Pate Was Fast, JR Was Unlucky (Again), Gabehart Was Smart and Much More
PATE MAKES SPLASH IN NASHVILLE
Jeremy Pate definitely turned some heads at the All-American 400. Pate qualified third and led at times throughout the race. With just 11 laps to go, he was racing with Ryan Mathews to decide the win when they tangled. Pate was finished and left with a 21st-place finish.
He was also left with thoughts of what might have been.
“Man…I just...Wow…I don’t even know how to describe this race,” said Pate. “I’m just sick to my stomach now. I’ve been racing for six years and I’ve never had a car this good.”
A good car and solid pit strategy put Pate in position for a strong finish down the homestretch.
“We came in for fuel at lap 80 because we knew that we were going to have fuel problems and we didn’t put tires on. All of the field that pitted took tires. We came all the way back through the field and were leading again on lap 190 without taking any tires. We put our lefts on and came right back through the field to lead again. I went 260 laps on my right side tires today. When we did take rights, I came back to through the field again.”
Pate was driving at the 400 for the C&C Racing team owned by Eddie Veneble.
“This is actually the car that Clay Rogers used to race, the black #2,” said Pate.
It wasn’t a one-off deal either.
“We’re definitely going to run the Derby,” said Pate. “We don’t have any suspension damage. We’re probably going to test down there the week before. We’re going to run Speedfest at Lakeland [in January].
“I’ve got a couple of other deals that are in the works. There’s a Hooter’s Cup team that is going to come down and watch me in the Derby. I’m hoping to get something for next year and I hope to have that lined up pretty soon.”
Turning heads in the 400 might have helped Pate in that quest.
“Hopefully this lets everyone know that I can do it.”
MATHEWS COMES CLOSE AS WELL
The other driver involved in the wreck with 11 laps to go was Ryan Mathews. The Wisconsin driver also led for 134 laps, but lost ground when he needed to pit under green for fuel. He got back on the lead lap and looked like he might do the improbable by pulling out a victory, but that all changed late in the race.
Luck just wasn’t riding along with Mathews at Nashville was it?
“No,” said Mathews. “Especially when the caution came out three or four laps after we pitted [under green]. We got back on the lead lap and then had an altercation. That was the worst part of the day.”
After he got down, did Mathews think that he’d be able to fight back to win?
“I didn’t know,” Mathews admitted. “I just drove it as fast as I could. I just feel bad about the end there. We had just 13 laps to go after that restart. But, it happens.”
Mathews still managed to salvage a fifth-place finish from his 400 experience.
sitting there in the shop looking at the car, three weeks ago it didn’t even have a body on it, and he didn’t know who was going to drive it. Hamke told him to let me drive it, so we talked a little bit and my Dad and him got together and worked something out.
“I’m privileged that he asked me to drive it. It didn’t work out how we wanted it to and I wish that we could have done better, but he’s happy, I’m happy and the crew is happy. We brought it home in one piece and it’s to go to the Snowball Derby now.”
For the Snowball Derby, Norris will be back in his familiar Richie Wauters-owned orange car.
“I’m committed to running that race with Richie, so I’ll be racing against this car.
IF THERE WERE ONLY A FEW MORE LAPS…
In the end, several drivers saw good runs go by the wayside at this year’s All-American 400. Boris Jurkovic was not one of those drivers. He was hoping for just a few more laps to turn his second-place finish into a victory.
Pate's #10. (51 Photos)
NORRIS’ MUSIC CITY CURSE CONTINUES
J.R. Norris has a habit of running very well at Music City Motorplex, leading a bunch of laps and then having something odd keep him from winning the race.
This time, a longer than normal stretch of green flag racing was that something odd. Norris led 48 laps, but finished 11th after having to pit for fuel under green.
“What can I say, it’s Nashville and that’s my luck here. It’s disheartening, but it’s a race. You’ve got to shrug it off and go on to the next one. You can’t win them all. To lose four laps and make two of those up to come back and finish just outside the top 10 is great, but it’s still disheartening.”
“We had a good car,” said Jurkovic. “We tried to save our tires for the end. Eddie Hoffman blew up coming off of turn two there and I run into him. I got lifted off the ground and bent a spindle. I still had a good racecar. I just couldn’t catch them. It was good racing.”
The long green flag runs in the race didn’t help Jurkovic any.
“There weren’t too many cautions, but we were hoping for some. We saved what we had there and almost went a lap down.”
Jurkovic never gave up as the laps clicked down, but he ended up .186 seconds behind winner Jason Hogan when 400 laps were up.
“It was a good race with a lot of good racecars,” said Jurkovic. “We knew that we had to save it for the end. I’ve been here before and seen a lot of them won that way.”
MIDDLETON RUNS WELL BEFORE THINGS GO WRONG IN HIS FIRST 400
It also leads to Norris having an up and down relationship with the track.
“I love the place and at the same time, I hate it.”
Norris wasn’t planning to race at Nashville, but a last minute deal was put together to put him in the blue #16 owned by Indiana’s Bob Blount.
“I’ve got to thank Bob Blount for giving me such a good piece to run and I’ve got to thank Robert Hamke because he kind of put this deal together. He and Bob were
Ryan Mathews had his #21 hooked up all day, but a late race wreck ended his chances and left his car battered.
Jurkovic's #53 at Nashville.
Norris was in the #16 car at the All-American 400.
Floridian Jay Middleton made the first All-American 400 start of his career this year. He proved to be a quick learner at the tricky track and qualified pm the second row.
“It was our first time here and we would have been really good,” said Middleton.
The key words there were “would have been”. Middleton dropped out of the race at lap 150 after a slew of problems.
“We ran out of brakes pretty early in the race. I don’t know why. We came in and tried to put more brakes in it. Then we got a bad set of tires. They grew out of control. We had way too much stagger and it was loose all the way around. Then we were puttering around there trying to figure out how to fix it when the motor blew up.
“You could go down the list and anything that could have gone wrong did. We had a good qualifying set-up. We had a good race set-up too. We practiced for a long time
on Thursday just doing long runs and it was good. Everybody was pretty loose out there and we were pretty good. The brakes weren’t helping at all though. You can’t get around here without brakes.”
GABEHART GRABS A TOP FIVE FINISH
Chris Gabehart managed to emerge from the 400 with a finish of fourth. He didn’t make too many headlines during the day, but all that matters is where you are running when the checkered flag drops.
“This race is all about survival,” said Gabehart. “We try to race smart. We don’t always have the fastest carat these races for qualifying. At this races, there’s a lot of talent and we work hard. We stay with it and make the changes that we need. We fought to stay on the lead lap, fought to get back on the lead lap and fight for everything.
The late race tangle between the two leaders worked to Gabehart’s advantage.
“We got a break there when unfortunately Ryan and the #10 car [Jeremy Pate] got together there,” said Gabehart. “But I’ll take breaks. As bad as our year has been this year and as bad as some things have been to happen to us, I’ll take that break right there and take fourth.”
HAWKINS CATCHES UP, THEN BLOWS UP
Southern All Stars champion Matt Hawkins struggled for much of the weekend at Music City. He had engine problems in practice and had to rely on a povisional alloted to SAS teams to get into the starting field.
But he never gave up and neither did his team. They fought back and turned things around for the race.
“It started out that the car wasn’t that good and we got a lap down,” said Hawkins. “We went in the pits and fixed it. We put new lefts on it and the car was pretty good."
But ,it was all in vein when he powerplant expired and left him with a 32nd-place finish.
We were almost a half second faster than the leader when it started sputtering down in the corners. It was dead. Then coming off the corner, I stomped it and it was dead again. I don’t know what it was.”
BRAZIER SURVIVES TO FINISH STRONG
On a weekend where quite a few cars didn’t qualify and many drivers couldn’t make it to the finish, Southern Super Late Model driver Johnny Brazier survived through the 400 laps at Nashville to finish sixth.
“I dodged a couple of bullets during the day,” said Brazier. “That big one there going into turn three, I was right there. I don’t guess it was good driving, it was just luck that there was a hole there. It was pretty rough out there at times.
“There were a lot of green flag runs too. The tires got really worn and the car was a handful just by itself, much less when you were racing somebody.”
Brazier’s day wasn’t trouble free though.
“We had a good car. We came in took on right sides. The car got real tight on the restart and I got it up in the wall. When I got it in the wall, it bent something on it and the car wouldn’t turn for nothing. I don’t know what it bent. It might have knocked the rear end out or bent something in the front end. It just wouldn’t turn after we hit the wall.”
All in all, the 400 was a good experience for the driver of the #71.
“I had a good finish and enjoyed it,” said Brazier.
Jay Middleton's team pushes their car behind the wall. When the hood went up, they were done.