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home : features : strap in July 22, 2014

9/13/2012 10:00:00 PM
12 Cup Teams Set for the Playoffs After a Not-So-Exciting Last Chance Race to Get In at Richmond.
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Bear Ridge Speedway Modified driver Dan Eastman (3), shown here running with Brian Whitmore (36), is one of only three guys with four top 10s in the season’s first four races. The other two are Justin Comes and Jason Gray.

 


Biggy Bigelow


I believe there were eight guys fighting for the last two spots in the playoffs headed to Richmond last Saturday night. I sharpened three No. 2 pencils (complete with fresh erasers), changed the batteries in my calculator and even rented a left-handed monkey named Chip who was trained to run a slide rule (you young readers ask your teachers what a slide rule is) and crunch numbers.

After running the numbers he was trained as to what numbers went with what driver. When he saw numbers he liked he’d show me the driver’s photo card of said driver. Before the race started he handed me the cards of Kasey Kahne and Kyle Busch, they were his early picks. We then sat down to what I thought was going to be an exciting night of all sorts of who’s in and who’s out possibilities.

Six guys were in a position where if they won they were in, and a couple others could still get in if they won and some others had some trouble. The pre-race hype was centered around Jeff Gordon and Busch – I guess you could call them the favorites. Had either of them won, they were in. If I was a betting man I would have bet on Denny Hamlin. At the drop of the green flag I don’t think Gordon could have gotten to the back any faster had he turned around and drove in the other direction. Ryan Newman ran up front a little, but he didn’t last long.

It took a rain delay and Gordon’s crew chief Alan Gustafson’s decision to cut the chain on the rear sway bar to get Gordon charging to the front in the final 100 laps to add some suspense to the race. Had Busch’s crew chief Dave Rodgers pitted Busch when Gordon pitted the suspense would have been over (more on that later).

I’m not sure now many fans were still awake around 1 a.m. (the monkey went down about 12:45) when Gordon was headed to the front, but it appeared he was in and Busch was going to be out long before the checkers fell because Busch was not going anywhere as Gordon was driving by cars. I guess the only question late was did Clint Bowyer have enough gas to finish or would Gordon win, therefore not having to worry about points if Busch all of a sudden started passing cars. Busch lost a shot at the playoffs by three spots on the racetrack over a 26-race schedule.

And, for the record, after Chip’s last calculations he pointed to Kahne and Gordon just as he dosed off, as the slide rule slipped through his fingers and on to the floor.

Dave Rogers, Kyle Busch’s Crew Chief, Speaks

The Vermont native summed it up in three words – “I blew it.” He said, “There’s no two ways to look at it.” Rogers figured when the rain came on lap 277 (of 400) the race would be called official because it was late and over half done.

He continued, “I’m pretty honest. I evaluate myself as hard as I evaluate my guys, and I gave one up. I saw it was past midnight, and I had a feeling if we lost the race track, the race was going to be over. But the bottom line is, we were racing the 24 and nobody else. So if I just pitted when they pitted, even if it did rain-out, I would have been one position ahead of them, and that would have been enough to secure a spot in the Chase.

“But when the rain came, I started racing for positions and not racing the 24. I got caught up in the moment of getting the best finish I could out of a race, and it ended up costing us. The radar looked worse than it did the first time the track was red-flagged for 52 minutes. I thought if they red-flagged it again the race is over. In hindsight, it’s a really easy call – and I flat blew it.”

Team owner Joe Gibbs spent more time with Rogers after the event than he did with Busch or anyone else. Gibbs said, “Dave and I were just up there sharing the disappointment. I think for all of us here, you just feel bad because of all that was put into this. Again, this is pro sports and the best people in the world competing at this level. It can happen to you. We’re just very disappointed. I hate it for M&Ms and for all of us on the race team, Kyle, all of us. It was just a real disappointing night.”

Both Joe and Gibb’s president JD said they were behind Rogers going forward.

From the Mailbag

Phil, the driver of the land rover on Mars, wrote, “Hey Big, I just returned from Mars, I left the Tuesday after the Daytona 500. Because of budget cuts to the space program I was up there without cable (wouldn’t you know it, the satellites were pointed in the other direction so I couldn’t steal a signal) or the internet so I know nothing about the Cup series the last 25 races.

“I thought they were only going to take the top 10 to the playoffs. My neighbor, Gus, told me they took the top 12. And weren’t guys going to get three bonus points for winning? If so why do both (Kasey) Kahne and (Jeff) Gordon only have 2,000 points, Gus said Kahne had two wins and Gordon had one. I also thought a driver had to win to get in? Gus, who knows little about racing, told me he read both (Kevin) Harvick and (Martin) Truex Jr. didn’t win a race this year but are in, what am I missing?”

• I replied, it just turned out the 11th and 12th guys in points were the wild cards just like last year. Because Truex Jr. and Harvick were in the top 10 they got in on points and because Kahne and Gordon were wildcards they lost their points for winning races.

Phil replied, “So Truex Jr. and Harvick are in the playoffs with no wins because they finished in the top 10 in points while Kyle Busch, Marcos Ambrose, Ryan Newman and Joey Logano didn’t get in because they won but weren’t in the top 10 in points? Am I the only one that doesn’t make sense to?

“And before I let you go, is it fair Tony Stewart – who was 104 points behind Greg Biffle when the checkers flew at Richmond – is now three points ahead of him. Yet Kyle Busch (with a win) – who was only 67 points behind Harvick (without a win) – has no shot at the championship but Harvick does? I sure wish Big Bill (France) would have left some better instructions on how to run things in his absence.

Thanks for your time Big, Phil.”

P.S. I’m rooting for Gordon only because he was 12th in points, 137 points behind the leader. And does anyone know what channel the Denver Broncos are on?

Castrol Series Wins Showdown

Dany Trepanier won the 200-lapper and led his Série ACT Castrol team to a dominant win in the fifth annual “Showdown at Chaudiere” at Autodrome Chaudiere, Sept. 9. Trepanier earned $5,000 for the win plus the Castrol team picked up the $500 bonus for each of its team members with the overall win. Fellow Quebecer Karl Allard took second while Joey Polewarczyk Jr. was the highest finishing ACT U.S. competitor in third.

Patrick Laperle and Brian Hoar were in a three-way battle with Polewarczyk over the final laps but had to settle for fourth and fifth, respectively. Glen Luce, David Michaud, Patrick Hamel, Jean-François Déry and Randy Potter completed the top 10.

Then it was: 11. Patrick Cliche, 12. Etienne Cliche, 13. Wayne Helliwell Jr., 14. Jonathan Bouvrette, 15. Rowland Robinson Jr., 16. Claude Leclerc, 17. Spencer MacPherson, 18. Gaetan Lauzier, 19. Jimmy Hebert, 20. Jean-Paul Cyr, 21. Cris Michaud, 22. Donald Theetge.

Trepanier was dominant after starting on the pole with a +4 in qualifying. He led 193 of the 200 laps after battling with Karl Allard early. He broke out to a straightaway lead during a couple of long green flag runs and cruised to victory. Laperle and Hoar both hit pit road on a couple of cautions before working their way back to the front late in the race.

The Série ACT Castrol team claimed their first Showdown overall win in the five-year history of the event, beating the ACT U.S. team 84 to 129, the biggest margin ever. Two ACT U.S. teams (Austin Theriault and Joey Becker) did not return after the rain-out Sept. 8, so the Castrol team got to drop their two lowest finishes, so the combined was 10 versus 10. The 200-lap event saw eight cautions and was completed in 1 hour and 18 minutes.

ACT Late Model Tour

The Labor Day Classic held at Thunder Road was race No. 9 of the 10 events that make up the 2012 schedule. The final point-counting race will be at Airborne Speedway in Plattsburg, NY, Oct. 6. Forty-four cars showed up at The Road, so for the season we’ve seen 354 cars or 39.3 cars per event.

• 112 different drivers have attempted to qualify for at least one event.

• 76 of them have been to two or more.

• 16 guys have been to all nine races.

• Nine drivers have qualified for all the races. Three others have started 8 of 9.

• Four guys have wins. Brian Hoar has four, Wayne Helliwell three. Ben Ashline and Austin Theriault each have one.

• 12 different drives have a top 3, 21 a top 5 and 37 a top 10.

• Three new drivers attempted their first-ever ACT Late Model Tour race in the past two events. So in the 232 ACT Late Model Tour point-counting races run to date (1992 to present, 651 different drivers have taken a green flag in a heat race.

Austin Theriault

Theriault returns to the seat of the Brad Keselowski Racing No. 29 Checkered Flag Foundation Dodge for the ASA Midwest Tour 3M 150 at Iowa Speedway in Newton, Iowa, Sept. 14. Theriault finished fourth in the World Crown 300 at Gresham Motorsports Park on July 4. Theriault, 18, will be making his Iowa Speedway debut.

He has two top 5s and four top 10s in six Super Late Model starts for BKR in 2012. He’ll make his NASCAR K&N Pro Series East debut in the G-Oil 100 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, Sept. 22, in a car fielded by Go Green Racing.

Devil’s Bowl Speedway

The West Haven track will close out their season Sept. 15-16 with the Vermont 200 Weekend. The event is expected to draw some strong Late Model drivers for the final race of the four-race Vermont State Championship. The Late Models and open-wheeled Modifieds will run a pair of 100-lap events on the 16th.

Nick Sweet and Dave Pembroke enter the weekend tied for the lead in the Series standings. Sweet won both races at Thunder Road but struggled at Devil’s Bowl in June. Pembroke won the first-ever asphalt Late Model race at Devil’s Bowl in 2010 and finished fifth in June.

Points – 1. Pembroke and Sweet 244, 3. Brent Dragon 232, 4. Phil Scott 216, 5. Brooks Clark 214, 6. Ricky Rolfe 210, 7. Jimmy Hebert 204, 8. Chip Grenier 202, 9. Cris Michaud and Joey Becker 192.

• For more information, call 802-265-3112 or click www.devilsbowlspeedwayvt.com. Devil’s Bowl Speedway is located on Route 22A in West Haven, VT, four miles north of Exit 2 on U.S. Route 4.

The 50th Annual Milk Bowl

Back in 1962, a then 27-year-old Ken Squier thought it might be fun to run a race in three segments at Thunder Road, the quarter-mile track in Barre. You have to remember, back then a lot of people who knew nothing of the sport thought racing was full of a bunch of roughnecks. It was 17 years before CBS carried the first 500-miler flag-to-flag.

Ken figured they’d run time trials to line up the first 50-lap segment. This was back in the days of 20- maybe 30-lap main events. He decided to give the winner one point and the guy who finished second received two points and so on down the line. After the first segment, he inverted the field and ran them another 50 laps, same point deal as the first segment. After points were tallied, they flipped the finish one last time and ran the third 50-lap segment. Low score won.

In this writer’s opinion this may be one the top three best ideas in all of racing. I rank it right up there with building and two-and-a-half-mile high-banked speedway in Daytona. I’ve said it more than a few dozen times over the 14 plus years I’ve been penning this column, NASCAR should look at running this format four or five times a year to add some excitement to some of their ho-hum speedways.

• The last weekend of the month (Sept. 29-30) The Road will be running the Milk Bowl for the 50th time. Twice it was run at Catamount Stadium in Milton, 1978 and 1980, and in 1981 the race was not run.

More Milk Bowl stats next week.

PASS Sanctions Triple Crown at Autodrome Chaudiere in 2013

Pro All Stars Series (PASS) president Tom Mayberry and Autodrome Chaudiere (Vallee-Jonction, P.Q. Canada) new owners Dany Lagace and Kevin Roberge announced earlier this week a Super Late Model three-race event with a $123,000 purse in 2013. Drivers who compete in all three events will split up $30,000 with the Triple Crown winner banking $7,000.

Mayberry said, “This is really an exciting day, not only for PASS and Autodrome Chaudiere, but for short-track racing as a whole. The fans and racers in Canada are some of the best you will find anywhere in the world and we’ve really enjoyed working with Dany and Kevin in this venture. With the Autobus La Quebecois Triple Crown, the best short-track racers in the United States will compete against Canada’s best at Autodrome Chaudiere. Most importantly, those teams who put in that extra effort to compete in all three races will be rewarded with a great bonus points fund. To say we’re excited would be an understatement.”

Each race of the Triple Crown will have its own unique identity. Round 1 will be a 150-lapper on May 18, 2013 and will double as the Autodrome Chaudiere season opener. Round 2 on July 9, 2013 will feature a yet-to-be-named NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver in competition. The final round will be a 200-lap race on Sept. 7, 2013. It will pay $6,000 to win and pay the race leader a $100 a lap.

The $30,000 bonus point fund is, 1. $7,000, 2. $3,500, 3. $2,500, 4. $2,000, 5. $1,800, 6. $1,600, 7. $1,500, 8. $1,400, 9. $1,350, 10. $1,300, 11. $1,250, 12. $1,200, 13. $1,200, 14. $1,200, 15. $1,200.

Changes Happening at Riverside Speedway

Riverside Speedway owner CJ Robinson has reached an agreement with local businessman Dan Fournier on taking control of the raceway. Fournier, owner of Lancaster (NH) Auto Sales, took over operations Sept. 1. He’s looking to bring back “affordable family fun” to the track in 2013.

Longtime Riverside employee Melinda “Min” Kennett thinks the news is great for the town. “Groveton badly needs Riverside as a business. Dan has a great group of people ready to do whatever it takes to bring the Speedway back on its feet. I can’t wait to start this new adventure with Dan and our group.

Fournier announced the Berlin City Auto Group Enduro 150 and Spectator Drags for Nov. 3.

ACT at NHMS

The ACT Bond Auto Parts Invitational at New Hampshire Motor Speedway is set for Sept. 22. Post time is 4:30 p.m. The schedule that day is Saturday, at 8 a.m. the grandstands open and the ACT cars practice from 8 to 9. At 9:15 a.m., the Cup Series practices for an hour and after a 45-minute break they go back out from 11-11:50 a.m.

At 12:15 p.m. the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour F.W. Webb 100 takes to the track. At 2:30 p.m. the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East will run the G-Oil 100. The Invitational will be followed by the U.S. Legends Car International Series Races (0.25-mile track in turns 1 and 2) around 5:45.

The 43-car field has been announced (I suggest you clip this out of the paper and bring it with you): Ricky Roberts 3VT, Glen Luce 7ME, Ben Lynch 7NC, Guy Caron 8NH, Emily Packard 9ME, Ben Ashline 15ME, Joey Laquerre 15VT, Scott Dragon 16NY, Ryan Kimball 16ON , Eddie MacDonald 17MA, and Ray Parent 17RI.

Also, Jamie Fisher 18VT, Dany Trepanier 19QC, Jean-Francois Dery 21QC, Dave Farrington Jr. 23ME, Wayne Helliwell Jr. 27NH, Rowland Robinson, Jr. 28ME, Aaron Fellows 29NH, Jean-Paul Cyr 32VT, Brian Hoar 37VT, David Michaud 40Q and Jamie Aube 41VT.

Others are Andre Beaudoin 48QC, Ricky Rolfe 51ME, Austin Theriault 57ME, Jimmy Hebert 58VT, TJ Brackett 61ME, Dan McHattie 71ON, Donald Theetge 80QC, Bryan Mercer 81ON, Travis Stearns 85ME, Jeff Taylor 88ME and Nick Sweet 88VT.

The rest are Patrick Laperle 91QC, Shawn Martin 94ME, Joey Polewarczyk Jr. 97NH, and Randy Potter 02NH, Pete Yetman 21MA, Bruce Jaycox 56VT, Brooks Clark 68VT,Jimmy Linardy 77MA, Quinny Welch 78NH, and Tom Carey Jr. 07MA.

Until Next Week

How many times during this past off-season did you tell yourself you were going to go to more races this year? Time is running out fast. Call that old buddy you used to travel to the races with and get to a short track this week. Join me, but remember: “If you’re not having fun, stay home and don’t bother those of us who are.”

 







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