ALL-AMERICAN 400 GOES TO THE PATIENT, NOT THE SWIFT By Mike Twist
Jason Hogan Comes From Behind to Score Big Victory
Racing has never been a particularly easy sport. But even keeping that in mind, this year’s All-American 400 at Music City Motorplex (TN) was especially cruel to many drivers.
At various points in the prestigious race, it looked like any number of drivers could take home the Gibson guitar that is given to the winner. But fate plays as much of a role in determining a race winner as horsepower or handling does.
In that vein, J.R. Norris didn’t win. Jeremy Pate didn’t win. Wayne Willard didn’t win. Ryan Mathews didn’t win. All four of those drivers led laps and all looked to be in control at various points on Sunday afternoon, but every one of those drivers had obstacles that couldn’t be overcome.
On the other hand, race victor Jason Hogan did not look to have a dominant performance going on. But when the 300 laps were completed and the checkered flag waved, he was the first one to the finish line – not any of those other guys.
According to Hogan though, he didn’t win either.
“I’ll tell you, I didn’t win this race,” said Hogan. “The pit crew and my crew chief won this race. I want to give them all the credit. This team never gives up and I was just the lucky one who got to steer the car and gets all of the publicity out of it. My Uncle Jim in the pits making the right calls at the right time and never giving up on me is what won us this race.
Jason Hogan was the big winner in Music City. (Music City Motorplex Photo)
But one by one, those drivers ran into problems that kept them from winning.
First, J.R. Norris’ day ran out of steam as his car ran out of gas.
“I had to come in and pit because I ran out of gas,” said Norris. “It happened in the worst place to run out of gas too – right out of turn four. I had to coast around the racetrack to get back to the pits.”
Ryan Mathews (#21) and J.R. Norris both had cars that were good enough to win, but luck bad enough not to. (51 Photo)
“It was luck and the good Lord above looking over us. We were junk all day. Any time that I got on the throttle, it was loose from the center on off. I was about ready to pull in and park it on lap 200. My Uncle Jim made an awesome call to come in and get fuel, thinking that we’d have a long green run. That happened and a lot of guys got a lap down.”
What put those guys, including Hogan, a lap down was a blistering pace set by a few drivers. Norris, Pate, Mathews and Willard all took turns out front and turned some of the guys who you would expect to be contenders into backmarkers.
Mathews was down, but not quite out yet.
Willard built up a strong lead with his main competition seemingly out of contention, but things went bad for him when he was eliminated in a bizarre wreck that took place under caution.
That handed the race to Pate for a while. Pate had led early, pitted and was now back in front. Meanwhile, Mathews scratched and clawed his way back onto the lead lap.
With the race winding down, Pate pitted for two new tires and Mathews inherited the lead. On the restart, they lined up nose to tail and the race appeared that is would almost certainly be decided between those two drivers.
That was until they stacked up on the backstretch half a lap after a restart with only 12 laps to go.
“The car started chattering on that restart, the tires must not have come in,” said Mathews. “I had to roll off the gas a little bit and went right up to the wall. The #10 [Pate] must have been really close behind me. When I rolled out of it, he got into me and lifted the car up. I kept it out of the wall, but we had heavy contact with each other going down the back straightaway.”
“I gave him his lap back earlier and I’ve got nothing bad to say about that,” said Pate. “He raced me clean all day long. I saw him wiggle and I was tight on him. He was backing out of it and I tried to back out of it. If I had kept my foot in it, I probably would have hit him in the door and then went on. I was trying to be the nice guy and backed out of it when I caught his tire.
“I just can’t believe this happened. I was riding and would have won this race. I’ve never had a car this good.”
Now all of a sudden, Hogan was on top of the scoreboard as the new leader.
“When the two leaders wrecked in front of us, that put us in the catbird’s seat,” said Hogan. “We just dug from there. We ended up in the right place at the right time.”
He didn’t make much noise all day long, but unlike his competitors, he was on the way to winning the race. Hogan led for the closing few laps and beat Boris Jurkovic, Charlie Bradberry, Chris Gabehart and the ever resilient Mathews to the finish.
Looking back on his race, Hogan admitted that he didn’t have the fastest car. He just survived the day better than anyone else thanks in part to good pit strategy.
“We came in and took on left side tires first,” said Hogan. “Our right sides were worn out and we lost a lot of time. When we got right sides, we got our lap back because the leaders wrecked when we were right behind them. We were behind a lot of wrecks today.
It wasn’t the first big win of the season for him though.
“We’ve won two majors this year,” said Hogan. “We won the Rattler and now the All American 400. That’s tough to do when you have 70 cars here that are the best in the United States. It’s amazing.”
Speed51.com will have more from the All-American 400 coming soon with our leftovers from the race.
Mathews pits under green and loses a lap. (51 Photo)
Pate's #10 car. (51 Photo)
Hogan's #92. (51 Photo)
That cost Norris a few laps. He was able to make up enough ground to finish 11th, but any chance at the win was gone.
“To lose four laps, make two of those up to come back and finish just outside the top 10 is great, but it’s still disheartening,” said Norris.
Mathews also led for awhile before giving up the lead to Willard. Mathews pitted under green to top his tank before it ran dry. Unfortunately for him, a caution came almost immediately after and he lost a lap.
“The caution came out three or four laps after we pitted,” said Mathews. “We got one lap down. The car was really good. We didn’t make any adjustments on our pit stop. We just took tires and fuel. The car was fast.”
“There at the end, we were still no good. We were still loose off, so we put our first set of lefts back on the car and it wasn’t the best car that I ever had, but it finally had a little bit of grip in it. Not much, but enough to keep me from killing myself.”
Hogan was nearly speechless in victory lane when the significance of the victory sank in.
“To end up here just in my third All-American start is just an awesome deal,” Hogan said.