PRO CUP LEFTOVERS: SOUTH BOSTON by Jeremy Troiano, Jayson Kaplan & Paul Warner
Tires, Pissed Off Drivers, A Newbie And More
TIRES THROW SOME DRIVERS FOR A LOOP
BFGoodrich is one of the best tire suppliers in the Motorsports business. There is no question about that. However, the new tire that BFG debuted with the Pro Cup cars this year has a lot of drivers scratching their heads, trying to get it figured out.
“Being part of this BFGoodrich program since my ASA days, where I started testing with them in 1999, I know they are such a quality company that they have actually built a race tire that is too good. The tire doesn’t give up near as much as it did in the past and I saw the same thing toward the end of ASA. The normal race was you would come in and get your mandatory pit stop and be done on the first caution and the race was over. The rest of it on the race track and just follow the leader. I see the same thing happening with these tires in Hooters Pro-Cup. They are just such a good race tire that they don’t give up. I think it makes the racing not as good as should be if the tires would are out.”
The JEGS crew goes to work on St. Amant's ride. (51 Photo)
There was a lot of head scratching going on Saturday as the Northern Division guys raced with the tire for the first time in 2005.
“The new BFGoodrich tire a little bit harder at colder temps and the overall grip just wasn’t their like it was in the past,” said veteran racer Gary St. Amant. “I went to Fritz (Augustine, the head tech guy for the Pro Cup Series) and talked to him a little bit about the situation of hardening of these new tires. I think they can see a potential in the future with this harder tire and I think between the series and BFGoodrich, they will know the right thing to do about this harder tire and I don’t think it will be long before we are on a lot softer race tire.”
However, St. Amant was quick to point out that BFG is a great company and that the complaints anyone might have about the tire has nothing to do with them.
Even though he’s raced in all of the Southern Division races so far this year, Jay Fogleman is still trying to figure out the tires.
“It is still the tire deal for me but we are getting better,” said Fogleman. “I really had that tire deal figured out at the end of last year and I knew exactly how that car was going to be every week. We came back this year with high expectations from last year and we bolted that new tire on it and it has been havoc ever since. It’s not a bad tire by any means, it is just different. My racecar is not matching the tires is the problem.”
ST AMANT HAS EVENTFUL & DISAPPOINTING WEEKEND, THEN BECOMES A TEACHER
Gary St. Amant had an uncharacteristically horrible race to open up the year at South Boston on Saturday night.
“The weekend started off on the wrong foot on Friday morning when our hauler had fuel pump problems and we got the trailer and the race car to the track and didn’t have any way to open up the back gate to get the car out because of the way the truck was wired,” said St. Amant. “So that kind of put us behind and we never got caught up all weekend.
“After we had wrecked and I knew I was going to be sitting in the pits for while replacing a radiator, I thought I would get out of the car and go find out what Jimmy Jr was thinking,” said St. Amant. “I stormed down pit road found the #36 pit box and went up, pretty much not as Gary St. Amant the person but as Gary St. Amant the racecar driver, and I pulled on a pants leg that was on top of the pit box and I just started screaming. I had a wrecked race car that I wasn’t happy about that and then that face looked down at me. It was Jimmy Spencer Sr.
“For about a minute, I really didn’t care who I was talking to and didn’t realize who I was talking to. I said some choice things and Jimmy was trying to make me see that the boy admitted that he screwed up and that it was probably the spotters fault and that he wasn’t his son’s spotter. So after about a minute of ranting and raving at Jimmy, I realized who I was talking to. I looked down at the ground for a quick second and looked back up at Jimmy, who had a pretty mean look on his face, and I just started laughing and he looked at me kind of funny. I said ‘Jimmy, do you still love me.’ He just put a big old smile on his face and he said ‘I still love you.’ He also said ‘Gary, you need to come down and talk to the boy after the race.’ After walking away from his pit area, I felt about two inches tall and felt like I had been yelling at the president. It wasn’t Jimmy Sr. driving the car or spotting for Jr. and I shouldn’t have been yelling at Jimmy Spencer Sr.”
So St. Amant became a teacher.
St. Amant's #11 didn't look this good by the end of the night.
“We were a 10th or 12th place car in practice and qualified 12th. I think in the race, we were going to be a top-five car, but we got behind when Jimmy Spencer Jr. slid up in front of me on a restart and then he spun in front of me and that put us behind. Then on the next restart, that’s when all hell broke loose and there was a pile up going into three it was just a chain reaction and a lot of cars got torn up. I was one of them.”
Following the wreck, St. Amant was not happy with Spencer Jr. As the team tried to make repairs to the #11 JEGS.com car, St. Amant took a walk to Spencer’s pit stall. The story that follows is classic.
“What was really funny was after the race, Jimmy Sr. saw me coming and he put his arms around me and said ‘come on, we have to teach this boy a lesson’ and walks me into the trailer and said ‘alright Jimmy, here is Gary St. Amant and he is going to teach you a few things about racing.’
“I had cooled off and I knew Jimmy Jr. wouldn’t do anything intentional to wreck me. He even told me that me and Benny Gordon have helped him more than anybody else.”
St. Amant knows that part of the problem is the pressure young drivers feel these days.
Jimmy Spencer Jr.'s car looked a little worse for wear when the night was over.
“I feel we have these young kids that have to show they all have something to prove and when they get laps down, all they are thinking about is racing whoever is beside them. It doesn’t matter who is on the lead lap and who isn’t.
“I told Jimmy Jr. I started racing back in 1986 in ASA and I was racing against Dick Trickle, Alan Kulwicki, Kenny Wallace, Bob Senneker and Jay Sauter. Those were some impressive racers and you knew you needed to give them respect being a young driver. For my first 10 or 15 races in ASA, I was getting lapped six or seven times a race. I stayed out of the way and just finished the race and learned. These kids out there today are not giving the respect out there so they are not going to get it back if they don’t give it.”
(EDITOR'S NOTE: We tried to reach Jimmy Spencer Jr. but he did not return our phone calls.)
HOWARD IMPRESSIVE IN FIRST PRO CUP RACE
drivers for Dean Motorsports in the Late Model Stock Car ranks around the Southeast. “The breaks would get real hot on short runs and at one point the car was real loose. This was a last minute deal, so I called a bunch of my friends who came out to help me in the pits with this deal. I don’t have a really good pit crew, they are friends who are helping out last minute and they do not have a lot of experience.
“We went out to run laps. We didn’t have any real strategy out there. We just wanted to go and learn as much as we could. I was running second at one point in the race, but the brakes were just not right and I couldn’t touch the brake pedal. It was almost worthless.
“I am thrilled to finish with a top-10 with all the problems and obstacles we had.”
NESBITT TAKES BLAME FOR WRECK WITH SPENCER
Woody Howard drove the Dean Motorsports #55 to an impressive finish on Saturday. (Kathy Bond Photo)
A name that not many in the Pro Cup world may know, but a name that South Boston fans know well is that of Woody Howard.
On Saturday night, Howard made his first Pro Cup start, driving for Dean Motorsports.
I qualified an impressive second, then stayed near the front all night long and finished seventh.
“It was a good car; we just didn’t have a chance to do any real long runs in practice,” said Howard, who also
Mart Nesbitt was having a stellar run on Saturday for 200 laps. Nesbitt, who qualified sixth, raced his way into the top five late in the race and was attempting to pass Mardy Lindley for fourth when he clipped Jimmy Spencer Jr., igniting a multi-car crash.
“It is just real tight racing and it is hard to get around people,” said Nesbitt. “I got up beside Mardy and we were wheel-to-wheel and unfortunately, I caught Spencer there on the backstretch. I was about to give up the position and follow him back into the corner to pass him, but some checked up and I wasn’t expecting it.
It was my fault. I just hate we tore up our car, because
Mart Nesbitt (#88) had a good run going on Saturday. (51 Photo)
we had a top-three car. I feel bad for the team because we had a third place car tonight. We will go back to the shop and build the body back and get ready for the next race.”
GUSTY GAMBLE FOR SAMMONS BACKFIRES
Danny Sammons qualified 10th, but the New Jersey driver didn’t make much headway with the tight racing quarters of South Boston Speedway in the fist 75 laps. With track position a premium, Sammons elected to short pit on Lap 80.
After the leaders cycled through pit stops, Sammons took the lead on Lap 102, held it for 40 laps and picked up $1,000 for being halfway leader. In the end, however, the strategy didn’t pay off.
After Gordon took the top spot on Lap 142, Sammons was shuffled back to seventh and eventually caught up in a multi-car crash on Lap 208. Sammons finished 17th.
CAUTIONS PLAGUE RACE
"A lot of the guys weren’t patient out there tonight," said Jeff Agnew. "But South Boston is so tight and it’s so hard to pass, I think that’s why you saw a lot of impatience. You can’t blame it all on the drivers. That’s just what happens when you try to stick these big cars in hole that doesn’t fit."
POLESITTER KAUFFMAN DOMINATES EARLY
Joel Kauffman and Team L.A. Motorsports experienced the full range of emotions Saturday night.
The evening couldn’t have started out any better, with Kauffman taking the first pole of the Northern Division season. Kauffman proved that the qualifying run was no fluke, leading the first 100 laps. In a race slowed by numerous cautions, Kauffman managed to stay out of trouble and open up a lead on the rest of the field.
There were a bunch of accidents that took out a lot of good cars at SoBo. (Kathy Bond Photo)
The Northern Division drivers of the Hooters Pro Cup Series have been chomping at the bit to get the season started. After watching their Southern Division counterparts compete in three events, Saturday’s South Boston race was the first chance for the Northern Division to take center stage.
Unfortunately, a third of them weren’t around at the finish after six multi-car accidents ended the nights of many contenders.
“There were a lot of wrecks tonight,” said race winner Benny Gordon. “It looked like a lot of bad ones too. I don’t know what’s going on, but there must not have been a lot of give and take tonight.”
The night got exciting for the L.A. West Pontiac when a jammed lug nut led to a slow pit stop, causing Kauffman to come out third.
A car in the lead pack then missed a shift on a later restart, causing Kauffman to clip the car in front of him. The Team L.A. Motorsports crew hung tough, using a couple of late pit stops to repair the damage without losing a lap. Kauffman battled through lap traffic and avoided accidents the rest of the night to get back into the top ten.
"We had a ton of ups and downs, but Barry Elvis and the rest of the crew did a great job of fixing the front of the car and keeping us on the lead lap,” said Kauffman. “Our
Joel Kauffman's team goes to work on fixing his car afte is ran into the back of another driver. (Bond Photo)
car was so fast all night. Even at the end, we were running faster times than the leader. I’m really proud of the team for not giving up. A pole and a top-10 finish is a great way to start the season."
RUMLEY JUST READY FOR LONESOME PINE
Johnny Rumley is looking forward to the second race of 2005 at Virginia’s Lonesome Pine Raceway.
That’s because he knows he’s bound to improve on his performance in the Northern Division’s season-opener at South Boston. Rumley qualified 13th, but finished 23rd after an up-and-down night that ended behind the wall.
"We struggled ever since we unloaded for Friday evening practice," said Rumley. "If it could go wrong, it went wrong. Hopefully we got all that bad stuff behind us and we can get better.
“It felt like I was in 10 of the 11 yellow flags. I got hit from the nose. I got hit from the rear. We qualified poorly in 13th and that just set us up in a bad place to start, especially at South Boston.
“This is a deal were I am trying to forget about that whole race right now. I don’t think I ran that badly in any race last year.”
Involved in an early incident not of his making, Rumley was forced to pit. But the strategy seemed to play into his hands, he found himself running third as the rest of the leaders pitted. But the good fortune was short-lived.
"A piece of duct work got messed up and the temperature rose to about 230, so we had to give up that position. Then somebody got messed up in front of us and slammed on the brakes and we got in the back of another car and got the radiator.
"Benny Gordon had some bad races early in the season last year and came back, so it’ll be OK. We know some things we need to do to get better, and we will be better when we get to Lonesome Pine."