“About two laps before it completely went out I started losing some power,” said Burchard.  “Turns out the clutch went out on us.  We had a good car tonight and I think we had something for Marty.

“This is our second race with this clutch.  In Orlando it did fine, so it’s just one of those things I guess.”

The last place finish cost Burchard his point lead, as he dropped all the way to fourth in the standings.  He’s only 32 points behind Mathis, the series’ new point leader, so Burchard isn’t about to give up on his goal of the Pro Challenge National Championship.



LEFTOVERS: GAS AND PRO CHALLENGE AT LANIER  by Matt Kentfield
Burchard Loses PC Point Lead, Buggay Disappointed & More
FINAL CAUTION NOT CONTROVERSIAL FOR WATTERS

Joey Senter climbed from his #12 machine as the winner of the Georgia Asphalt Series season opener at Lanier National Speedway Saturday night.  The first ones greeting him in Victory Lane were not his crew, but the crew of the Lakeshore Drywall team that fields cars for both Paul Kelley and David Watters. 
“I don’t know what exactly happened with Joey and Paul,” said Watters.  “I was in the trailer changing because I had just fallen out of the race when that all happened.  I didn’t see it but I know it was dirty.  What am I going to think?

“Joey’s guys are all thinking that I caused the caution and they’re right, I did.  My car quit.  I have no control over what the car does.  We couldn’t find any handling tonight and we were struggling but the car finally just died at the end of the race.”

CLUTCH COSTS BURCHARD PC POINT LEAD

Jason Burchard left Orlando Speedworld as the Aaron’s Pro Challenge National Series point leader after the first two events of the 2006 season.  When he got to Lanier, he had plans for a strong finish to extend his point lead over his two closest competitors, Zach Stroupe and Terry Mathis. 

As Burchard was nipping at the heels of leader Marty Arender in the early stages of the 50-lap Pro Challenge National Series race, he looked to be right on target.  Just as the field got to the halfway mark, Burchard’s car began to slow in the first corner.  He hit pit road, but clutch problems ended his night.

“We’re pleased to be in the race and we were very happy to be starting on the front row of the last chance race.  That was the place to be because those races can get pretty ugly.  Everybody’s trying to get in for five or six spots and guys are going to make any gamble they can to get in.  We were lucky enough to get out ahead and not have to worry about that stuff.”

Of course, Perry didn’t want to have to make his way into the feature lineup by going through the consi, but a time trial miscue cost him a transfer spot on time.

“This is our backup car.  We have one car that’s not ready yet.  We took this car out here and did a little bit of testing and the car was good then but we just got a little

They weren’t there to congratulate him either.  Senter got into Kelley for the lead in the final corner as retaliation for the caution flag that Watters brought out with just three laps remaining in Saturday’s race.

Just as Senter looked to have a run on Kelley for the lead on lap-147, Kelley’s teammate Watters’ car stalled in turn two.  The caution flag flew, ruining Senter’s momentum.  When the green flag came back out, Senter was determined to get the lead from Kelley and did so by tagging Kelley’s rear end in the final corner.  After the race, Senter admitted that the contact was in retaliation for Watters bringing out the caution, but Watters said that he had no intentions of bringing out a caution.


David Watters blamed the last caution on mechanical problems.  (51 Photos)
Kevin Perry left them all in his dust in the last-chance race.
Jason Burchard
“I’m definitely in it for the points.  It’s one of those deals where I guess we get one mulligan.  This was definitely my mulligan.  It definitely puts a some pressure on me from this point forward.

I really can’t afford to have this happen again or get in a wreck if I want to be involved in the points.  The setup was there for us tonight and I really think we had the car to beat.  You take what you learn and you move on from there.”

KEVIN PERRY WINS GAS LAST CHANCE

When a pack of drivers know they have to race their way into a staring lineup, the drop of the green flag in a last-chance qualifying event is like pulling the pin on a grenade.  Kevin Perry had no problems with starting up front in the last-chance race.  He was able to pull out from the rest of the field and let the rest of the drivers jockey for their spots in the 150-lap feature later in the night.


loose on the first qualifying lap.  We thought we’d have a good shot at starting up front but the car just didn’t cooperate in time trials.  We’ve got this car figured out now and I think we’ll have a good run later on.”

Like his qualifying lap, the feature event didn’t go quite the way Perry had planned either.  He raced among the middle of the pack the entire race and got bounced back to the rear of the field but rallied to a 20th place finish.

ILLNESS CAN’T KEEP SHARP FROM PODIUM FINISH

Not even sickness can stop Bre Sharp from continuing to impress in the Pro Challenge ranks.  Her third place finish at Lanier on Saturday night solidified her spot as one of the top drivers in the Pro Challenge Georgia region.  She raced Terry Mathis over the closing laps for the second place but came up short.  It was still a gutsy performance for the youngster from Fayetteville, GA despite fighting an illness that nearly kept her out of the seat.

“I wasn’t really feeling well even before the race,” said Sharp.  “I felt sick but I wanted to race tonight.  Now I feel like a winner just to finish right behind Terry Mathis.  He’s a really great driver and I can learn a lot from him.”


The 2004 Senoia Speedway Bandolero track champion raced among the top five after qualifying an impressive second, just 0.01-seconds off Marty Arender’s pole speed.  Sharp held her own against the Pro Challenge veterans, including former National Champion Mathis who was one of the first drivers to congratulate Sharp after the race.

“It meant a lot that Terry came up and congratulate me.  “He told me that I did a good job and that means a lot coming from him.  He’s really fun to race with and I’ve learned a lot from him.
Bre Sharp's #14 Pro Challenge car.
“This is our first race of the season and I wasn’t expecting to run this well.  Our car was pretty good and we never been to this track.  It’s pretty different from Senioa but it’s still a fun racetrack.  We learned a lot tonight and I’m happy to finish third.”

SECOND PLACE SWAP CONTACT FREE?

When the GAS field settled into single-file racing around halfway in Saturday’s race, Joey Senter and Frederick Moore had one of the only battles on the track.  Moore had the second position locked down at lap 75, but Senter was filling up his mirror trying to take over the spot.

Senter looked to get into Moore going into the first corner several laps later, moving Moore up the track as the two swapped the runner-up position.  After the race, Moore was not mad or upset about contact.  In fact, he wasn’t even sure that the two cars touched.  If they did, Moore’s strategy was to settle into third and that’s just where he finished.

“He may have gotten into me, but if he did I barely even felt it,” said Moore.  “We may have touched but he was faster.  Once he got up under me I tried to give him some room so he could go on. 

“I fought him for a little bit, but once I saw I couldn’t get away from him, the next time he made a run at me I let him get me.  To keep from slowing us both down I just let him get by as easy as I could and slid in behind him.”

TOP-FIVE FOR ETHERIDGE

A solid top five run was Richie Etheridge’s only goal going into the first race of the GAS season Saturday night. 

Mission accomplished.


“Etheridge qualified third and raced clean and without incident to a strong fourth place finish, but an ill-handling car made him earn his quality finish.

We didn’t anticipate the buildup right tonight I think,” said Etheridge.  “The tires kinda went crazy on us and the car got real tight and then it got real loose.  We had a dang good run even still.  The car was pretty good until the tires went crazy.  You can’t win them all.”
Richie Etheridge
Being in the top five on the last lap gave him one of the best seats in the house for the last-lap fireworks between Joey Senter and Paul Kelley.  When the top two drivers made contact off the fourth corner and slid to the start/finish line, Etheridge could see it all in his windshield.

“I just quit racing and watched them those last few laps.  I was lucky because I had plenty of time to not hit anything.  I actually saw it coming.  I thought it was going to happen even before it did.”

NEW CAR GOOD TO STEVENS

Racers are always eager when it comes to the first race of the season.  It’s the chance to shake off the rust that built up over the winter and test out the new bells and whistles on or around their racecars. 

Doug Stevens wasn’t just excited to start his season, but he was ready to debut his brand new racecar that he assembled in the off-season.  His hard work over the winter paid off with a top-five finish in the GAS season-opener Saturday night.

“I thought it was a pretty good night.  We built this new car over the winter and I designed it on my own.  We didn’t know what it was going to do.  To come out here and race with these guys and run like we did we’re real happy.”

Of course, with a brand new car, Stevens was careful not to beat and bang too much, so that he can keep his new piece up front for many weeks to come.

“We didn’t put any scratches on the car and didn’t make any enemies out there when it looked like a lot of guys made some enemies tonight.  We got a good start to the season and we can go back and make it go faster instead of putting it back together.”
Doug Stevens
NO LUCK FOR BUGGAY

Lanier National Speedway is Dwayne Buggay’s home track.  He has been a favorite at the 3/8-mile track for many years and every time he pulls into the pit area he’s instantly one of the favorites to win.  Saturday night Buggay did not have the car that could back up his Lanier reputation.  After a disappointing qualifying run, Buggay showed signs of improvement to crack into the top-10.  He finished a respectable ninth.
“I thought we’d do a lot better than we did,” said the former Lanier Super Six Series Champion.  “We were one of the first cars through tech and one of the last cars to go out in qualifying.  We didn’t put the battery on charge and the battery went dead in qualifying.  Fortunately we still qualified 16th with a car that coasted across the start/finish line.  It had no power at all. 

“We came up from 16th to ninth in five laps and I think that’s about where we finished up.  We lost about an inch and a half of stagger in the rear.  The car just got really tight.  I just tried to hold my position.  There’s a lot of good cars out there tonight and the top eight were all really good.  I was just the first car off.”

Dwayne Buggay
Even with countless laps at Lanier and other tracks as part of the GAS series, Buggay was impressed with the caliber of competition at the season opener.

“There were a bunch of good drivers, track champions, and a lot of talented young guys out there.  This place is almost like a restrictor plate race.  There’s a bunch of good cars all running about the same speeds two or three wide.  There’s got to be a lot of respect out there and even when guys were beating and banging it seemed like there was a lot of respect shown.”

Of course, racing in such tight confines holds an almost certain chance of an incident.  Buggay wasn’t involved in one until the last lap, when the leaders crashed off the fourth turn, forcing cars behind them to take evasive action.  Buggay was caught behind and spun, then let his frustrations out by pulling a few donuts on the frontstretch to the delight of the crowd.

“I was just really frustrated at the end.  There was a big wreck on the frontstretch of the last lap and about five or six of us were involved.  I was hit and already sideways so I just finished myself off and put on a little show.  I figured I’d celebrate for the winner because he was wrecked.”

“WILD CHILD” HAS WILD NIGHT

Everything was going well for Michael “Wild Child” Pope in practice.  His quick times led him to believe he’d have a solid starting spot which in turn would get his season started off on the right foot.  On his first time trial lap, however, his hopes for transferring to the feature on time were dashed after spinning his #44 machine.  Pope had to transfer through the last-chance race.  He finished 19th in the feature.

“In practice the car was really good,” said Pope.  “We were turning some really good times.  In qualifying I had to scuff my tires in and my crew member told me to drive it in a little deeper in the corner.  I drove it in a little too deep and lost control of it and it spun.  We came back to turn a 14.6 to qualify 25th but we had to run the consolation [race].  In the consolation [race] we finished third with a really good car. 

“In the race we started off pretty good and then I wasn’t getting close enough to the wall getting into the turns so it was pushing pretty bad off the corner.  Towards the end the front tires started chattering pretty bad too and that was pretty much the end of it.  We just hung on to get what we could tonight.”

TOWNLEY BOUNCED AROUND 

Fresh off a strong fourth place finish in the ASA Late Model Southern Tour season opener in Bronson, FL earlier this month, John Wes Townley was excited to get to Lanier to start off his GAS season with a good run as well.  The 16-year-old will be competing in both the ASA

Michael Pope (#44, top) and John Wes Townley (#09, bottom) had rough outings at Lanier.
South and GAS schedules this season and will be one of the youngsters to watch in both series.  Saturday’s GAS kickoff was not quite a carbon copy of his Bronson race, however.

Townley’s night got off to a bad start when he had problems getting through tech.  In the race he was bounced around and involved in several of the caution periods, but each time he was part of an incident it was not of his own doing.  The youngster was disappointed in his 28th place finish, but still had his head up after the race.

“We didn’t get much practice because the templates were off in tech.  What they don’t realize that there are two different brands of templates.  They have one kind and we have another.  It just didn’t work out.  We had to work on the car but we only got about 30 laps on the track.

“We got to qualifying and qualified eighth which was pretty good.  In the race I just felt like I got run over a little bit.  That’s racing and sometimes you have to just put up with it.  It was frustrating.”