LAP 51 CAN’T COME SOON ENOUGH FOR GABEHART  By Jeremy Troiano
Indy’s Rain-Shortened Event Still Means a Ton to Youngster
There were several story lines that developed in Saturday night’s CRA Super Series event at Indianapolis Raceway Park, both before and during the race.

Since the 100-lap event was running after the conclusion of the Pro Cup Series event, several drivers knew there would be some eyes on them in the pit area.  However, the focus turned into a “hurry up” mode, as a line of rain and thunderstorms were moving into the area. 

Soon, the drivers were focusing on making it to lap 51 instead of lap 100, changing several driver’s strategies.

With the drivers riding around under caution for several laps, the rain continued to fall and get harder, forcing CRA officials to call the event completely, exactly at the point the race was considered “official.” 

It also handed Gabehart his second-career win and his first at legendary IRP.

“Let it rain on me,” said Gabehart after celebrating victory lane in front of the handful of fans that hadn’t yet made their way for their cars in the downpour.  “I’ve been on a mission. 

“We’ve ran a whole lot better than some of our performances this year.   We’ve got great racecars and super people working on them.  There is lots of determination.   And there is a guy setting up these racecars and sitting behind the wheel that won’t take anything less than you saw here tonight.”
Gabehart was fast as long as it took at IRP. (James MacDonald photos)
Gabehart’s charge to the front was made just a little bit easier by another of the story lines of the night; the fact that a multi-car accident on the first lap took out several of Gabehart’s nearest competitors.

With the weather coming, drivers knew they had to go.  That is what led Gabehart to make a bonzi move at the start underneath several drivers. 

“Typically, you save your tires and try to save them for the end,” said Gabehart.  But not tonight.  I was wide open from the start.  I drove down in turn one on the start and passed four of them.  I kept rolling.”

That might have forced the hand of several other drivers, just hoping to keep up with the #17.  So, coming out of turn four on the first lap, several drivers made it three- and even four-wide.  Eventually, several cars got together, triggering a multi-car incident that eventually took out the cars of Josh Hamner, Andy Ponstein, Eddie Van Meter, Rick Turner, Josh Vadnais and Bull Baker.
That is exactly how far they made it.  And Chris Gabehart seemed to have the best strategy: get to the front fast.

Gabehart started seventh, but was in third by the end of the first corner.  From then on out, Gabehart was able to shadow race-leader Jeff Lane tit-for-tat on the track.  The two raced side-by-side for several laps, obvious that the goal was to get up front as fast as possible

On lap 46, Gabehart became the official leader of the event, after working around the outside of Lane.

Then, just as expected, the rain began to fall on lap 51. 
Maybe the most disappointed was Hamner.

“This was obviously the best car out here all day,” said Hamner.    “Everyone knew it.  There were people coming up to me telling me that they were expecting me to break the track record.  The car was good all day.  My dad came over the radio and said there would be a lot of give and take and that we needed to get stretched out.  All I wanted to do was finish the race.  I thought if I finished this race, I could have a shot at winning it.  

““There were a bunch of idiots out there that wanted to try and prove something.   I blame all of this on Van Meter though.  Gabehart too, he just got lucky and didn’t hit anyone.   I was under Andy Ponstein and he said he saw the whole thing.   He told me I was giving him plenty of room.  Coming off of four, the next thing I know is that I got body-slammed by Van Meter.  I was a lot of impatience.  You can’t call yourself racecar drivers.  What do you get accomplished in half a lap?”
With that accident, Gabehart really had two drivers to worry about; leader Lane and southern invader Charlie Bradberry.

Maybe the most disappointed was Hamner.

“This was obviously the best car out here all day,” said Hamner.    “Everyone knew it.  There were people coming up to me telling me that they were expecting me to break the track record.  The car was good all day.  My dad came over the radio and said there would be a lot of give and take and that we needed to get stretched out.  All I wanted to do was finish the race.  I thought if I finished this race, I could have a shot at winning it.  
Bradberry appeared to have the best car during the late-stages of the event and was catching Lane and Gabehart, but ran out of time before the rains came.

“I’m just mad about losing,” said Bradberry.  “I wanted to keep my (winning) streak going.  I had the car to do it.  I just wish we could have had some green flag runs.  I just think a few more laps would have been all we needed.  The car was getting better and better.  I had too much front brake in the car.  I just wish I could have seen what the car was going to do with the proper brake in it.”

In the end though, it was all Gabehart.  And according to the Indiana-native, things might get even better.

“Jeff Lane is such a great driver,” added Gabehart.  “I have so much respect for him.  Literally, Jeff Lane is one of the baddest short track racers in the country bar none.  So to pass him to win at IRP rocks.  I kept working on bottom and working on the bottom, then finally got him to go down there.

“I am just ecstatic.  There is no other driver I’d rather beat than Jeff Lane. 

“The best part about it is that motor is tired.  We are getting ready to put the real deal in here tomorrow.  Scott Fisher and Spec Racing engines are getting ready to roll on them.  We are going to keep riding out.  Wherever we choose to go, we are going to keep riding out.”




The mayhem that led to several contenders being knocked out of the race. Josh Vadnais #01 shows  severe damage while Rick Turner's #26 was on top of the heap.
Chris Gabehart (center) is flanked by second-place finisher Jeff Lane (left) and Charlie Bradberry (right).