A 16th birthday is a milestone celebration for teens.
It’s an even more special day for a budding racecar driver.
Bear Rzesnowiecky has been racing at the Bullring at Las Vegas Motor Speedway for more than half his life in Bandoleros and Legends Cars, where he frequently has topped 80 mph — and been victorious.
He came of age on his 16th birthday Saturday night racing in the track’s premier class. He nearly celebrated a perfect debut into NASCAR stock-car racing before around 1,200 guests.
But his introduction to Super Late Models ended abruptly when a rear suspension part broke with two laps remaining while leading the 35-lap feature race.
“It just broke coming off turn four,” Rzesnowiecky said of a right-rear trailing arm bracket.
The bad break for the home-schooled high school graduate was good fortune for Robert Ewing Jr., who held on for his first Super Late Models win by edging Dennis Rock Jr. by 0.011 seconds.
The night was full of surprise gifts for Rzesnowiecky, who was the 11th fastest among 24 qualifiers.
A random weekly drawing determined how many cars in the starting field would be inverted based on qualifying.
Half the field came up, and that put him outside the front row at the start.
The son of noted engine builder and former sports car racer Steve Rzesnowiecky took the lead on the second lap before losing it to Scott Gafforini on lap 18.
With seven laps to go, Rzesnowiecky was running fourth. That’s when a second gift was delivered. Gafforini was leading Taylor Barton and Jeff Connors when they were involved in a collision.
A controversial ruling sent the trio to the back of the pack and handed the lead to Rzesnowiecky, who seemed headed for victory.
“It definitely felt good leading laps and trying to keep the best behind you,” he said, clearly disappointment. He was most upset that he was unable to prevent taking out Bob Barker after losing control.
“I want to apologize to (Barker). Taking him out is the worst part of the night.”
Rzesnowiecky said he plans to run several Super Late Models races at the Bullring this season and will head to Southern California to race at Irwindale Speedway.
Other feature race winners were: Phil Goodwin (Chargers), Jonathan Mawhinney (Legends Cars Pro/Master), Dylan Kwasniewski (Legends Semi Pro), Doug Hamm (Modifieds), Justin Johnson (Thunder Roadsters) and Patrick O’Hanley and Michael Morris (Bandoleros).
Contact reporter Jeff Wolf at email@example.com or 702-383-0247.