of Herzog for a 1.43 second advantage and the $5,000 triumph. Juleson topped Nelson for fourth. Kenna Mitchell came back to finish fifth.
11-year-old Vito Cancilla of Martinez, Calif. topped a new crop of drivers ages 10-16 years-old for his first career 51FIFTY Jr. Late Model Series victory. The 70-lap feature took the green flag with no previous series winners in the field.
Madera’s Joey Kennealy started on the pole position and led Bakersfield’s Taylor Mayhew. Cancilla was the first driver to go upstairs, passing Chase Hand of Wilton, Calif. for third on lap five. Cam Carraway and Las Vegas’ Bryson Brown collided to bring out a caution on the following lap. Mayhew peeked inside Kennealy for the lead before the next caution on lap 13.
Cancilla restarted third behind Kennealy and muscled his way to the inside. Cancilla took over the top spot on lap 16. Kennealy, Hand, and Mayhew swapped positions for second up to the lap 40 break for MAVTV interviews and adjustments. Cancilla led Hand, Kennealy, Mayhew, and San Antonio, Texas’ Tristan Pena into the break.
Hand and Kennealy put on a show for second with Hand eventually using a dramatic cross over move in turn one to swoop underneath Kennealy, taking second on lap 54. Vito Cancilla went on to lead Hand, Kennealy, Carraway, and Pena at the finish for his first series win, while Mayhew finished sixth.
2022 Jr. Late Model champ Ethan Nascimento of Manteca won the 40-lap INEX Legends Tour Series main event with 23 cars in action. Zach Sansom led the opening three laps before 2022 champion Cody Winchel of Sebastopol took over. Wyatt Sansom suffered a hard crash into the turn three wall and was transported to a local medical facility for evaluation, but was awake and alert. Kevin Travels and Bakersfield’s Josh Ayers had a tangle battling inside the top-five as well.
Bakersfield’s Colton Page collided with Winchel for the lead into turn one on lap 25, relegating both drivers to the rear. Nascimento assumed the lead with teammate Cancilla in tow. Aidan Phillips of Madera and Kayci Phillips, ironically unrelated, crashed in turn one to set up a five lap shootout to the finish. Nascimento held the lead for the victory over Cancilla, Henry Barton, Sacramento’s Jason Philpot, and a hard charging Kevin Travels.
Andrew Williams topped Kaine Bettencourt for the 15-lap INEX Bandolero victory.
Next Saturday night, March 25 will be CLUB RACE #1 / Smokey Hanoian Classic, featuring: Madera Late Models, Madera Super Stocks, MST/Toyota Sedans, Jr Late Model Exhibition race, Madera Mini Stocks, and Legends of Kearney Bowl.
For more information about the Madera Speedway including how to advertise with a race team on MAVTV please visit www.racemadera.com or call the race office at 209-356-1968.
The 2022 season would not be possible without the support of Lunkerdaddy Fishing Lures, 51FIFTY LTM, Mission Foods, 805 Beer, Race 2B Drug Free, Competition Carburetion, Hoosier Tires, and Sunoco Race Fuel.
Madera Racing on MAVTV airs Monday nights at 5:00pm Pacific and 8:00pm Eastern.
2023 MADERA MAVTV LATE MODEL SCHEDULE
March 18 – $5,000-to-win
May 20 – Military Tribute Night
June 24 – Reverend Ron Spencer Red, White Blue Classic
July 22 – $5,000-to-win
October 7 – $10,000-to-win Short Track Shootout