(9/5/21, Alex Nieten) Chico, CA … The combination of Justin Sanders and Paul Silva can’t seem to stop collecting trophies.

In the Louie Vermeil Classic finale at Chico’s Silver Dollar Speedway, Sanders came out on top after a 30-lap war with some of the west coast’s best. The triumph marked his fourth of the year, third in the last six races since climbing aboard the Works Limited No. 57 and his tenth career with the NARC-King of the West Fujitsu Sprint Cars.

The intense fight for the win left some with ruffled feathers, and while Sanders held no ill-intent, he acknowledged that heated tempers are sometimes the by-product of racing, especially in an event as significant as The Louie.

“We were all fighting hard,” Sanders said. “Me and Kyle (Hirst) rubbing wheels and banging wheels, Kyle and Colby (Copeland) banging wheels. I slid Colby down there in turn three, and we hit and I spun him out. It wasn’t intentional, just hard racing. It’s racing, we’re racing for a big purse and big win.”

The green flag waved, and the battle immediately kicked off on lap one as front row starters Sanders and Colby Copeland leaned on each other in turns one and two. Copeland came out ahead down the backstretch, but before the race could establish a rhythm a yellow came out for Corey Day slowing on the front stretch on lap three. On the restart, another caution for an incident between Sean Watts and Michael Ing again slowed the pace.

After the pair of yellows, racing resumed and Copeland bolted ahead. As the race approached the halfway mark, Kyle Hirst roared to life in lap traffic, moving by Sanders after some contact for the runner-up position on lap 14. Just three laps later, Hirst threw a successful slider on Copeland in turn three to steal the lead.

Unfortunately for Copeland, Hirst brought Sanders with him, but Sanders’ move didn’t quite clear the 16A machine resulting in contact and a caution for a spun Copeland in turn four. Copeland would express his displeasure with Sanders later after the checkered flag flew.

Another quick yellow came out for Willie Croft following the incident between Sanders and Copeland.

The green flag came back out with 14 to go, and Sanders stalked Hirst as the duo approached traffic. The first opportunity he saw, Sanders pounced.  The pilot of the Works Limited No. 57 threw a huge slider at Hirst on lap 22. Again, Sanders couldn’t quite clear the Williams Motorsports No. 0, but after some slight contact Sanders gained control of the top spot.

Hirst managed to keep pace with Sanders and attempted a few sliders as the laps waned, but he couldn’t ever gather enough momentum to clear him, and Sanders held on to win by just under one second. The victory was Sanders first Louie Vermeil Classic triumph.

“I’m happy, but I just feel like crap,” Sanders, who was fighting a cold in addition to four-time series titlist Hirst, said. “This will make the four-hour, miserable drive home a lot better. Happy to get this done.”

While he would’ve preferred to win, Hirst enjoyed every moment of the main event.

“I had an absolute blast,” Hirst said. “I gave it everything I had right there. I was racing with one of the best of California right now, and it was pretty awesome.”

Behind the battle for the win, Dominic Scelzi crept onto the podium for his eighth consecutive appearance in the top three in the Scelzi Enterprises/Red Rose Transportations No. 41. The point leader was especially pleased with the racing surface.

“That was so much fun,” Scelzi said. “I feel like the last couple of races it’s been really hard to have that kind of racing, and that just goes to show you slick tracks make the best kind of racing.”

Shane Golobic finished fourth, making it seven top fives in his last seven series appearances. Tanner Carrick, Tim Kaeding, Carson Short, Corey Day, Bud Kaeding and Colby Copeland completed the top ten.

FUJITSU GENERAL USA FEATURE (30 laps): 1. Justin Sanders 57 2. Kyle Hirst 0 3. Dominic Scelzi 41 4. Shane Golobic 17W 5. Tanner Carrick 83T 6. Tim Kaeding 42X 7. Carson Short 7 8. Corey Day 21 9. Bud Kaeding 69 10. Colby Copeland 16A 11. Jessie Attard 53 12. Ryan Robinson 56 13. Joel Myers Jr. 46JR 14. Sean Becker 83V 15. Billy Aton 26 16. Sean Watts 98 17. Angelo Cornet 55A 18. Austin McCarl 88 19. Blake Carrick 38B 20. Willie Croft 29 21. DJ Netto 88N 22. Mitchell Faccinto 37 23. JJ Ringo 2 24. Michael Ing 21X
HOOSIER TIRE LAP LEADERS: Copeland 1-16, Hirst 17-21, Sanders 22-30

ARP FAST QUALIFIER (29 cars): Colby Copeland 11.971

BROWN AND MILLER RACING SOLUTIONS HEAT ONE (10 laps): Scelzi, Sanders, Copeland, Watts, Ing, Cornet, Clark, Ringo
FUJITSU GENERAL USA HEAT TWO (10 laps): Golobic, Attard, Netto, Faccinto, T. Carrick, McCarl, Tabor Jr.
FLORACING.COM HEAT THREE (10 laps): Croft, Becker, B. Kaeding, B. Carrick, Myers Jr., Short, Bloomfield
KAEDING PERFORMANCE HEAT FOUR (10 laps): Hirst, Robinson, Day, T. Kaeding, Aton, Ingraham, Strole

PYROTECT SEMI (12 laps): McCarl, Short, Cornet, Ringo, Ingraham, Tabor Jr., Clark, Strole, Bloomfield
SUNNYVALLEY “POWERED BY BACON” DASH (6 laps): Sanders, Copeland, Croft, Hirst, Becker, Attard

Justin Sanders and Kyle Hirst did give each other an inch in a great battle in Chico. Photo by Donna Peter