“We had a great racecar,” said a disappointed Hole after the event. “It was top 10 in every practice session. In qualifying, I ran what I ran in my mock qualifying run, but I didn’t pick up what everyone else did, so it put me in the last-chance race. That might have been a blessing in disguise, because if that would have happened when I was out there racing in the regular race, I might have spun and wrecked in front of most of the field.
“The car was great and then, all of a sudden, something locked up. I think it was the motor, looking at it now. I spun and got into the wall a little bit, then someone came across and didn’t get stopped and got into me. I know he didn’t mean to. There was just no room for him to go.”
CRA LEFTOVERS: NASHVILLE By Jeremy Troiano & Matt Kentfield
A Few Big Names Miss, Big Time Wreck, Schendel Solid
FIRST LAP WRECK LEAVES DRIVERS STEAMED
Lap one, turn one. It happened.
The giant wreck on the first left-hand turn in the CRA Super Series 150 forced many drivers to watch the rest of the season opener from the sidelines.
didn’t know what they were doing. I’m sure it is nobody’s fault, but I’m sure it is someone’s.
“It is just the typical first race of the year. I never can figure out what everyone is thinking at the beginning of the race.”
Eddie Van Meter, another of those taken out, didn’t know what happened, but knew why it happened.
“I don’t know what happened up there,” said Van Meter. “Cars in front of us were spinning and we had nowhere to go.
“If these promoters had to pay for these cars, they would either give us more warm-up laps or they would wait until it is warmer to race. The problem is these tires are way too cold. It showed up in the ASA race and it showed up again here. They are going to have to do something different.”
The accident also took out Jay Middleton, JR Roahrig and Jason Shively.
HOGAN, HANTZ, HAMNER TANGLE
The first lap melee at Nashville wasn’t the only big wreck of the evening. On lap 26, Scott Hantz, Jason Hogan, Josh Hamner and others got together in an accident that started when Hogan and Hantz got together.
Hogan and Hantz got together with Hantz spinning around in turn one. As Hantz tried to right the car, several other drivers took evasive action, including Hamner. Unfortunately, Hamner got into Hantz, knocking both drivers out of the event.
Eddie Van Meter (#23) and Jeff Lane (#11) were two of the drivers involved in the first lap accident at Nashville in the CRA race. (51 Photos)
"We never even got a chance to see how the new car would react as the laps wound down," said Hantz. "It was just unfortunate that the same guy has taken us out the last two or three races at Nashville.”
Hogan not only had to deal with that incident, but also got together with Kenny Tweedy during the event.
“You learn who you can race with and who you can’t,” said Hogan. “All the southern guys we can race with, but maybe we haven’t earned the respect of the northern guys yet. Nothing against those guys; they’re all great racers or they wouldn’t be here. There’s got to be a little give and take out there and there wasn’t tonight.”
Josh Hamner (#38) was an innocent victim in the Hogan-Hantz accident.
When the field got the green flag, Chris Gabehart was allowing himself enough room in front of him in case of a bottleneck in the first corner. When cars ahead of him got together, Gabehart was sitting pretty, but Sammy Sanders could not slow down enough to not get into Gabehart. It may have been just a racing incident, but that was no consolation to Gabehart.
“We work too hard and spend too much money on these cars to have some idiot who doesn’t deserve to be running Street Stocks, let alone these cars, go out there and drive right into us like that,” said Gabehart. “These cars cost $40,000 on the low end and we end up like this because of that guy? That’s just shit.
“I was just going into the corner plenty easy. I was half throttle to avoid getting bottled up when we got into the corner. The guy behind me just drove the thing in there like it was the last lap and junks our car.”
The accident took out several others as well, including defending CRA Super Series Champion Jeff Lane.
“It isn’t a very good way to start the season,” said Lane. “I can't imagine what happened up there. It seemed like we were only going about 60 mph. All I can say is that I can’t wait to see lap two when they get up to speed. I don’t mean to blame anyone, but someone obviously
Hamner, was more of an innocent victim in the whole thing.
“I don’t know exactly what happened. I heard a lot of people pointing fingers at Jason Hogan. It was a dumb move on his behalf if he caused that wreck that early. I have nothing against him, though; it is just racing.”
IMPRESSIVE RUN FOR SCHENDEL DOESN’T PAN OUT
Veteran Wisconsin racer Tim Schendel came down to Nashville for the first time since 2000, hoping to come away with a win at the legendary track. And Schendel was good. Really good. In fact, he was the only other driver than eventual winner Eddie Mercer.
But a little bit of inexperience might have cost Schendel a spot in the top-five or even a shot at the win. Instead, he finished 11th.
“We came down here and we didn’t have a 22-gallon fuel cell. We had a 17-gallon one,” said Schendel. “We were going to gamble and figure that the rest of the guys would go to at least lap 40 before they pitted, because after lap 40, I could go to the end on gas with my fuel cell. When (the leaders) came in at lap 20, I was like ‘oh man, I can’t come in, or I’ll have to pit twice.' It screwed me up. I just wasn’t in sequence with those guys.”
Schendel stayed out when the rest of the leaders pitted in, and because of that, was able to lead a bunch of laps before having to pit himself on lap 68. He then had to come from the back of the field.
Tim Schendel (James MacDonald Photo)
“By that time, your tires are so heated up and worn down, you are running the same lap times as the leaders. You are just going to be mired in the traffic. I just really needed a 22-gallon fuel cell. I learned the hard way.
“We came down here to learn some things. I haven’t run at Nashville since about 2000. I want to come back down here this fall. We’ll make the car better and hopefully be better. I like racing with the CRA guys. They are a lot of fun.
NORRIS’ NASHVILLE LUCK CONTINUES ON
JR Norris likes Nashville’s Music City Motorplex a lot. In fact, it is one of his favorite tracks. It’s just that the Nashville track doesn’t seem to like JR very much.
Norris’ Nashville nightmare continued when the youngster got a flat tire midway through the race and had to pit under the green. Norris tried valiantly to get his lap back, but was never able to, and had to settle for a 14th-place finish.
“This is my favorite racetrack to hate,” said Norris. “We had a good car, but I don’t think we had anything for Eddie. We had a second-place car tonight.”
Norris’ past at Nashville is storied… just for the wrong reasons. He’s never won at the historic half-mile, although he’s led plenty of laps and won several poles in both NASCAR Southeast Series competition and Super Late Models. His history includes several flat tires and a few accidents, all that have kept him from taking the checkered flag.
“The story of my life; a flat tire at Nashville. We got a lap down and (race leader) Eddie (Mercer) wouldn’t give me a brake. I don’t blame him, that’s racing. I raced him hard to get it back. He gave me racing room, I wouldn’t say he gave me room or he blocked me or anything. I tried to take it as I could get it. I’m not going to expect him to back off for me. I wouldn’t have done it if it was him
trying to get by me if he had the chance because I know how fast he always is.”
MIDDLETON’S FRUSTRATING NASHVILLE EXPERIENCE
Jay Middleton went into Saturday night’s double feature at Nashville’s Music City Motorplex hoping to complete a total of 350 laps; 200 laps in the ASA Late Model Challenge Series race and another 150 in the CRA Super Series event.
Unfortunately, Middleton made it less than a quarter of a lap in each event before getting caught up in accidents that knocked him out of contention.
It started when Middleton and at least 10 other cars were caught up in a chain reaction accident heading into turn one of the first lap in the ASA Late Model event. In that accident, Middleton was able to keep the car going and used a 10-minute break at lap 100 to try and fix the car. However, things were never right with his #74 after the first-lap accident and Middleton finished eighth.
In the next event, Middleton was again taken out in a first-lap, first-turn accident that once again involved 10-plus cars. This time, though, the damage was too much for the #74 team, forcing them out of the event. The team finished 31st.
“The CRA race was the most frustrating because (pole sitter) Eddie (Mercer) just didn’t go on the start like normal. He did that earlier in last year, too, at Mobile. I don’t know if he’s doing it on purpose or if he’s just not good on restarts, but he just doesn’t go in the beginning. Then, it seems like the second time he goes just fine.
“He got beat about four car lengths at the start, so the whole inside lane started stacking up. I pulled up from the inside and I guess Chris Gabehart’s spotter called
Jay Middleton had a long night in both his ASA Late Model (left) and his CRA car (right).
him clear low or something, but Chris hit me so hard in the right front going into the corner it knocked the tie-rod off. It just caused a huge pileup.”
A FEW BIG NAME DRIVERS MISS OUT
With 53 drivers taking time at Nashville, there were bound to be some big name drivers that were going to miss the show. And there were.
One of the surprising names on the DNQ list included David Hole. Hole was in a transfer spot in his last-chance race when something broke while running second. He spun and got into the wall, taking Greg Boone with him.
David Hole at speed
Other drivers who missed the show lincluded: Zach Taylor, Bob Sibila Jr., Alec Carll, Rich Segvich, Teddy Musgrave Jr., B. Shotko, John Van Doorn, Brett Hudson, Terry Van Haitsma, Johnny Brazier, Boone, Stanley Smith, Joe Ross, Johnny Jenkins, Larry Speakman, Danny Jackson, Patrick Lawson and Don Young.
BRADBERRY NOT HAPPY WITH TOP 10
Charlie Bradberry couldn't keep up his string of two-straight, third-place finishes in Super Late Model competition intact at the Music City Motorplex. Charlie started from the seventh position and raced in the top-10 for all 150 laps and finished seventh as well. Not a flat tire nor stiff competition could keep Charlie away from a top-10 finish this night.
qualifying effort on Saturday night. They were going to bypass running in the last-chance race, keep the car in one piece and go home and work to make it better for the next race weekend.
But a change of heart proved beneficial.
Hamner started fifth in the first of two last-chance races for the All American 150 and ended up qualifying for the feature event. Hamner started 29th in the 150-lap feature and was working his way towards the front when, on lap 27, he was involved in an accident not of his doing.
“It has been a tough weekend,” said Hamner. “It just started off bad, even though we were fast at times on Friday (during practice). I had a damn good racecar, though. I’m glad we decided to run the last-chance race and work my way in. I had a rocketship, we just didn’t get a chance to show it.
“I was just tip-toeing my way around and got caught up in something. I guess we’ll just go home and get ready for Pensacola.”
HOGAN CAN’T COME THROUGH IN THE “CLUTCH”
Vadnais, a regular in the NASCAR Midwest Series, qualified 14th and was running in the top-five when a stray tire from an accident rolled directly in his path and hit the front of his car. The damage ultimately affected the handling of his #01, forcing him to settle for his eighth-place run.
"We had a top-three car, but after the incident with the tire, it was all I could do to hang on to it,” said Vandis. “I think we proved that we can run with the best Super Late Model drivers in the country."
HAMNER HAS TOUGH WEEKEND
There was a point when young Josh Hamner and his team loaded up their #38 Super Late Model after a poor
Sometimes, it just wasn’t meant to be. That is how Jason Hogan felt at Nashville.
Hogan suffered through clutch problems all weekend long at Nashville and they eventually took a toll on the #92, forcing him to a 20th-place finish.
“I just have to thank every one of my guys that were here that worked on this clutch,” said Hogan. “These guys got under this car at 8 this morning and didn’t get out from under it until 5 this afternoon when we went out for the last-chance race. The clutch was still slipping, which was our problem all weekend long. They got back under it and worked on it until race time.
Josh Vandis (#01) still had a good run, despite getting together with a tire.
Hogan and his team look over the problem with their car.
"This isn’t what we wanted tonight," said Bradberry. "We had a flat at the start of the race and that just hurt me the rest of the race. I had to come from last and when I finally got up to the good guys, my car was just too loose."
Charlie worked his way up from the rear of the field steadily but with long green-flag runs in the middle stages of the 150-lap feature, the tires on his #78 machine had gone away. Late in the race, Charlie was hanging on for all that he could and still finished a respectable seventh.
"I used up my tires coming through the field and I had nothing left there at the end. We’ll just go back to the shop and regroup and get them next time.
"There were a lot of wrecks out there and we came out of here without a scratch on it, so that’s something positive for us."
NEW CAR SOLID FOR PONSTEIN
The first race of the year always brings some new drivers, new teams and new combinations. For Andy Ponstein, it brought a new car. And a car that was so new, just three weeks before the green flag flew, the car was a bare chassis.
“Three weeks ago, that was a bare frame,” said Ponstein. “We got it from Port City and just started working on it. It was three weeks ago Monday that I bent the first piece of aluminum for the interior. To come from there to here, I’m really proud of my guys.”
Where here was, was a fifth-place finish.
“I don’t agree with this pit-stop deal (CRA required everyone to make a pit stop during the race at some point). That hurt me. I was running second to Eddie (Mercer) and had a great car. I ended up getting boxed in there on that pit stop. I went in second and came out 13th. I had to work my way back up from there, but we did it.”
OUCH! A TIRE
Josh Vadnais might have come to Nashville as a slight underdog with some of the biggest names in the Super Late Model world in the field, but he came out of Nashville shining, with an eighth-place finish.
“Those guys are why I got to race 137 laps tonight. We had a good racecar and one that was capable of winning the race, but not qualifying and having to start in the back and wearing your car out is a tough deal. We had a great racecar and we had to wear it out too early.”