Jonathan Shafer makes a lap around Dominion Raceway during practice for the Radley Chevrolet 125 on Saturday. (Photo: Andrew Fuller)

The Solid Rock Carriers CARS LMSC Tour Radley Chevrolet 125 at Dominion Raceway on Saturday featured a thrilling finish that saw Jonathan Findley earn his first career victory in the series after starting in the 13th position.

Behind Findley was an intense battle for second place that concluded with Mini Tyrrell, Jonathan Shafer and Brandon Pierce colliding with one another and crashing after they crossed the start-finish line.

Pierce was disappointed that his third place finish at Dominion resulted in his #2 Fremont Properties Chevrolet sustaining significant damage, which led to him questioning Shafer on some of the decisions he made throughout the evening.

“[Shafer] missed a shift not once, but twice, which tore up [Heim’s] car and mine,” Pierce said. “Then at the end, he sails it off in there and knocks the hell out of [Tyrrell,] which gets him out of shape and causes [Riggs] to get into me, and there’s no sense in that. If it’s for the win, then I get it, but we’re going too fast to jack people up at that part of the corner.”

Prior to the accident, Shafer had enjoyed his best weekend as a CARS LMSC Tour rookie by earning his first career pole with a lap of 15.074 in qualifying. Shafer maintained that speed once the green flag dropped by leading the first 58 laps until he was passed by Jared Fryar on a restart.

Shafer’s stellar run started to fall apart shortly afterwards when he failed to get his #2 Toyota going on two consecutive restarts. The ensuing stack-up effects caused damage to several cars and ended up eliminating Heim, Craig Moore and Ronald Hill from the 125-lap feature.

Shafer was worried that the issues with his gearbox would force him to retire early, but he credited everyone on Nelson Motorsports for quickly diagnosing the problem and allowing him an opportunity to regain his lost track position.

“On that first restart, I went into fourth and it didn’t go all the way into fourth,” Shafer said. “I thought I missed a shift, but it happened again on the next restart, so I had to come into the pits on third gear, my guys worked underneath the car and they push-started me off. Once I got back on track, they asked me to try and go back to fourth under caution, and it did work.”

Shafer methodically worked his way through the slower traffic, and found himself inside the Top 5 when Chad McCumbee stopped his car at the exit of pit lane with a flat tire, which set up a two-lap shootout to the checkered flag.

Findley pulled away from the field on the restart, while Shafer put pressure on Tyrrell and Pierce for second. As the group came to the checkered flag, Shafer attempted to fill a narrow gap between Pierce and Tyrrell, but the opening closed up and all three got together, with Pierce and Tyrrell spinning in Turn 1.

Although Shafer was proud to bring home a career-best finish of fourth, he believed that he had a race-winning car and wanted to improve his position on the last lap. He added that the contact between him, Tyrrell and Pierce was unavoidable with everyone working to obtain the same goal.

“Mini washed up the track and there was a lane right there,” Shafer said. “Pierce wanted to come up I guess and I had nowhere else to go. I just got mashed in between two cars. I wasn’t forcing my way in there because my bumper was past his driver’s door.”

Tyrrell, who managed to hold off Pierce and Shafer for second, attributed the last-lap accident to Shafer’s aggression, but he does not hold any resentment towards him and is looking forward to building on the momentum from his strong performance at Dominion.

“I got into Turn 3, was pushed around a little bit and then got wrecked coming across the line,” Tyrrell said. “[Shafer] drove it in pretty deep there, and I’m not sure what his logic was on that, but it is what it is. We we’re able to hold onto it and not damage too many racecars.”

Through the chaos, Pierce obtained his firs Top 5 of the 2020 CARS LMSC Tour season, but he admitted that the finish came with a cost, as the contact between him, Shafer and Tyrrell caused damage to his suspension that will have to be repaired at the shop by Lee Pulliam Performance.

Pierce elected to not talk to Shafer about the crash after the race in order to avoid a potential conflict, but even though Pierce understands how circumstances can unfold on the final lap of any race, he believes that Shafer could have used better judgement while fighting for track position.

“I’ve been doing this for a while, and if you try to talk to him, somebody is going to get their feelings hurt and it will turn into something it shouldn’t,” Pierce said. “I started going that way, but I realized that it wasn’t worth it, but if we pass each other, I will definitely tell him my opinion on the accident. I can’t fault the kid for trying, but when it ain’t your night, it ain’t your night.”

Pierce, Shafer and Tyrrell will each try to become the sixth different winner on the 2020 CARS LMSC Tour season on Aug. 22 when the series travels to a venue that has yet to be determined.