SUPER MARIO GETS SUPER WARNINGS AFTER SUPER SOUTH 100 WIN by Bob Dillner & Matt Kentfield
Threats of Paybacks Echo Through Pits Friday Night in Lakeland
They call him “Super Mario.” A veteran of Super Late Model, Hooters Pro Cup and ARCA, Mario Gosselin knows a thing or two about USA Int’l Speedway in his home state of Florida. But on Friday night, competitors were saying the only thing “super” about Mario was the strength of his front bumper.
The Fritts and Pate run-ins were just minor compared to the controversy later in the race. Fans witnessed a ferocious battle between Gosselin and 2003 NASCAR Southeast Series champ Charlie Bradberry. Bumper tags and brake checks were exchanged in some good hard fought racing. Then, with Bradberry in the lead as they exited turn four with a handful of laps to go, Gosselin’s front bumper met up with Bradberry’s rear one. Around went Bradberry. Gosselin continued, but he lost the lead to Clay Rogers in the process.
“He got into me pretty good, got me sideways and got underneath me (going down the backstretch),” explained Gosselin. “That’s fine. Then coming off the corner he slid across my nose. I’m up way higher than I wanted to be and he’s way off the bottom so I don’t know what happened. I think he just started pushing, then he got out of the gas and I was still in the gas. I didn’t mean to spin him. I let off and tried to give him a chance to straighten out, but obviously it was too late.”
"Super Mario" climbs out of his #06 after winning Friday night's South 100. (51 Photos)
Bradberry was pretty ticked off and pulled alongside of Gosselin’s 06-machine on the backstretch.
“He told me I was number one,” said Gosselin with a smile.
For Bradberry, it was no laughing matter.
“Mario spun me,” Bradberry said in a matter-of-fact way. “He hit me hard. You can see it (on the car). He was stopping in the corners, blocking and holding the bottom. I hit him a little bit and got him sideways, but I got off him and let it go. Then I got under him and he just paid me back. I guess he thought I hit him real hard. He just flat took me out.”
Moments after Charlie Bradberry (#112) made this pass ofGosselin (#06), Bradberry spun and Clay Rogers (#2) took the lead.
Gosselin and his #06 machine were strong during the South 100 at Lakeland. That simple fact probably added more fuel to the fire after he bumped and rubbed his way to the victory in the prelim for Saturday night’s big dance during Speedfest 2006.
“He’ll be lucky if he makes it through the race,” said fellow competitor Jeremy Pate. “My car owner told me whatever I need to do. He turned me around right into the wall on the frontstretch. It scared the hell out of me. A couple guys owe him one after that race.”
It’s true. Pate wasn’t the only guy whom Gosselin pissed off during the 100-lap race. First it was perennial fast guy Mike Fritts, who led early in the race until “Super Mario” muscled his way past.
“He drives like that a lot,” said the likeable Fritts. “I was in trouble; he had a better car, so if he had just waited a little bit I would’ve just let him go. It’s hard to get going on the first lap after a restart when you’re trying to clean your tires up and take it easy and he’s wanting to run you all over. I watched him do it a bunch of other people too. We’ll get the car right and come back tomorrow and have some fun.”
Rogers has a birds-eye view. His verdict: it wasn’t Mario’s fault.
“He (Bradberry) got into Mario a little bit off of two, and roughed him up pretty good. Then he ran into the corner and shoved Mario up. Mario got in the gas and gave him just a little tap. When I went by them it looked like he was going to spin. That was between him and Mario, I was just lucky enough to slide by.
“I’ve never had to race Mario like that, but I know people who have raced with Mario before and I’ve seen what the consequences are.”
Gosselin went on to pass Rogers once again to take the victory and earn a front row starting spot for Saturday night’s headliner.
“Maybe ‘06 is my year,” Gosselin said, drawing a parallel between his number (06) and the current year. “Clay had a good car at the end, buy my car was really good on short runs. Clay drove me clean. I’ve driven a long time
Gosselin took the checkers... in a controversial way.
with him and I have a good time racing with him. We’ll do the best we can for tomorrow night now; at least we’ve got a good starting spot.”
But if the guys who are mad at him catch him, look out.
“At the drivers meeting they said if a guy spins, then he and the guy who made contact with him would go to the back (of the pack on the restart),” continued Bradberry. “That didn’t happen so tomorrow night it’s going to be on.”