It was a night for checkered flags and championship trophies at The Bullring at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on Saturday night.
Twelve drivers won season titles at the 3/8-mile paved oval on Championship Night, an evening that was complete with new champions, a family doubling down and tight points battles. Each competitor's worst finish of the season was dropped at the conclusion of their events, adding drama to close races for 2016 hardware.
Win No. 6 of the season was good enough to secure a NASCAR Super Late Models season title for Las Vegas' Justin Johnson, who finished 22 points ahead of six-time track champion Scott Gafforini in the final standings. The season title was Johnson's third overall and first since a 2008 USLCI Thunder Cars championship.
"This is very, very special," said Johnson, who won a USLCI Bandolero Outlaws title in 2000. "Ten years ago, we lost by one point, so this is good to come back and not only win it, but win by a good margin. This one means a lot."
Peyton Saxton added a NASCAR Grand American Modifieds track championship to his resume to go along with a pair of USLCI Legends-Pro titles after winning the 30-lap feature on Saturday night. Saxton overcame Vinny Raucci Jr. down the stretch this season by winning the final three races, earning the season championship by a score of 171-162.
"It was great racing against Vinny (Raucci Jr.) and the other guys out here," Saxton said. "We never really planned on running this (car) in March, but it worked out. It was a great season, and it's been great working with Chris (Bray)."
Matt Larsen won his third consecutive NASCAR Super Stocks feature at The Bullring, taking the 30-lap race by just .614 of a second ahead of Johnny Spilotro. Larsen's victory was not enough to propel him past season points leader Don Sargent, who won his first Bullring title by a margin of 204-199.
"We've been doing this for about 16 years now, and this is our first championship and it's awesome," Sargent said. "Mason (Sargent) told me we needed third place tonight, and that's what we shot for. It came down to the wire tonight with Matt (Larsen)."
Sam Jacks held on for the NASCAR Bombers season title despite wrecking midway through the 30-lap feature and finishing 20th. Nick Nuccitelli won the race, and Michael Greve finished second in the points standings.
"Tonight, we bent the door a bit, but whatever," Jacks said. "We worked on the car a lot (this season) and made a lot of adjustments to it to try and make it faster, and it paid off in the end. Thanks to my dad and brother Kyle, because they're the reason we're out here every week."
Ian Anderson raced to his 29th career Bullring win in his first USLCI Thunder Cars race at the short track this year. Chris Bosley finished second in the race to win the division's points title for the second time in three years, out-dueling Travis Doyle in one of the closest battles of the season.
"It is awesome to have the opportunity to come out in front of the fans, put on a show and have a good time," Bosley said. "It's always awesome to have good friends to help out when you don't have the funds to come out and play. They helped out me a lot."
Cameron Morga took the checkered flag for the eighth time in 2016 after winning the 25-lap USLCI Legends feature and secured the Pro division championship in the process. Morga, who won a USLCI Legends-Young Lions title last year, won the last five races of the regular season.
"This was definitely the toughest race we've run all year," Morga said. "I knew everyone was going to be fast, and running the backup car, I didn't know if we were going to have enough to beat Donny (St. Ours), but we got a little lucky and drove away from them. I still think the 54 (car) is better, but this will be a good backup car for nationals."
Michael Todd Glazier (USLCI Legends-Masters), Brian Williams (USLCI Legends-Semi-Pro) and Caden Carlin (USLCI Legends-Young Lions) also won season championships. It was the fifth career track title for Carlin, the fourth in a row for Glazier and the first for Williams.
Kayla Eshleman earned her first track championship after winning the 12-lap USLCI Bandolero Outlaws feature and edging Camden Larsen 228-200.
"Our main focus this weekend was trying to win the championship," said Eshleman, of Twin Peaks, Calif. "My dad just kept saying to try and stay ahead of (Larsen), think and don't do anything stupid. He said to do the best I can and he'd be proud either way, and I'm just happy we're here."
R.J. Smotherman won his 10th Saturday night USLCI Bandolero Bandits race of the year to clinch his second consecutive season points title. It was his 21st career Bullring victory.
"This (title) was much more unique because I only lost one Saturday night race all season," Smotherman said. "I'm so happy. Not a lot of other kids get to race a Bando and do a lot of the things I'm doing, so I'm very thankful for it."
Smotherman wasn't the only track champion in his family, as his father, Robert, won the 12-lap skid plate cars feature to wrap up the division's 2016 track title. The Smothermans are just the second set of family members to win season titles in the same year at the famed LVMS short track, following Pat Petrie Jr. and Pat Petrie Sr. in 2001.
"I'd like to thank my whole family," Robert Smotherman said. "Thank you to everyone for coming out, and I'm going to do it again next year. I'm going to build four or five (skid plate cars), and if you guys want to rent one, come over to the pits and look me up."
NEXT RACE: Racing returns to The Bullring on Saturday, Oct. 22, for the Senator's Cup Fall Classic. U.S. Sen. Dean Heller, a former Bullring competitor, is sponsoring the special night, which will feature a $15,000 first-place prize for the Super Late Models 150-lap race winner.
NASCAR Super Late Models: Justin Johnson
NASCAR Bombers: Sam Jacks
NASCAR Super Stocks: Don Sargent
NASCAR Grand American Modifieds: Peyton Saxton
USLCI Thunder Cars: Chris Bosley
USLCI Legends-Pro: Cameron Morga
USLCI Legends-Masters: Michael Todd Glazier
USLCI Legends-Semi-Pro: Brian Williams
USLCI Legends-Young Lions: Caden Carlin
USLCI Bandolero Bandits: R.J. Smotherman
USLCI Bandolero Outlaws: Kayla Eshleman
Skid plate cars: Robert Smotherman
USLCI Bandolero Bandits 12-lap feature
1. R.J. Smotherman; 2. Jesse Love (-2.834 seconds); 3. Jaron Giannini (-4.062); 4. Amilleo Thomson (-9.180); 5. Cody Brown (-10.082); 6. Sabastian Lafia (-1 lap); 7. Tuscan Nuccitelli (-1 lap); 8. Eliana Danko (-3 laps).
USLCI Bandolero Outlaws 12-lap feature
1. Kayla Eshleman; 2. Camden Larsen (-5.797 seconds); 3. Adam Lemke (-6.901); 4. Matthew Cunningham (-7.208); 5. Ethan DeGuevara (-7.521); 6. Tia Guy (-8.868); 7. Cameron Guy (-1 lap).
USLCI Thunder Cars 20-lap feature
1. Ian Anderson; 2. Chris Bosley (-3.899 seconds); 3. Travis Boyle (-10.278); 4. Ed Hohman (-10.678); 5. Doug Germano (-12.214); 6. Darren Callaway (-15 laps).
USAC HPD Midgets 30-lap feature
1. Toni Bredinger; 2. Jesse Love (-1.174 seconds); 3. Annie Bredinger (-7.922); 4. Brian Sands (-1 lap).
NASCAR Grand American Modifieds 30-lap feature
1. Peyton Saxton; 2. Doug Hamm (-2.258 seconds); 3. Vinny Raucci Jr. (-8.541); 4. Pat Petrie (-1 lap); 5. Tom Pfundstein (-1 lap); 6. Patrick Weekly (-14 laps).
USLCI Legends 25-lap feature
1. Cameron Morga; 2. Tyler Fabozzi (-.137 of a second); 3. Donny St. Ours (-.504); 4. Ricky Schlick (-1.108); 5. Michael Todd Glazier (-6.645); 6. T.J. Clark (-6.733); 7. Devin Lane (-7.280); 8. Kole Raz (-8.019); 9. Caden Carlin (-15.821); 10. Brian Williams (-1 lap); 11. Brian Lane (-1 lap); 12. Doug Sheldon (-1 lap); 13. Kayla Eshleman (-12 laps); 14. Terry Sykes (-20 laps).
NASCAR Super Stocks 30-lap feature
1. Matt Larsen; 2. Johnny Spilotro (-.614 of a second); 3. Don Sargent (-2.094); 4. Dylin Smotherman (-3.395); 5. Justin Kiser (-3.714); 6. Joe DeGuevara (-21 laps).
Skid plate cars 12-lap feature
1. Robert Smotherman; 2. Billy Paddack Jr. (-14.347 seconds); 3. Wyatt Harwood (-33.959); 4. James Brazzeal (-34.721).
NASCAR Bombers 30-lap feature
1. Nick Nuccitelli; 2. Michael Greve (-.695 of a second); 3. Michael Riefler (-5.171); 4. Kyle Jacks (-7.522); 5. Bob Rynda (-8.671); 6. Billy Hern (-12.015); 7. Mark Skinner (-12.437); 8. Jim Merlino (-12.827); 9. Adam Simon (-14.595); 10. Gary Wyatt (-17.557); 11. Robert Schumacher (-18.010); 12. Arlie Daniel (-18.855); 13. Scott Bradbury (-20.969); 14. Matt Frady (-1 lap); 15. Scott Crane (-1 lap); 16. Bradley Thompson (-1 lap); 17. Martin Sullins (-1 lap); 18. Justin Griffiths (-9 laps); 19. Jason Merlino (-14 laps); 20. Sam Jacks (-15 laps); 21. Gary Griffiths (-15 laps).
NASCAR Super Late Models 50-lap feature
1. Justin Johnson; 2. Jay Beasley (-2.632 seconds); 3. Warren Knipper (-7.896); 4. Scott Gafforini (-9.461); 5. David Anderson (-14.485); 6. Gary Clift (-1 lap); 7. Donna Gunther (-2 laps); 8. Stan Mullis (-2 laps); 9. Wade Bland (-22 laps); 10. Kayli Barker (-34 laps); 11. Steve Anderson (-34 laps); 12. Cole Cabrera (-38 laps); 13. Dennis Rock Jr. (-39 laps); 14. Dee Cable (-39 laps); 15. Chris Bosley (-41 laps).