“THE FAST” LANE DOMINATES AT WINCHESTER By Jeremy Troiano
Defending CRA Champ Picks Up First Career Win At Indiana High Banks
Jeff Lane loves Winchester Speedway (IN). Last year, the defending CRA Super Series Champion won both an Outlaw Super Late Model and a 200-lap Street Stock event at the legendary high-banked Indiana track.
But Lane had never won a CRA Super Series Super Late Model event at the track.
“We’ve been fighting issues all year. It just seems like one thing after another. I don’t know how many times we’ve been up there setting fast times and doing this and that and go home with a goose egg beside you because something happened. Today, I didn’t think we had a dominant car. I didn’t think we did after yesterday’s practice. Everyone just kept working. We had a good enough car to win.”
It was a car that was good enough to win. It was a car good enough to stay in front of the rest of the field.
It was also no surprise to those who were chasing him.
“Jeff is so good here,” said second-place finisher Chris Gabehart, who jumped into second at the start of the event and shadowed Lane for all 100 laps. “To be honest with you, I was tickled to death just to be able to pressure him.”
Lane was in a class by himself at Winchester on Sunday afternoon. (51 Photo)
Winchester is a tough track. But there is something that Lane had found out about the track.
“There are a whole handful of things that makes a guy better here,” added Lane. “This place is wild. You can ask any of the big names that have run here. I guess this place suits my style of driving. I’m a little aggressive when I’m driving. There are probably a few of us out there that are. You can just throw the car around a lot here and the banking catches you.
“If we went to IRP next week, it would take me 50 hot laps to get me to keep it off the fence because I’d drive it in there so hard. Here, you can just run it in there, no big deal. It just slides a little bit and you go on. I love this place.”
This is what it looked like most of the day; Jeff Lane (#11) beinf chased by Chris Gabehart (#17). (James MacDonald Photo)
That changed on Sunday, as Lane led all 100 laps after starting on the pole in his rout of the Manning Service 100. Lane used the CRA Super Series rule of inverting the top-few qualifiers to his advantage. Lane was the fifth fastest in qualifying, but after the night’s quick qualifier Kenny Tweedy pulled a five, Lane was on the pole and the rest of the field was in trouble.
“It is always nice to start on the pole,” said Lane. “But I’ve told people though that I’d rather be the chaser, not the chasee. I don’t like having to look back. I don’t think about things like that during the race though. I’ve started back there so many times, I guess everyone gets a shot at the front row every now and then. Today, we got to take advantage of it.
Something else that made the day easier for Lane was the lack of cautions and how close the field was in performance.
Over 100 laps, the race featured just three caution flags, with the first not coming until lap 63. The top 18 qualifiers (of the 22 cars who started) were separated by less than a half of a second.
“You don’t get a 65-lap green flag run at Winchester very often,” said Andy Ponstein, who fell victim to a slowly leaking tire during the long-green run.
“We had such a bad race last week (at Anderson), maybe everyone was just happy to be here and running,” said Scott Hantz of why the race was so competitive and caution free. “We went 50-something laps before the first caution. This is also a tough place to pass. You could see that.”
It didn’t bother Lane though.
“A couple of years ago, when we first started coming up here, some of these guys had never been here,” said Lane. “Two or three of us have been here consistently and have ‘shined.’ Now, some of these guys are getting a little bit older and wiser. I mean, a 15.8 (second qualifying lap) was only good for a 15th or 16th starting spot. That is a tough and tight field.”
Gabehart’s car was good, but like everyone else, the car in front of him (Lane) was just a little bit too good to make the pass. Gabehart, who won his first CRA race at Winchester in last year’s spring event at the track, settled for second.
“I was better than Jeff in different spots,” added Gabehart. “I beat him a car length or two a corner here or there. He would then beat me a car length or two a corner here or there. I think we had something in the driveline going wrong. The motor started laying down right near the end.
“I just wore the car out trying to keep up with him. We had a damn good racecar, I’ll guarantee you that. My
Lane celebrates his win. (MacDonald photo)
racecar was top of the line out here as far as I’m concerned.”
Brian Rievley, the 1998 CRA Super Series Champion, raced for the first time in nearly three years and finished an impressive third in a backup car for Eddie Van Meter.
Speed51.com will have more on the weekend in CRA Leftovers later this week.