Excitement Lacking In Victory Lane, Not On The Track
On Sunday afternoon at South Alabama Speedway, Ryan Crane crossed the finish line first, grabbing the $10,000 first-place check that goes along with winning the Rattler 250, one of the biggest Super Late Model races of the season.  For Crane, it was easily one of the biggest wins, if not the biggest, of his entire career.

However, when he pulled into Victory Lane in front of the large crowd and his hyped crew, Crane was rather subdued.  He simply got out of the car, with little enthusiasm, waved to the crowd and walked to the other side of the car to get interviewed by the track announcer.  In essence, it was a rather lame celebration for someone who just won the biggest race of his career. 
Instead, now the driver just gets a trophy that contains a rattlesnake head.

“I’m not going to touch that (trophy) right now,” joked Crane.  “I don’t’ like snakes.  We were sitting in the hotel a couple of nights ago and they were having rattlesnake catching on TV and I was just sitting there clenching.  I don’t like them.  I can’t believe people touch them.  But I’ll take the trophy and the money.”

When informed of the past traditions, Crane was glad it was 2006 and not 1996.

“I still would have won the race, but I might have had more emotions when I climbed out of the car.  I might have went running the other way actually.”
There were some smiles for Crane in Victory Lane after his win. (51 Photos)
All kidding aside, it was a masterful race that got Crane into Victory Lane in the first place.  After qualifying just eighth on Saturday afternoon, Crane and the rest of the field had some work to do to get to the front.

As the green dropped, it looked like the race would be all about pole sitter Augie Grill and Charlie Bradberry.  Grill proceeded to lead the first 150 laps, followed closely most of the time by Bradberry.  Through lapped traffic and caution after caution, Grill and Bradberry checked out on the field.

Then came Texas teen Casey Smith.  With Grill suffering through a slowly deflating right front tire, Smith took the
Crane's team worked hard on the #10 during the competition caution.
Although he wouldn’t quite admit it… maybe, it was because of the snakes.

“I was kind of stunned,” said a smiling Crane.  “This is the first time to be sitting here in Victory Lane.  It is an awesome feeling.  I really didn’t know what to do though (as part of a celebration).  I just climbed out of the car and wasn’t sure what to do.   I guess next time; I’ll be overly excited and jumping off the roof and stuff like that.  I can’t wait for that opportunity.  This time though, I was just happy; and a little bit shocked too.”

Thankfully for Crane, the long-tome Rattler tradition of hanging live rattlesnakes around the neck of the race winner is a practice no longer implemented by the track. 
lead, bringing Crane a long with him.

A second round of pit stops came around lap 170, handing the lead off to Ricky Turner, who stayed on the track while others pitted for their final set of tires.   A mad scramble resumed behind Turner, with most of the fast cars buried mid pack, including Smith, Grill, Crane, Bradberry and others.

Several more cautions ensued, with Bradberry and Crane eventually moving toward the front, while the rest of the lead cars suffered various problems. 
Grill got into a scuffle while coming through the field and bent something on the front of his ride while Smith got shuffled back in a three-wide battle and used his tires up coming back through the pack. 

As things continued to play out, Bradberry continued to pull away.  But Crane was right there, keeping his #10 out of trouble and in one piece, which was key on Sunday.

Bradberry led the next 57 laps while Crane slowly made his charge.  Lap after lap, Crane caught Bradberry bit by bit. 
Three-wide racing and a lot of beating and banging eventually took the toll on Augie Grill (#112) and Casey Smith (red #99, middle).
Behind the two, there were cars dicing… and spinning…  and crashing; to the count of 21 eventual caution periods. 

There were also two cars charging to the front after stopping for tires later than the rest of the competitors; Turner and Johnny Brazier.

In the end, it came down two those four drivers.
Crane finally made his move on lap 240, getting under Bradberry with the help of a faster car and a little front bumper.  Once Crane got into the lead, the focus turned to Brazier, who was working on Bradberry for second.  Just as he passed for second, the caution came out, putting Brazier back to third.  When the caution period ended, Brazier was at the back of the pack, after running out of gas under caution.

That set the stage for Turner. 

Turner, with 30-lap fresher tires than everyone else, made his charge, passing Bradberry and making a run at Crane.  However, the laps eventually ran out and Turner had to settle for second.
Crane (#10) works on the rear bumper of Charlie Bradberry (#78).

Up front, it was all about Ryan Crane.

“After qualifying, where we qualified eighth, I was beating myself up,” said Crane.  “I was expecting to qualify in the top three.  I knew there were a couple of guys I had to get by quick to set myself up good for the race.  I was able to do it and things fell in line well.  The pit stops were good today and things worked out.  We wanted to keep the car clean.  That is the way it played out.

“We played our pit strategy pretty simple.  We came in at our regular intervals and not do anything drastic.  We knew we had a good car.  Our car would last better longer.  We knew we’d be good off of long green runs and that is what happened.”

Then, Crane had to deal with getting around former Rattler winner Bradberry. 

“When I got to Charlie, we had some fun there.  I got worried, but I was able to get by him ok and move on.  Charlie is a hard one to pass.  I was just going to play my cards and see if we could get by him.’

Bradberry took what he could get.

“I saw Ryan coming,” said Bradberry.  “He got into me there a little bit and got me out of the way.  I would have probably done the same to him.  He was going to get by me at some point anyway.  I had slowed down, so I can’t blame him.

“We might have pitted early.  We were in third (behind
Ricky Turner (#28) had closed in on Crane when the checkers waved.
Smith and Crane) and we were worried if we didn’t come in and pit when the leaders pitted, there might be a long green flag run and we could go a lap down.  So we decided we’d do whatever the leaders did. I wanted to stay out, but we just had no choice to follow them.  I think if we would have stayed out a couple of more cautions to get tires later, we would have won it.”

Turner’s late-race charge was impressive, but it wasn’t enough to catch Crane.

“It was just a tire game,” said Turner, who is making a full-time return to racing after just part-time competition last year.  “These tires don’t last long.  If you have a little bit of an advantage, it is huge and you have to take it.   All the leaders came in and pitted with 75 to go or so and I thought that was way too early.  We had planned to come in with about 50 to go and putting our last ones on.  They all came in and we stuck to our game plan.  We caught a caution there at the right time.
"Working with Mike Garvey is tremendous.  For him being a driver and being on the pit box, he can coach me a little bit better than most can.  He has helped us a lot.  Not only can he help me get the car dialed in, he can help me drive the thing.  I can’t wait to keep working with him.”

And that work will likely result in many more wins, if Sunday was any indication.

Here is to hoping though that one of the things Garvey can teach Crane is how to celebrate with just a tad more excitement… because the youngster deserves it.

South Alabama Speedway, Opp, AL
1. Ryan Crane
2. Ricky Turner
3. Charlie Bradberry
4. Casey Smith
5. Bubba Pollard
6. Jason Hogan
7. Jeff Scofield
8. Augie Grill
9. Johnny Brazier
10. William Wambles
11. Ronnie Sanders
12. Donald Long
13. Ken McFarland
14. Jeremy Rice
15. Scot Smith
16. Korey Ruble
17. Jessie Reid
18. Wes Loyd
19. Danny Bagwell
20. Steven Davis
21. Dale Little
22. Brandon Sager
23. Eddie Craig
24. Grant Enfinger
25. David Hole
26. Chris Hornsby
27. Gary Buchanan
28. Bruce Permenter

“We only made it to second though.  It sucks.  I’m doing this for a living now.  I wanted that $10,000.  I wanted it bad.  I worked hard.  It is a lot of work just to get this.  We’ll keep working hard, we’ll get our fair share one of these days.”

So despite all of the excitement happening around him and behind him, excitement wasn’t all that evident with Crane after catching the victory. 

Much like he does during the race, Crane might be able to look to the top of his pit box on how to celebrate big wins.  Crane’s crew chief is former ASA winner and Short Track standout Mike Garvey.
Crane & Garvey