In most stick-and-ball sports, it is hard to deny the advantage to playing a home game. With the hometown crowd cheering a team on, there’s plenty of motivation for each player to go out and get the win.
It’s much the same in auto racing, as well. Running at a track that is close to home always seems to bring out the best in a race team, especially when the team has been racing all around the country. There’s nothing like a little home cooking.
“It feels great,” said Bires. “Everything we’ve run this year has been short tracks and we’ve run the same car at every race except for this one. We brought a brand new piece out for this race. It’s nice when you can bring a brand new piece to the racetrack and win the first time. Usually you have to massage them a little bit before they can win, so we’re pretty happy.
“It’s nice because it’s getting close to the end of the year in the points. Every race we go to, we hope we don’t break and we go for a top-five. A few times this year we’ve gone out and qualified in the top-five and dominated a few races. That just makes the whole team feel great.”
The WalTom Racing team celebrates their hometown win. (51 Photos)
It was easy for Bires to be humble about his win since he had pretty much the entire race to think about his victory lane speech. He had been doing them all season long, after all. The win was Bires’ fifth overall ASA Late Model victory on the season and extended his points lead in the Challenge Series over Landon Cassill, who finished ninth. Bires took the lead from Chad Wood on lap 20 and never looked back, cruising to victory over Wood by about a half-straightaway at the checkered flag.
When Wood took the lead from polesitter Dean Cornelius on lap nine, he thought he had the car to beat. He did, but there was another car that was even better.
Bires' new black #89
Of course, Kelly Bires and the WalTom Racing team have been racing just about every weekend since the spring at tracks across the map in the ASA Late Model Challenge Series as well as the Northern Division. Bires hasn’t been just running in the two series, he’s been dominating.
Instead of making a long haul to a track somewhere else, Bires gave a rude welcome the rest of the ASA Late Model Challenge Series to his backyard on Saturday afternoon by dominating the 150-lap race at The Milwaukee Mile. Bires’ performance at the historic one-mile track just a few miles from the WalTom Racing shop proved what had been formulating all season – he is one of the hottest drivers in all of short track racing.
“We got out in the lead there and I thought, ‘wow, we’re pretty good,’” said Wood. “Then it just got a little bit tight. I just kind of let (Bires) go because I wanted to see what he had. Of course, I saw what he had. That thing was on rails.
“My car stayed good all day. It got tight especially in the second half of the race. But watching Kelly was so frustrating. The guys were telling me lap times and it seemed like I should’ve been catching him but the lapped cars cost me. I’m sure it was just the same for him, though.”
Bires waited patiently behind Wood in the early laps, but when he had the shot to take the lead, it was smooth sailing thereafter.
“I was just riding for a while, waiting to check away from people,” said Bires. “We had a 150-lap race so there was no sense in burning the car up. He started getting tight and I wasn’t going to sit behind him too much longer so eventually I got a run and figured there was no sense in staying behind him anymore. I went by him, but at first I was content staying right behind him.
“It was very frustrating,” said Wood. “I thought we had something for him for a while. Especially on one restart, I saw him wiggling around a little bit and I thought maybe he had lost the handle on his car. But then all of the sudden it was see ya later again.
“That’s a full-time team, too. That says something about our deal. We work so hard. I’m about the only full-time person in our shop. We’ve got one other guy in there with me and I think they got a bunch of guys working full-time. It’s hard to beat Howie Lettow, too. That guy’s been around and he’s been awesome. Kelly has done a good job too, especially today.”
Bires took the checkered flag with a large gap back to Wood in second. Jake Ryan followed for third, with Butch Miller and Eddie Hoffman rounding out the top-five.
Governor's Cup 150
The Milwaukee Mile
Pos. Start Car #/Driver Laps Status
1. 6 89 Kelly Bires-R 150 Running
2. 8 2 Chad Wood 150 Running
3. 4 19 Jake Ryan-R 150 Running
4. 11 52 Butch Miller 150 Running
5. 9 8 Eddie Hoffman 150 Running
6. 12 13 Charlie Menard 150 Running
7. 26 177 Jonathan Eilen-R 150 Running
8. 15 29 Brian Campbell 150 Running
9. 6 7 Landon Cassill 150 Running
10. 32 23 Brent Downey 149 Running
11. 2 44 Terry Schoppenhorst 149 Running
12. 13 35 Kris Stump 149 Running
13. 21 08 Jeff VanOudenhoven 149 Running
14. 10 16 Nick Schumacher-R 149 Running
15. 19 11 Peter Cozzolino 149 Running
16. 17 5 Ken Wills-R 149 Running
17. 1 09 Dean Cornelius-R 149 Running
18. 14 9 Mark Kraus 149 Running
19. 24 00 Mike Heiss-R 149 Running
20. 18 139 Andrew Morrissey 146 Running
21. 27 3 Bill Tomlinson 146 Running
22. 25 77 Chris Sevey-R 145 Running
23. 30 93 Doug True 115 Handling
24. 31 94 Greg Usher 114 Handling
25. 3 91 Trevor Stewart 112 Mechanical
26. 29 22 Matt Hawkins 104 Mechanical
27. 33 28 Jack Smith 97 Mechanical
28. 7 92 Travis Dassow 95 Mechanical
29. 22 18 Dan Lensing 84 Accident
30. 28 69 Chris Lester-R 72 Three Cautions Rule
31. 16 32 Ryan Carlson 61 Mechanical
32. 23 25 Bobby Stremme 31 Engine
33. 20 81 Jesse Smith 26 Accident
“The spotter kept telling me I was clear by 10. Then it was I was clear by 15. Then he just told me I was checked out. I kept looking in my mirror but eventually I couldn’t see him anymore, so I knew we had some good stuff tonight.”
The win clinched the Rookie of the Year title for Bires and brought him one step closer to the 2006 ASA Late Model Challenge Series championship with just two events remaining. For Wood, however, all that ran through his mind after the race was how dominant Bires’ machine was. The second-place finish was one short of his goal but still knew that finishing second to the home-town favorites at WalTom Racing was an accomplishment in its own right.