CAMPBELL FENDS OFF THE BEST FOR BERLIN TRIUMPH by Matt Kentfield
Former ASA Stars Eddy, Stremme, and Miller No Match
Looking down on the starting grid before the Safety Kleen 200 at Berlin International Raceway (MI), it seemed just as much an old ASA National Series race as it did today’s ASA Late Model Challenge Series. Big names like Eddy, Miller, Stremme and Benson were there. So were the names like Cozzolino and Downey, who were making a name for themselves before the now-defunct ASA Series went away. They were all at a track that produced some of the most memorable ASA races in history.
2005 ASA Late Model Rookie of the Year Brian Campbell took the win in front of the family and friends who made the short trip to Berln, beating 16-year-old sensation Landon Cassill and Stremme to the checkers in a night where visions of the races gone by filled the air.
“Butch, Johnny, David and Mike here - this is just so special,” said Campbell. “The quality of the field was incredible. ASA was a big part of racing in this area and it’s cool to see those guys come back out and race with today’s drivers. It was such a tough field tonight and to come out with the win is unbelievable.”
Brian Campbell (center) bested Landon Cassill (left) and David Stremme (right) at Berlin Wednesday. (51 Photos)
With eight second-place finishes since the start of last season without breaking into the winner’s circle, seeing Campbell actually winning a race seemed hard to believe, too. Campbell finished runner-up six times in ASA Late Model competition in 2005, finishing second in the overall ASALM points standings to champion Stephen Leicht. Even after two seconds already this season, Campbell was beginning to think that the win that had eluded him for so long would never come.
But if anyone was going to win at Berlin Wednesday night, they would’ve had to dethrone ASA legend Eddy. Eddy qualified sixth and started on the pole as a result of the redraw. Just like he did in the final ASA National race at Berlin in 2004, Eddie dominated the early part of Wednesday’s race. Eddy nearly lapped the entire field in that last ASA race and he was on pace for it again. Eddy checked out from the field early and led the entire first 100-lap segment. Eddy, who was running the car normally campaigned by Jason Dietsch and owned by one of Eddy’s ASA car owners, Jeff Miller, continued to lead the first 14 laps of the second segment. Changes made to the car during the halftime break didn’t agree with Eddy’s car, so Stremme was able to take advantage. Stremme held the lead before trading the top spot with Campbell on lap 132.
Mike Eddy (top photo), Johnny Benson (left, bottom photo) and David Stremme (right, bottom photo) were a few of the old ASA stars at Berlin.
The fans in the grandstands had visions of the good ol’ ASA. Watching heroes like eight-time National Series Mike Eddy lead more than half of the race. They watched as former ASA’er-turned-Nextel Cup rookie contender David Stremme come from deep in the field to contend for the lead only to come up short. Even Johnny Benson, Jr., a former ASA Rookie of the Year and National Champion and who now holds the lease to the historic 7/16-mile track in Western Michigan, returned to ASA action but he couldn’t get the job done at his own track.
Nobody was going to beat the local boy Wednesday night, ASA legend or not.
Campbell almost was the victim of heartbreak once again after taking the lead from Stremme. The two swapped paint for several laps, with Campbell’s #29 on the inside and Stremme’s #40 on the outside. Finally on lap 132 Campbell took the advantage at the stripe. Just one lap later, Stremme got into Campbell going back for the lead, sending the local favorite around in turns three and four.
“I had to get on the apron off of two every time to get through the corner,” said Campbell. “That got me all messed up and into him when I was going for the lead. I’m sure he didn’t like that. My guys said he did it on purpose, he said he didn’t, but you know what? The officials made a fair call. We went around, he apologized and I accepted it. I apologized and he accepted it. That’s just racing. I bet you if I was him I probably would’ve done the same thing. A guy gets crossed up in front of you and you get knocked up the track, what are you going to do?
The next ASA Late Model Challenge Series event comes July 8th at the I-70 Speedway in Odessa, MO.
Pos. Start Car #/Driver Laps Status
1. 5 29 Brian Campbell 200 Running
2. 6 7 Landon Cassill 200 Running
3. 17 40 David Stremme 200 Running
4. 2 22 Matt Hawkins 200 Running
5. 3 35 Kris Stump 200 Running
6. 28 11 Peter Cozzolino 200 Running
7. 12 32 Ryan Carlson 200 Running
8. 15 52 Butch Miller 200 Running
9. 4 89 Kelly Bires-R 200 Running
10. 29 5 Ken Wills-R 199 Running
11. 10 99 Frank Kreyer 199 Running
12. 22 8 Eddie Hoffman 199 Running
13. 14 122 Bobby Stremme 199 Running
14. 19 19 Jake Ryan-R 199 Running
15. 24 25 Tony Rosebrugh 199 Running
16. 20 81 Jesse Smith 199 Running
17. 16 92 Travis Dassow 198 Running
18. 9 129 Kyle Nicholas-R 197 Running
19. 1 6 Mike Eddy 195 Accident
20. 18 10 Johnny Benson Jr. 191 Accident
21. 25 93 Doug True 180 Running
22. 7 23 Brent Downey 178 Mechanical
23. 8 94 Greg Usher 175 Mechanical
24. 21 28 Jack Smith 173 Accident
25. 26 08 Jeff VanOudenhoven 117 Handling
26. 13 2 Chad Wood 50 Handling
27. 27 26 Greg Taylor 13 Mechanical
28. 30 3 Bill Tomlinson 9 Handling
29. 23 155 Chris Anthony-R 1 Accident
30. 11 13 Charlie Menard 1 Engine
Lap Leaders: 6 Mike Eddy Pole-114, 40 David Stremme 115-133, 29 Brian Campbell 134-200
Campbell (#29) holds off Cassill (#7) in the closing laps.
“Getting my spot back wasn’t even in my frame of mind at that point. I was just worried about how to get the thing back up to the front…that and how to take out the 40 car,” Campbell said with a joking smile.
Stremme took the blame for the contact with Campbell, but leading 19 laps in his return to ASA and not leading the last one was the most disappointing part of his race.
“I didn’t mean to get into Brian,” said Stremme. “I just rolled the center too fast but he did a good job of
recovering. It was a lot of fun coming out here and racing with these guys but I was going for the win. I wanted to come out here and have some fun and we did a good job of that and I hope the fans liked the show too.”
Campbell checked out from the field over the final laps, even withstanding several restarts including a red flag period brought out by Benson, whose car slid straight into the turn-three tire barrier at full speed just eight laps short of the finish.
Eddy’s spin on the frontstretch with five laps to go set up the final restart, but Campbell was not going to be denied. He got the jump on Cassill, who patiently raced between Campbell and Stremme in second in the final laps and checked out for the win. Cassill, who set fast time with a new track record speed, wanted to get by Campbell but the local boy was too strong.
“Brian had a great racecar tonight,” said the 16-year-old Cassill. “I tried to get around him and I got a jump on him on the outside on that last restart but I ducked in behind him and tried to get him from there but he was too strong.”
And just like the old ASA National Series, there were a great mix of veterans and youngsters on their way up through the ranks dominated the top five. Behind Campbell, Cassill and Stremme, eighteen-year-old former Southern All-Stars Super Late Model Series Rookie of the Year and Champion Matt Hawkins had his career-best ASA Late Models finish with a fourth place run, while Kris Stump rounded out the top five.
Matt Hawkins (#22) had his best-ever finish in ASALM competition. Here he races with Mike Eddy (#6) and Kelly Bires (#89).