PRO CUP LEFTOVERS: ACE SPEEDWAY by Matthew Dillner
Hot at Hobgood, Wallace & Dodson Split, Garvey Finds Problems & More
SUPER MARIO HELPING FAULK BECOME SUPER ROOKIE
Michael Faulk continued his streak of good runs with another strong finish at Ace Speedway.
“Sixth sounds good on the outside, but when you had a car good enough to win the race it doesn't feel as good.”
“He knows how to calm me down when I need to be and how to pump me up for qualifying. As you know he is one of the great qualifiers in the series. He gets along with everyone on this team and everybody loves him. So I think Mario is here to stay.”
Faulk leads the Pro Cup Series rookie points.
NESBITT ESCAPES FIREBALL AT ACE
Northern division regular Mart Nesbitt was having a stead run going at Ace.
Mario Gosselin gets his driver Kevin Faulk ready just before the start of the race. (51 Photo)
But what does feel good for Faulk is the chemistry between he and his new mentor Mario Gosselin. Gosselin, who is a Pro Cup, ARCA & Super Late Model veteran driver, is one of the big reasons behind Faulk's recent success.
“He's in the shop five days a week,” says Faulk. “Being a rookie in this series, the learning curve is huge stepping from Super Late Models to these cars. The transition has been made a lot easier by Mario. He's given me a lot of short cuts and a lot of things that I didn't know that he is teaching me so I don't have to learn on my own by stuffing it in the fence.
“We had a great car and beat everybody off pit road and was in the catbird seat.”
That was until the seat in his #88 became the hot seat, literally. In a scary moment, Nesbitt's car burst into flames in turn one and two. Most importantly, he escaped the flames unscathed and wound up 24th on the final rundown.
“Unfortunately we broke a fitting off the valve cover and it started squirting oil all over the headers. Just a parts failure and not anyone's fault. It knocked us out of the race and burned a bunch of stuff in the car. Nothing terminal though.
Nesbitt says the fire never reached the cockpit of his racecar. (51 Photo)
TALK ABOUT A BAD DAY TURNED INTO NIGHT
Going into 2005, many viewed Steven Wallace's chances at Pro Cup Rookie of the Year as very strong. He had good equipment, a ton of momentum after winning the famed Snowball Derby (Super Late Model race in Pensacola, FL), and had a veteran wrench to lead the way.
Huffman's 81 sits in a heap after Ace. (51 Photo)
Shane Huffman overcame engine problems, having to change powerplants before qualifying and looked to have his day back on track. Everything seemed to be going well for the early season points leader. He was staying out of trouble, he led a few valuable laps and Clay Rogers wasn't having a great run. It was all going good until disaster struck in front of him. Jake Hogbood was battling with the leaders to stay on the lead lap and rocketed into the wall. When Hogbood's racecar came off the wall Huffman had nowhere to go and slammed into the #64. The collision ended Huffman's night and resulted in losing the points lead.
Most of that left side damage on the car was Bob,” said Clay Rogers about racing with the #06 of Bobby Gill. “He picked up where he left off from Concord about 20 laps into this race. I was just trying to ride in second behind the 32 and Bob comes up and doors me pretty hard. He hit us in the left front wheel and the car never turned the same after that. What do you expect?”
Then Rogers had mechanical woes try and put him down.
“We had an alternator or battery issue or something. The thing would quit running unless we cut all the fans off. The crew did a great job getting the battery changed and getting the tires changed without losing a lap which is pretty good at a track as small as this. That is an accomplishment.”
It looked as if the 44 team was back on track after the change and a smart-pit stop soon after that netted the team with some good track position.
“It was going to work out good until Jake Hobgood ran over us. We just got doored there and lost a bunch of spots.”
Clay Rogers #44 does battle with Bobby Gill (top, Kathy Bond photo) and at the race's end the battle scars showed. (bottom, 51 photo).
SARVIS AND OTHERS MAD AT JAKE
Jason Sarvis was one of a handful of Hooters Pro Cup competitors that were critically vocal of Jake Hobgood after the race.
“I got a good bite off of four and I outbraked him going into the turn,” said Hobgood about the contact with Sarvis. “Heck I was up to his left rear tire. I stuck the nose in there and he rolled off in the turn like it was normal and I was there. I hated to get together with him.
“This is short track racing, man either you have to know or your spotter has to tell you, you have to expect that. If you see a guy in your mirror but then in the turn he isn't there, he hasn't lost a whole straight-away on you. If he is out of sight he is somewhere around you. You have to be prepared for that.”
Many felt Hobgood didn't belong racing so hard with the leaders. But Hobgood felt he was where he needed to be and was sorry that it turned out the way it did.
“When we went back green we were a half a lap down. The tires were cold. I pushed up and he got under me. I think Jody's car broke loose and when he did it chased it up and it popped me and I hit the fence. For the most part that is what happened. I'm still a car trying to stay on the lead lap and deserved to be there. I'm not just going to roll over and give him the spot.”
“I know people might be upset but I didn't go out there to intentionally wreck nobody.
“It's tough with no sponsors and financing. When you tear cars up like this and you have to do it out of your pocket it is tough.
“This is like a work in progress. True, we struggled when we started and were way off. Every race we are getting better. We are learning these cars. For me it's not learning how to drive, it is learning how to drive these cars. Without the finances you know it hurts to tear stuff up but what keeps you going is that. We can run with these guys. I know I can. Having good runs, even though it ended up like it did tonight, keeps us going.”
GILL GETS 'ER DONE WITH TORN UP CAR...WELL, ALMOST
“Man that had to be one of the wildest races I've ever seen man,” said Garvey. “Man oh man it was wild. Jay and Lavendar ran one hell of a race. Jay could have done a lot of the moves I saw happening all night but he didn't. That had to be one of the craziest races I've seen in my life. Mark was sitting there hoping they would bump and he would move up and we were there behind McFarland hoping for the same thing.
For Garvey it was nice to just bring his Jani-King #17 to the end of a race. Garvey came off a pair of DNFs that had the short track veteran scratching his head until Ace.
“We found out what our problem was. It was an issue
McFarland's #32 sits third coming to the white flag with a birdseye view of the lead battle. (51 Photo)
“Fire is probably one of the only thing that scares drivers, at least myself. I've never tried to get out of a car with my helmet on and the HANS. I'm a little bigger than a lot of the drivers. I had to figure out how to get out. I know it now so I am prepared for next time. The firewall held up good and did the job and kept the fire out of the cockpit. It did what it was supposed to do.”
HOBGOOD WRECK MEANS LIGHTS OUT FOR POINT LEADER HUFFMAN
“I don't really know what happened,” said a disgusted Huffman. “The 84 car got up into the 64 car. The 64 came out of the pits racing like hell. He probably should have been a little more courteous. He got up into the wall and shot straight down across the race track in front of us. I didn't have anywhere to go. That is the hardest I've hit in a long time.
Hobgood's #64 came down off the wall and Huffman had nowhere to go. (Kathy Bond Photo)
Veteran Cup crew chief Barry Dodson's reign on top of the box for Steve Wallace only lasted five races. At Ace Speedway, Dodson was gone, a move that took many by surprise.
“Barry has been a great friend of mine and the family forever” said Wallace. “Everybody loves Barry and worked well with him. There were some complications with Barry and the Busch Team. We are moving the Busch shop and in order for that to blend right and us to move into the Busch shop we had to get rid of Barry.
“We are moving into that shop and I am going to run some ARCA races so I may only run eight or nine more of these Hooters races. So there is really no need for
Casual observers could tell in the pits at Greenville that the relationship between Steven Wallace and Barry Dodson had grown tense. (51 Photo)
him now to be honest. I've got two full time guys now. Barry is a good guy and we still talk all the time. It was time that we didn't need him anymore so we had to excuse him.
Wallace came into his Hooters Pro Cup Rookie season with high expectations and has had a hard time meeting them so far this season.
“I went from winning the Snowball Derby with Richie Wauters and having all these awesome people working. I built one of the baddest cars in Hooters and thought I was going to come here and win these races. Sometimes stuff just doesn't blend. You have to have someone that you like to blend with. I like him, but we just didn't blend. Blake Bainbridge went to the Hooters Concord race and helped out a lot. I felt like a time for a change. I couldn't work with him anymore.”
The new guy at the helm was Super Late Model Driver Jeremy Pate. Pate and Wallace struck up a friendship at the Snowball Derby and have been inseparable since. Pate moved to North Carolina and works for Wallace and was the man, or one of three men, in charge at Ace.
“Pate is the official crew chief I guess you would call it. We work good together. I'm really crew chief in a way. Its crew chief by committee I guess. It's Jason Poole, Jeremy Pate and me calling the shots.
For Pate and Wallace, the new role worked out well and resulted in a strong 11th place finish.
“It's not quite official,” said Pate of his crew chief title after the race. “Steven Leavitt came and was the 'on paper' crew chief. He listened all day on the radio and how we did the pits and our communication. He gave me Jay and Steve an A+ on the day and how we worked and communicated together. The last two races we are eight and 11th so we are headed in the right direction for sure.”
MISFORTUNES END UP EARNING POINTS LEAD FOR CLAY
Clay Rogers was battling for the top-three spots with leader Mark McFarland and Bobby Gill in the early stages of the BFGoodrich 250. But that is when the trouble started for Rogers.
But in a sort of strange twist, the same driver that Clay felt hurt their night also helped gain him the points lead.
“Jake pretty much destroyed our race but I guess I have to thank him. I guess he ran himself into the wall and wrecked Shane Huffman. So now a seventh-place finish isn't so bad because it helped us in the points. That isn't how you race though.
“You know why people want to fight after some of these things I guess.”
WINNER HAPPY TO DO A BURNOUT... EVEN THOUGH HE DOESN'T LIKE THEM
Everybody expected emotion from race winner Jody Lavender. He just won his first Pro Cup race. Plus, he did it in style, winning in a classic-photo finish by inches. But Lavender never though he would celebrate the way he did.
“That was all Birdie,” said Jody of his crew chief Steve Bird. “I have always said I wouldn't do a burnout when I won a race because I kind of think they are cheesy. But I didn't care I was so excited. He told me to put it nose to the wall on the start finish line and light 'em up. So I said, OK.”
Jody Lavendar burns out for the fans at Ace Speedway after his win. (Kathy Bond photo).
ENGINE ENDS BRAD'S NIGHT
Brad Rogers, coming off his great run at Concord, had a lot going for him coming into Ace. But when the engine expired in his #29, the younger Rogers brother had to watch the race from the infield.
“We had us a pretty good ride there, said Rogers. “It's one of those things you couldn't control with a motor blowing up. I think we would have been alright. You saw the cats we were running with were the same guys going for the win at the end of the night. It's hard to say. That is part of it. Everybody has motor problems once in a while. Can't say anything wrong about Automotive Specialists. This is the first one I blew up in two years. We just know we can't run a motor on four races, we have to run it on three races. Nothing wrong with that.”
CARTER ISN'T A BIG FAN OF ACE\
Talking to Matt Carter at the end of the race it was evident that Ace wasn't his favorite race track. Last year's Pro Cup Rookie sensation traded a lot of paint on the tight track this year, and survived the mess for a 12th place finish.
“It was pretty rough. I hit George Brunnhoelzl there on the restart there and everybody got jammed up. I have to apologize for that because I did not mean to do that. Then, I kept getting under Garvey and got into him a few times too.
“We just struggled all night. I struggle a lot driving this track. It is one of my worst tracks for sure. I'm just glad to get out of here in one piece. These top 10-type runs are what wins championships but we still have to get better.”
“He (Jake) basically wasn't patient,” said Sarvis who ended up 21st. “It seems like every race I knock the nose in 50 laps in the race and run hot and battle with that all week. I said tonight I was going to keep my cool. We had a good top-five car and I just think he just drove in the corner and tried to bonsai me. You really can't do that at Ace. There is no room. There is a guardrail there. He was just driving over his head tonight.”
Hobgood chalked it up to Sarvis not knowing he was there.
But it wasn't just Sarvis that was unhappy with Hobgood after the night was over.
“We were up there going for seventh and Jake Hobgood did his normal deal there,” said Matt Carter. “He ran a whole race and wrecked I think four cars tonight. He hit somebody and I got inside of him. Then he just turned left as hard as he could and just spun himself out. It cut a right front tire and that put us further in the back.
“I think he wrecked Shane Huffman at the end. He wrecked a lot of cars himself.”
Hobgood stood with his family at the end of the night next to his torn-up racecar. He was disappointed but at the same time satisfied with the progress he has made in the series.
Hobgood's #64 showed signs of all the contact and the vicious hit with the wall that ended the night (51photo).
Bobby Gill was on top at Ace, and didn't pit when everyone else did. That was the first thing that put him behind. Then after the 06 pitted he was the innocent victim of a crash in front of him. The Crash tore up his car pretty extensively. But the damage was mostly cosmetic, and the ravaged racecar returned to the race and was on the move. Gill, with a car looking like it had been through a shredder, stormed thought the field and was a contender yet again. But the damage is what eventually did him in.
“I think I could’ve finished in the top five," said Gill. "I was all over [Mike] Garvey, and he finished fourth. I couldn’t see that well, and I think I hit the guard rail and knocked the tire off”
Gill limped to a 15th place finish.
McFARLAND HAD THE BEST SEAT IN THE HOUSE
Race fans like to sit on the top-row and might consider that the best seat in the house. Some paid money for VIP suites to watch the Pro Cup race at Ace. But arguably the man with the best seat in the house was Mark McFarland. After a hard fought battle with Jay Folgeman, he watched Jay and Jody Lavender fight for the win out of his front windshield.
“I had a good seat to watch the race,” said McFarland. “It was just good being up there and having a shot at the win. I was hoping they would get together. I backed off there to give them some room so I would know which way to go.
“They were getting on each other pretty good there. They are both good racecar driver though and they hung on to it.
“It was fun racing Fogelman there. We were side by side for laps banging doors. It's nice racing guys were you can beat a little bit and they don't mind.”
McFarland not only had a great seat, he had a great day overall taking the pole in qualifying and a third place finish.
GARVEY FINISHES WILD RACE FOURTH
It was a wild race if you were anywhere on the track at Ace. Just ask Mike Garvey, who ducked and dodged a lot of the carnage and watched a spectacular finish from the fourth spot.
that we had to find. The other motor was running fine. It was a wiring issue and we found it and now we are fine. I hate to give two races away especially at Jefferson because our car at Peach State was awesome. To come out of here fourth tonight though is awesome.”
LAVENDAR JUST WANTS TO TALK TO HIS GIRL
"Garv" was all smiles at Ace. (51 Photo)
Jody Lavender was pumped after winning his first Pro Cup race. During all the celebration and picture taking and interviews, Lavender kept trying to reach for his phone.
“I was ready to call my girlfriend there," said Lavender. "I love her to death and she has supported me 100%. If there is a biggest fan of mine, it's her. She's been behind me and is wonderful.
She wasn't here to see it. (Jody's girlfriend was home in Mooresville, North Carolina). She told me I was going to win the race now that she wasn't here. I wanted so bad to win a race with her here."
But as the celebration faded and the Hooters Girls had left victory lane, Lavender was still trying to call his girl.
"I just couldn't wait to talk to her. They made me keep changing hats and I couldn't get a chance to call her. She's probably as excited or more excited than I am.”
This happy phone call certainly scored brownie points for Lavender. (51 Photo)
Despite heavy damage, Bobby Gill's car was on the move at Ace.. (51 Photo)
Sarvis' nose was damaged as a result of the incident with Hobgood. (Kathy Bond photo).
Matt Carter's #22 battles George Brunnhoelzl's #20. (Kathy Bonb photo).
Steven Wallace and new chief Jeremy Pate chat at Ace. (51 Photo)