“The last two turns were the most terrifying thing that I’ve ever been a part of,” said Cade Clason.
Everyone saw it coming. “Everybody…look at this!” boomed NBCSN’s Leigh Diffey. At that point, the race call just unfolded down to a laugh and a yell, because there were no words that could accurately describe the impending combination of implosion and explosion. Five riders were in the same section, but only four were going to make the main, and the checkered flag was within view. This was classic last chance qualifier warfare, where anything goes, especially with a bowl turn before the finish.
The man in the desperate spot was Broc Tickle. Broc has always been a main eventer. He doesn’t go to races with a goal of merely making a main. His goal is solid finishes, top tens. Top fives and podiums in his prime. But Tickle was back in fifth, outside looking in, on the final straight.
Luckily for Broc, the pack was tight, because early LCQ race leader Cade Clason had suffered a flat front tire.
“It was terrifying because I thought I was going to blow it,” said Clason.
That flat slowed him, and brought the pack close together. Kevin Moranz, normally a 250 class racer, and veteran Scott Champion, both slipped past. Clason, with the flat, was fighting for his life to make the main, and his old buddy Alex Ray was rolling up from fourth. Then came Tickle, which made for five riders going for four spots on the last lap.
Everyone knew what Tickle had to do here. He had riders right in front of him and a bowl turn to go, so he was setting up to punt some combination of Ray, Clason, Champion and Moranz—or maybe all four—all the way back to the pits. So aggressive was Broc’s move that he actually crashed on the landing of the triple before he could even set up for the pass. He was planning this angle out well before the corner! Clason and Ray got bailed out, but A-Ray, in classic A-Ray fashion, still rolled the finish line and crashed when he hit the mess of dirt and Tough Blox on the landing. One dude made it in with a front flat, and the other crashed on the finish line jump but still qualified. It was a moment of pure chaos, the kind of highlight reel LCQs have trademarked.
“I got pretty lucky because I didn’t ride good all day,” said SGB Racing/Maxxis/Babbitt’s Kawasaki’s Ray. “After the heat race I was considering selling everything and quitting. We turned it around and we did good. My mechanic Mike had it on the pit board that Tickle was coming, I’ve got Cade bunching in front of me, and Tickle is on my ass….”
By the way, if Tickle had not crashed, it was going to be crazy, but everyone would have been fine with it because anything goes when main event slots are on the line. That’s the expected carnage of the last chance qualifier, and in one moment in Arlington, it delivered.