Race Weekend Central

MNR Review: Chase Cabre Claims 1st Round of 8 Spot, No More Fast Repairs & David Schildhouse Struggles

This MNR Review is presented by Monday Night Racing. 

On Monday, Jan. 9, the Interstate Batteries Monday Night Racing Pro Series kicked off the season six playoffs with the running of the Emergent VR Encounter 150 in super late models at Richmond Raceway. Chase Cabre continued his stellar rookie campaign by becoming the first multi-time winner this season and punching his ticket to the Round of 8.

Corey Heim closed in at the end but had to settle for second place. Anthony Alfredo was third, and playoff drivers Collin Fern and Adam Cabot completed the top five.

See also
Chase Cabre Wins From Pole at Richmond, Locks Into Round of 8 in Monday Night Racing

Check out the race recap from Frontstretch’s Joy Tomlinson here. Also, you can view the full race broadcast, along with the Frontstretch post-race show featuring Brandon Hauff and Michael Massie, on the Frontstretch YouTube Channel. Here are five main takeaways from the playoff opener.

1) Cabre Dominates Early & Reemerges Late

Cabre established himself as one of the dominant cars of the week by being fastest in practice and qualifying on the pole. He took advantage of the top starting spot to lead the first 47 laps of the 150-lap race at Richmond.

As pit strategies varied and caution flags piled up, Cabre remained consistent, never falling outside of the top 10. Cabre’s decisive strategy call came with 45 laps to go, when he took two right sides and came off of pit road first to restart in the third position behind leaders Cabot and Joey Padgett, both of whom stayed out on worn tires.

Cabre took the lead back with 34 laps remaining and would maintain it the rest of the way to take the checkered flag and the second victory of what has been an impressive rookie season.

“[The win] is so big, especially with Daytona next week,” Cabre told Podium. “Richmond is one of my best places.”

Cabre’s secret to success was fending off the field on several late-race restarts and being the only driver with zero incident points at the end of the day.

“It just matters so much at Richmond to have control of the start,” Cabre said. “It’s important to stay clean and have your nose in the right place.”

Has Cabre established himself as the championship favorite, or will someone else step up to match his win total?

2) Doing Away with the Fast Repair

MNR founder and commissioner Ford Martin started the playoffs with an absolute bombshell of a rule change. For the first time in MNR history, the drivers would not have the benefit of a fast repair if they got caught up in an early wreck.

Reigning MNR champ Presley Sorah summed up MNR drivers’ thoughts on the rule change in an interview with Podium’s Jacob Hitz prior to the green flag.

“It concerns me a little but not because of me making a mistake, but the other drivers around me making a mistake,” Sorah said.

The change to no fast repair was designed to encourage the racers to drive a little smarter to cut down on some of the chaotic finishes we have seen this season. Early on, that appeared to work, as the first yellow flag did not wave until lap 62.

However, as the laps ticked down and with a victory and playoff implications at stake, there would be several wrecks and two overtime periods to end the night.

Will the no fast-repair rule have a long-term impact on the racing in MNR? As competitive and intense as this season has been, I do not foresee much of a difference in the way races will play out going forward, but it will be an interesting plotline to watch.

3) A Tale of Two Races

Due in large part to the no-fast-repair rule change, the first half of Monday’s race was mostly tame. With the exception of a single-car spin by Matt Stallknecht on lap 2, the 38 drivers in the field kept it clean, focusing on clicking off laps and worrying about getting caught up in an early wreck with no fast repair.

The long green flag run to start the race allowed some playoff drivers who had poor qualifying efforts to make their way through the field. For example, Heim, who started 30th, drove all the way up to ninth by the time the first caution came out at lap 62.

With that first yellow flag, the complexion of the race changed significantly. Compared to no cautions in the first 61 laps, there were 11 cautions in the final 96 laps, most of them for big wrecks throughout the 0.75-mile short track. It was a true example of the old racing adage that “cautions breed cautions”.

There were two factors that led to a change in the racing. One, there was the pressure of the playoffs and racing for the win. Second, the combination of the difficult Richmond Raceway and the hard to handle super late models made it hard for the drivers to stay out of trouble.

4) Schildhouse’s Strategy Goes South

Playoff driver and MNR veteran David Schildhouse came up with a unique plan ahead of the race at Richmond. He opted to start the race in the pits, with the hope of avoiding calamity and gaining track position from an early caution. 

Unfortunately for Schildhouse, the beginning of the race did not play out according to his plan at all. Instead, it started with that long green flag run, and he found himself trapped a lap down.

“If there were fast repairs, we would have wrecked by now and everybody knows it,” an upset Schildhouse said on the radio during the race.

While Schildhouse would get back on the lead lap, the track position lost from the early gamble would ultimately come back to haunt him. With 48 laps to go, Schildhouse’s No. 20 super late model was upside down, one of several victims of a big backstretch crash that led to the fourth caution of the day.

With help from Justin Melillo, Schildhouse was able to get his car right side up and get to pit road without having to tow, but the damage was bad enough to end his chances of being competitive. Schildhouse wound up 35th in the final running order, 23 laps off the pace.

He now finds himself dead last in the playoff standings, most likely in a must-win situation. Will Schildhouse be able to pull off a walk-off win at Daytona International Speedway or Watkins Glen International?

5) Next Up: ARCA at Daytona

The Round of 12 marches on with the treacherous car/track combination of the ARCA cars on the high banks of Daytona. With the drivers unable to bump draft in the ARCA cars, it could be tougher to make moves than it is in the Next Gen or any other NASCAR vehicle. And of course, when it comes to Daytona, the Big One is practically inevitable.

“I’ve got to approach Daytona cautiously,” Heim told Podium. “You never know what is going to happen.”

Indeed, between this race and the Porsche 911s at Watkins Glen, the rest of the Round of 12 will be hard to predict. As of press time, the updated playoff standings were unavailable, but the only playoff driver who should feel safe is Cabre. Schildhouse will need to dig himself out of a points hole, as will Sorah, who got relegated to a 26th-place finish after getting caught up in the final wreck of the race.

BONUS: Paint Scheme of the Week

In a classy move, Ryan Vargas and his sponsor Leargas Security put together a special scheme for his No. 26 Chevrolet honoring Ken Block, the professional rallycross driver who tragically died last week in a snowmobile accident. Sorah and Ronnie Osmer also sported logos on their super late models honoring Block. 

About the author

Andrew Stoddard joined Frontstretch in May of 2022 as an iRacing contributor. He is a graduate of Hampden-Sydney College, the University of Richmond, and VCU. He has a new day job as an athletic communications specialist at Eastern Mennonite University in Harrisonburg, Va.

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