2005 SPEEDFEST: LEFTOVERS by Jeremy Troiano, Bob Dillner & Matthew Dillner
North, South, Barnes, Bradberry, Kelly, Rowe, Rowe & More
TC'S LAKELAND ADVENTURE REALLY AN ADVENTURE
The thought of Ted Christopher, one of the Northeast's most prolific and talented racers, and Dick Anderson, one of the South's Super Late Model legends, getting together was huge. The two teamed up for SpeedFest and came home seventh on Saturday night.
“We really struggled in time trials,” said Christopher, who had to run in Thursday night's “last chance race” before the 100-lap feature, which he won. “A lot of it was the car. We just couldn't get it to hook up in the two laps. It hooked up really good when we ran a bunch of laps.
“That is what is difficult when you come down and you are running a one-off deal for someone. (Dick) is real smart and he's won a 1,000 races. You don't wann to tell him what to do. You just tell him what the car is doing and let him adjust to it. It was fun. I was happy where I finished.
“For me, (Saturday) was the first time I got to really race the car. That 's a deal where we are figuring out what I like with the car while we are racing it. I think if I had Thursday night's run, maybe we would have got a little bit better.
“I'm trying so hard out there. We had an issue with it getting off loose. And then it was like 'wham' and I bounced it off the wall. I
was so scared about the guy behind me running me over. And I get in the next turn and sure enough he's backed off. I come off the backstretch and I do the same thing. I thought 'geezz, I need to keep this thing of the wall, it isn't going to take too many hits like this.'”
For TC, the Lakeland event was a good precursor to Speedweeks, where he'll race both a Mod and Super Late Model each night.
“It was a good tune up for me, because when we go to New Smyrna, I think we have a really good car there,” said Christopher, who will be racing a different Super Late Model at Smyrna. “Hopefully, it unloads and goes fast. I did race a super there a little bit on my own a bunch of years ago. I know those guys' quirks of how they run that track. I want to win races more than anything though. It's always how the first couple of nights go on how your week is going to go there. I was told that by people years ago. I was told by people in order to win the championship, you need to finish every night.”
And SpeedFest and Speedweeks will not be the last time TC sits behind the wheel of a Super Late Model this year.
“There are a lot of good paying races with these cars. There are a lot of good racers with those cars. I want to work on getting my own deal. This full-bodies stuff is getting pretty fun. I'm going to run my buddy’s PASS car for a bunch of races, as many races as I can get to with that. And I'm looking forward to the end of the year. I want to go to the Snowball (Derby) bad.”
NEW SMYRNA SPEEDSTER STRUGGLES AT LAKELAND
Jeff Choquette, who's been the hottest Super Late Model driver in Florida since last year, had a rough SpeedFest.
“It was the 'worst' longest race I've ever had,” said Choquette. “Me and the 51 (Jacob Warren) got a little mixed up going into one. He kind of held me down a little I thought. We just touched coming out. He was up against the wall. It was probably my fault. That is racing I guess. He hit the wall and I kept on going.
“We really struggled this weekend. We were way off in practice when we got here. We finally put away the Ford and brought out the Chevy, and with some work, got it
Ted Christopher (51 Photo)
handling well. We came out and qualified seventh quick and ran a good race. We made some improvements. It was a rough race, but fun.”
For Choquette, who has been a Dirt Late Model driver up until last year when he made the switch to asphalt racing, the SpeedFest was just another lesson in racing on the paved tracks.
“I learned a lot this weekend. Everything from learning about the long distance runs and brakes and stuff. How the car handles on longer runs. What happens to the car. It just taught me lots of things.”
But being a “rookie” in Super Late Models, Choquette also had to get over his early nerves.
“There were some pretty big names here. These are names you read in the newspaper. It was pretty intimidating coming in to know that you would have to race against them all.
“SUPER MARIO” NOT SO SUPER ON SATURDAY
Jeff Choquette (51 Photo)
They man they call “Super Mario” was anything but super on Saturday night.
Mario Gosselin, who had one of the fastest cars all weekend long (he won the pole for Thursday night's race), fell victim to not one, but two flat right front tires during the event, one while running second.
“We got these new ceramic wheel bearings, and obviously they aren't worth a damn,” said a frustrated Gosselin. “That is the long and short of it. The flats were coming because the bearings went out. Of course, then the wheel is wobbling and it cut the tire on something. We are just fortunate that we didn't junk the race car.”
Gosselin finished 33rd.
GOSSELIN'S TEAMMATE DOESN'T FARE MUCH BETTER
Dwayne Dempsey, teammate to Mario Gosselin, didn't fare much better than Gosselin on Saturday night, finishing just one spot better in 32nd.
He had a little “confrontation” with Justin Drawdy on lap 70, which saw him spin and smash into the turn three wall.
“I guess going down into turn there, the 12 car (Drawdy) wanted to get around me. He just moved me. It tore up our car and ruined our chances of having a decent finish. We weren't having a good weekend anyway. It was a fitting end to a lousy weekend.”
“We got into it with (Dwayne) Dempsey early there,” added Drawdy. “I got to him going into three, got to his door and he came down on me. That knocked the toe-out. Then, [Jeff] Choquette and I had a fender bender on the front stretch and that caused the nose to drag the ground quite a bit. The thing was dragging the nose so bad, I was just trying to get the best finish we could at the end. I still think we had a car that was good enough to win even after all that.”
Mario Gosselin had nothing but bad luck on Saturday night at Lakeland. (51 Photo)
ONE ROWE UP FRONT, ONE OUT EARLY
Mike and Ben Rowe were two of just a couple of PASS drivers that made the long trip from the Northeast to Florida for SpeedFest. And looking back on it, one would probably like to forget his trip ever happened, while the other would like to come back down soon.
“Running with these guys, we'll take it any day,” said Mike Rowe, speaking of his fourth-place finish on Saturday night. “Thursday night, we had a long green and I think we were better on the longer runs. We had a lot of yellows tonight and I think that hurt me a bit.
Dwayne Dempsey's car was a little worse for wear Saturday night. (51 Photo)
“A lot of these young guys don't have a lot of patience. I watched a lot of them early and they used their tires up bad. I thought to myself I'd just get them later. I guess I got a little different strategy. I just tried to save my car to the end, but we just had too many yellows.
“I'll tell you what though, I think this race is just great. Everyone treated us great down here. They welcomed us back next year. They treated us with great hospitality. It is a nice place to race. I hope we can come back.”
Mike coming down allowed his son Ben, a two-time PASS Champion, to also make the trip.
“I got teamed up with Scott Pullen, so I but Ben in my car. He had a little bit of bad luck. He ran over a piece of lead that put him out and crashed on Thursday night. I tell you what, if he'd been in my car, he'd have done even better. He'd have probably put me to shame. He is a good driver.”
But being a good driver wasn't enough for Ben this weekend.
“Our car was actually the best it had been all weekend long here at the start of this race,” said Ben. “I was following the 1 car (Ronnie Sanders) and something came out from underneath his car. I don't' know if it was a hunk of lead or something, but when it did, I hit it and it cleaned all the belts up off the motor. I don't know what it was. It was something big and heavy. That is just how our week has gone though.”
And despite Ben's problems, he echoed his dad's sentiments on the Lakeland event.
“This place is a riot. I'd love to bring my own stuff down here, come prepared and do it all over again. Hopefully, they can get three or four of these races together and we can come down here and run with these guys. We always had the vision up north that we couldn't come down here and run with these guys, but I think we can under the right circumstances.
“We had a great time. The officials were decent to us. They are fair. We'll be back next year.”
Ben Rowe (51 Photo)
DAVIDSON HAS SHORT NIGHT
On Saturday, Chris Davidson said he felt a little bit like a NASCAR Nextel Cup star. After spending the week back home in Texas working his regular job, his father, Greg, called him up and asked if Chris would be interested in coming down to Lakeland to drive his dad's car in the 200-lap feature at SpeedFest
Chris accepted, was on a plane Saturday morning, showed up to the race track and jumped right in the car.
Unfortunately, Saturday night's race didn't quite last as long as Chris would have liked. Chris cut a right front tire, which caused other damage, ending his night after just 58 laps.
"My dad called and asked if I wanted to come down and run his car, so I showed up," said Davidson, who ran full-time in the NASCAR Southeast Series in 2004, along with running various Super Late Model races. "We qualified pretty bad, but the car was pretty good. We made up a bunch of spots. We came in, got tires and then cut one down. Not much you can do about that.
"The car was a little loose. We came in and got tires and the car was really good. About five laps later, we cut down a right front tire and it took the break line right off with it. We were pretty much done with no brakes at this place. It also drug the sway bar off when the tire cut down. So between that and no brakes, we just decided to park it.
"That is how this racing deal goes. If there were no bad times like this, you wouldn't appreciate the good times."
He finished 34th.
AN ALMOST FOR BUBBA
Just past the midpoint of Saturday night's race, all eyes were on a surprising frontrunner, that of Bubba Pollard.
The youngster was shocking everyone by pulling out to a lead in the SpeedFest feature. Unfortunately, it didn't last, and neither did his car.
“We struggled Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. We couldn't quite get the car where we wanted it. We came in and made some changes right before qualifying. We changed rear ends and it helped us out a bunch. The car ran well during the race.
Greg Daivdson look over his son's, broken ride. (51 Photo)
“We were running second and we lost oil pressure. It just happens. I'm excited for the team. We have good motors. Everything went well. Something went wrong, but they'll fix it for us.
“We ain't got as good of equipment as some of these guys, but to come out here, run with these guys and be competitive with them, we are really excited.”