SANDERS WAITS TWENTY YEARS FOR THE THRONE by Jeremy Troiano
Ronnie Finally Wins World Crown 300 At Peach State
Kings, queens, princes and princesses are normally born onto the throne. They might have to wait some time for their crowning, but they’ll make it there eventually.
Racers, they have to work for things like that. There is no guarantee. And when you are searching for the crown that goes with winning the annual World Crown 300 at Peach State Speedway in Jefferson, Georgia, racers have to work that much harder.
Hawkins started on the outside pole and took the lead on lap three. He pulled away and ran a solid pace until Willard caught him and grabbed the top spot on lap 25.
Willard pulled away from the rest of the field, with Hawkins not too far behind, and set a pace that looked like it might go unmatched.
But this was Wayne Willard. And for the last couple of years, nothing has gone his way. And Sunday turned out to be no different.
Ronnie Sanders climbed out of his car to get his crown after 20 years of trying.
With the race in hand, Willard’s #01 blew up in a cloud of smoke in turns one and two on lap 62, ending his shot at the World Crown title.
“It was running good up until then, but it didn’t give not warning or nothing,” said Willard. “I was just trying to run a steady pace and stay the same distance from Bubba (Pollard). I was trying not to abuse the car and it let go.
“Hey, what can you do? That is the way my last year and a half has gone. I was just out there for a Sunday drive.”
That handed the lead over to Bubba Pollard, who had
Early on, the race was about Wayne Willard (#01) and Matt Hawkins (#22).
For years, the race drew some of the top names in all of short track racing, like Mark Martin, Rusty Wallace, Dick Trickle, Butch Miller and many more. One name that has always seemed to be there, but never on the winner’s trophy, was that of Ronnie Sanders.
Sanders is a staple in short track racing around the southeast. He drivers in a number of series, in a number of cars and just about anywhere he can, be it Pro Late Models at Lanier National Speedway or Super Late Models at Five Flags Speedway.
In 1984, Sanders tried to win his first World Crown and couldn’t. In 2004, he tried to win it. That day, he left with a junked racecar. In between those years, he’s tried to win it.
In 2005, he finally won it.
“There is quite a big difference between last year and this year, huh?” the mild-speaking Sanders said on Sunday night in Victory Lane.
Sanders took the lead on lap 154 of the 200-lap GAS (Georgia Asphalt Series) event to earn the victory, passing defending GAS Champion Fredrick Moore for the top spot. From there, Sanders went relatively unchallenged and held on after several late-race cautions to grab the win.
“It means a bunch to me (to win),” said Sanders. “I’ve been coming here since 1984 trying to win this thing. It is great. It has been real, real hard. Last year, I totaled a car out here. So it hasn’t been easy.
“Tonight, the car was pretty good. You just have to be patient.”
And Sanders was patient. While he fought his way from a 14th-palce starting position, he let everyone else use their stuff up.
Of course, early in the event, it looked like one of two cars, either Wayne Willard or Matt Hawkins might be the ones that would steal Sanders thunder for another year.
passed Hawkins in the meantime. Hawkins would fall by the wayside later with electrical problems.
After the five-minute, lap-100 break, the raced took a new look to it. GAS points leader Doug Stevens gambled and stayed out on his older tires to get some points for leading. Moore was one of the few drivers that decided to pit before the lap-100 break, allowing him to start second when the race restarted after the break. Sanders restarted sixth.
Moore took the lead when Stevens fell by the wayside with older tires, and Sanders put his sights on Moore.
Eventually, Sanders caught Moore and passed him with less than 50 to go.
“I wanted to come in before the break (like Moore did), but I waved it off,” said Sanders. “I guess I did the right thing.
“We put a pound of air in the left rear during the break, but the biggest adjustment we made was the sun going down. It cooled the race track and got me tighter getting into the corner where I was loose.”
The pass for the lead was an easy on.
“It was there and I went. I’ve raced with Fredrick enough to know what he races like and know how good he is there. I’ve never had any problems with him.”
“Ronnie was a little bit better than me,” said Moore. “He got a run on me on the restart in one and two. I pinched the car off and killed my corner speed. He got me on the backstretch.”
Moore’s gamble of pitting before the halfway break paid off for him.
Ronnie (#18) made the pass for the lead over Fredrick Moore (#10) look easy.
“I just tired to ride and get by the first 100. we really weren’t even concerned where we were at. Once we realized the top 20 cars were all right there together and there weren’t a lot of lapped cars, we had considered coming in after the break and getting tires, but we decided against that because my car fell off so bad.
“We decided that if we had a caution between lap 85 and the break, we would come and get tires, then just ride around until the break. That is what happened. That was the only thing we could do to pay off.
“It almost paid off, we were just one spot too short.”
Joey Senter finished third and locked up the 2005 GAS Championship in the process. Roger Delp finished fourth and David Elliott finished fifth.
WORLD CROWN 300
Peach State Speedway, Jefferson, GA
1)Ronnie Sanders - Fayetteville, GA
2)Frederick Moore - Gainesville, GA
3)Joey Senter - Commerce, GA (2005 GAS Series Champion)