ALL AMERICAN 400: SATURDAY NOTES By Matt Kentfield & Jeremy Troiano
130-Plus Cars, Fultzy Running, Two Fast Qualifiers & More
GABEHART AND HOFFMAN’S RECORD BREAKING DAY
Chris Gabehart and Eddie Hoffman are fast racecar drivers. They both were threats for their respective divisions’ pole awards as soon as they crossed through the Music City Motorplex pit gates. Hoffman won the ASA Late Model event in Nashville earlier this year in dominating fashion, and Gabehart is consistently one of the fastest CRA Super Late Model drivers around. So seeing them win the pole for Sunday’s 200-lap events were not a particular surprise.
What was a shock perhaps was just how fast the two were. Both drivers set their respective division’s Music City Motorplex track records with their laps. Hoffman’s lap of 18.718 was nearly three-tenths of a second faster than the next-fastest qualifier, John Wes Townley from Georgia. The lap put everyone on notice that Hoffman will once again be the man to beat at Nashville in the ASA Late Model 200-lap race on Sunday.
“Any time you do anything at Nashville it’s special,’ said Hoffman. “Having a track record at Nashville, which is such a neat track in a neat town and it’s a racetrack’s racetrack. They can’t all be like this because then this place wouldn’t be special.
“The car has been real good in practice, but you never
Eddie Hoffman won the pole for the ASA Late Model Series. (51 Photos)
know until you go. I think that people really picked up in practice. There were 19.0’s and .1’s all over the place, but then nobody was there at all even on sticker runs. I think that we just picked up so much for qualifying. I don’t know if a lot of guys were on the chip early. A lot of guys said they did. We didn’t run a lot of gear, so we were on the chip but not real early.”
Chris Gabehart also had a strong car in CRA Super Series practice on Friday and Saturday, but mechanical problems nearly put a damper on what ended up being a spectacular day for the Indiana native. After his primary car was destroyed in a wreck a few weeks ago at Winchester, Gabehart was still forced to tinker on a car driven by one-time teammate Sondi Eden throughout the practice sessions to get the bugs worked out. Combine that with not being sure of what he had for qualifying by not being able to do a mock run in practice, Gabehart’s lap of 18.113 was even more spectacular.
“I guess it was a blessing in disguise in practice because when I went out to do a mock run I was never able to get a clean lap in because of traffic,” said Gabehart. “I never got to the line wide open. The car was super all weekend. We had some mechanical problems yesterday, but we got it dialed in. I put my best guess on it for a setup and I barely tweaked on anything and it’s been great.
Gabehart’s fast lap earned him the CRA pole award, which was named in honor of Charlie Bradberry, who competed in numerous CRA events over the years, including the All American 400 in Nashville. The young up-and-coming superstar in the racing world lost his life last month in an automobile accident and CRA officials remember him with the AA400 pole award.
It was one of those CRA races earlier this season that Bradberry competed in that will always hold special meaning to Gabehart. When Bradberry traveled from his Alabama home to compete with the CRA regulars on their turf at Indianapolis Raceway Park, Gabehart knew that race was going to be even tougher to win with Bradberry in the field
“IRP is always a big thing for us Northerners to go and race there,” said Gabehart. “When I saw on the entry list that Charlie Bradberrry was going to be there, that’s when I knew it was the real deal. That made me excited to come. I get excited to come to the big races like here in Nashville and Pensacola because guys like Charlie Bradberry are racing. So when we went to IRP and Charlie Bradberry was coming, that made life a little different for me because I knew if we beat him, then we had beat the best. He was capable of winning at any time he showed up.
“We were outstanding that night and were fortunate enough to win the pole and win the race and passed him to do it. Charlie had a super car that night and I knew he was coming because the race was shortened because rain was coming. I race to win, and when I knew he was showing up that day it put some pep in my step because I knew if I had beaten him, I had done my day’s work.”
HASELEU LEADS DOUBLE DIPPERS
Running one of the twin 200-lap races on Sunday would be a trial for anyone. However, some drivers aren’t content with just running one. A few guys want, and are, doing the double. Racing in both the CRA Super Series 200-lapper and the ASA Late Model Series 200-lap event.
One of those drivers is Wisconsin Challenge Series Champion Nathan Haseleu.
“It’s a special race,” said Haseleu. “It gives you two chances to race and to win. The cars are both really different and you can’t really share the information or anything like that. That kind of sucks, but that is what it is. It is just fun to be here though.
“400 laps will still be tough. Thankfully, the weather won’t be too bad tomorrow, so that won’t be a factor. In the ASA cars, you get a break at the mid-way point. It shouldn’t be so bad.”
Along with Haseleu, several other drivers are trying to do
Both Nathan Haseleu (left) and Bobby Parsley (right) are running both races this weekend.
the double. Those drivers include Landon Cassill, Eddie Hoffman (who won the pole for the ASA LM event), Bobby Parsley and Travis Wilson.
VADNAIS HAS SPECIAL CAR
Josh Vadnais has been fast all weekend long. In fact, a lot of eyes have been on his car each time he takes to the track. But not all of the eyes on him are because of his blazing speed. A lot of eyes are looking at the paint scheme on his #36.
Chris Gabehart put his #10 on the pole for the CRA portion of the weekend.
Vadnais is running the same red, white and blue paint scheme that was made famous in the upper-Midwest by racing legend Joe Shear.
“It is a pretty big honor to drive a car that is painted up like Joe Shear’s car,” said Vadnais. “He was always a idol of mine growing up. I can remember being a little kid watching Joe racing at LaCrosse Fairgrounds.
This is actually Steve Strausberg’s car. I started working with him this summer and we’ve got a real good relationship. Steve is Joe’s stepson. That is where the connection comes in. We brought the look out for the
first time at LaCrosse for Oktoberfest. I don’t think there could have been a better time for it. We were getting a great response for it.
“It’s some big shoes to fill.”
CARLSON, HASELEU & PELTIER WIN RACES
In addition to the all-important qualifying for the twin 200-lap races on Saturday afternoon, the evening included three “last chance” races.
In the ASA Late Models, Ryan Carlson won the first 25-lap last chance event, with Nathan Haseleu taking the second one. Along with Carlson and Haseleu, Michael Annett and Peter Cozzolino qualified for the feature through the last chance races.
In the CRA Super Series, Preston Peltier dominated the 100-lap event.
“I pride myself on qualifying good,” said Peltier. “I can’t believe it. The car just didn’t have any more speed. I don’t know what the deal was. I thought I was going to have a good lap. I drove it down in there and it stuck. Everything told me in my mind that it was a good lap. It just wasn’t.
Ryan Carlson won the first of the two ASA Last Chance races. (Dan Butler photo)
“The car has been good all weekend. I don’t have the quick speeds those guys got, but they can’t run that for 100 laps. All I did was work on race runs all weekend long. I think we can make it to the front (in the 200-lap race). I’d be really disappointed with anything but a top-10. I really think we should have a top-five.”
’04 CHAMP STARTS IN THE BACK
Chuck Barnes, Jr. was a little nervous before his qualifying lap Saturday afternoon. The 2004 All American 400 winner had been posting times that would have put him on the verge of not making this year’s CRA portion of the event on time. Barnes timed 35th, putting him into the 100-lap last chance event.
Josh Vadnais has a special look to his #36.
Then the nervousness really started for Barnes. He spent most of the last-chance event working his way into a transfer position, but it was all for naught after contact with Josh Krug late in the race. Krug had developed a problem on his #4 car, causing him to check up and Barnes had nowhere to go to avoid him. That ended both drivers’ chances to transfer, but CRA officials added a promoter’s option provisional to put the ’04 champ Barnes in Sunday’s field.
“There was something wrong with that #4 car,” said Barnes. “Andy Ponstein got by him and I went to get by him on the bottom and he just didn’t know I was there at the same time he checked up because he had a problem
and I got him. I feel bad because I got into him, but at the same time he checked up, so I hope he understands.”
With hopefully all of the bad luck out of his way, Barnes hopes that Sunday goes quite a bit better than Saturday at Nashville.
“It doesn’t feel very good going from winning this thing two years ago to where I am right now. I had the track record and won the race and now I lost the track record and I didn’t even make the show and have to use a provisional. We just have to get our stuff together and do the best we can.”
WOMEN THE TOAST OF THE TOWN
The All American 400 weekend drew all kinds of entries. There were nearly 130-cars entered in the two events. The event also drew several female drivers.
Alison Quick, Lindsay Daniels and Leilani Munter were all entered in the ASA LM event. Unfortunately only Quick made the show.
In the CRA event, Jenny White was the lone female entry. She never got to make a shot at qualifying for the event after getting involved in an accident in practice
SEVERAL FAVORITES PACKING UP EARLY
The pressure to make the feature events during All American 400 weekend is extremely high. Just making the show is difficult in and of itself. With only select number making the main event through time trials and the rest through last-chance events, every driver felt the heat to get into the field.
That was why having the weekend cut short before they even had the opportunity to qualify was even more disappointing. Several multi-car incidents ended the hopes of two usually-fast drivers, Augie Grill and Gary Helton.
In Saturday afternoon’s practice session, a car leaking
Augie Grill's day ended in practice on the rollback.
rear-end fluid on the track caused both drivers to spin and hit the wall. Both cars were bent up, but the rear end of Helton’s car was essentially destroyed. The drivers were okay, but both packed up and will have to try again next year.
“The red #89 car was dropping grease out of the rear of his car,” said Grill. “I wasn’t but 10 carlengths behind him when I noticed it and got caught up and slid around. The car’s banged up pretty good. It’s not too bad, but we come to win and we can’t get it fixed in time for qualifying, so we’ll just go back and try to win at Birmingham next weekend.”
While Grill’s damage is minor enough to let him go to the World Classic at Birmingham International Raceway next weekend, Helton is going to do a lot more work to get his car repaired.
Chuck Barnes Jr.
“It’s going to need a rear clip, a fuel cell and a bunch of other work. We didn’t get hurt and we can replace it. We had such a good car in practice and I think we would’ve had a good car in qualifying and in the race, but that’s racing.”
Another multiple-car incident also collected the cars of Jeff Lane, Jenny White, Jerry Artuso and John Munroe. Lane was the only driver to get into another car and make the CRA field, while the others were not able to make it in.
There were no major incidents in the ASA Late Model practices.
THE DOCTOR IS IN
Dr. Jason Burchard is a chiropractor by trade. He make a living by relieving the pain and stress of his patients. If only the Murfreesboro, TN driver could’ve had someone at Music City Motorplex to settle him down before his qualifying lap. With limited experience behind the wheel of an ASA Late Model and a fast racecar all weekend, Burchard was anxious to get his lap underway. The multiple-time Aaron’s Pro Challenge Series winner earlier this year came to Nashville with not even a full Late Model race under his belt.
Inside the cockpit, Burchard may have been a nervous wreck, but on the track he looked like a seasoned veteran. Dr. Burchard timed in with the third-fastest lap, giving him an up-front starting spot in his first-ever ASA Late Model event on Sunday.
“The fastest we did the last two days in practice was a 40 on the sheets,” said Burchard. “We had been in the top 10 a couple times on the board, but we were real bad that last practice session. I didn’t know what we were going to have for qualifying. I was real skeptical of having a top-20 car and to get a third-place start, I’m pretty psyched.
“It really hasn’t sunk in yet. It is by far the biggest
Jason Buchard has went from Pro Challenge cars to the ASA Late Model Series.
accomplishment that I or anyone on this team have been a part of so far. We haven’t even finished a full event in this car yet. This is our first ASA race and I’m just proud to be a part of it.”
FULTZ AMONG SURPRISE ENTRIES
With nearly 80 cars in the CRA entry list, there were a lot of big names expected to show up. But when the cars started rolling through the gate on Thursday, there were even a few other big-named drivers that showed up.
One of those was Pro Cup regular and former NASCAR Southeast Series Champion Jeff Fultz. Fultz was planning to come to Nashville to crew with a friend on an ASA Late Model Series car. But instead, he got a late call to drive in the CRA event, as a teammate to Clay Jones.
This late wreck took out Jeff Lane (#11), Jenny White and others.
Fultz enjoyed the opportunity. And me made the most of up, coming from deep in the Blue Gray 100 (last chance race) to finish second in the event and make the starting lineup for the All American 200.
“Curtis (team owner) gave me the chance to drive this car,” said Fultz. “One of his drivers had something come up. He gave me the opportunity to jump in a straight-rail and I’ve never been here in a straight-rail car before.
“This car has a hell of a motor in it. I’m just really happy for the guys. Gary (Crooks) came with me. We have two cars here and both of them made it. I was nervous to get into the race. I knew I wasn’t the greatest qualifier.”
ARCA RE/MAX Series winner Phil Bozell was also a surprise late entry. He is driving Bobby Blount’s #116 this weekend. Bozell made the show on his qualifying time.
PACE CAR GETS INTO THE ACTION
Jeff Fultz pushes his #54 to qualifying tech.
There were a lot of accidents and cautions in the last-chance races on Saturday night.
However, there was one "odd" one in the ASA Late Model 25-lap shootout.
As the pace car pulled away from the field, it missed the entrance to pit road. However, it didn't miss the tractor tire at the end of pit road.
The Dodge Charger was damaged, but able to continue its duties for the rest of the evening.
The damage done to the pace car.
DRIVERS MISSING THE SHOW
There were many drivers that missed the show on Saturday, either through practice incidents, qualifying or failing to make it through the last chance races.
In ASA Late Models, Hunter Robbins, Trent Snyder, Leilani Munter, Jacob Goede, Brent Downey, Brian Ross, Eric Wallace, Andrew Morrissey, Ryan Sieg and Jimmy Lang were a few of the bigger names not making the show.
In the CRA event, Augie Grill and Gary Helton led the DNQ lists. Also failing to transfer into the event were Greg Davidson, Jerry Artuso, Ricky Turner, Charlie Menard, Zach Taylor and Cecil Chunn.