Cassill Survives For Second, Kittleson The Quick Qualifier
Most of the time, Mike Fritts beats his competition with skill and power.

In Friday night’s Super Late Model Series opener at Smyrna Speedweeks, Fritts used a little bit of luck and “being in the right place at the right time” to collect yet another win.
Mike Fritts won night one at New Smyrna. (51 Photo)
The race looked as if it was going to come down to two Canadians; JR Fitzpatrick and Jerry Artuso.

The two drivers started on the front row after the inversion and looked to be the class of the field.  Artuso jumped out to the early lead, but then came upon two lapped cars.  Artuso checked up as the lapped cars continued to race hard and Fitzpatrick took advantage. 

Fitzpatrick found himself in the lead until Artuso caught up.  Just past halfway, Artuso was ready to challenge for the lead again. 
The two Canadians got together in turn one as Artuso jumped to the inside.  Artuso didn’t back out of it and the two got together again on the backstretch, with Fitzpatrick spinning and getting into the inside wall. 

While all of this was happening, Fritts had moved up from his sixth-place starting spot to third.  When the two leaders got together, Fritts kept his nose clean and moved into the lead.  Artuso was later penalized and put to the back.

It was a case of being in the right place at the right time.  No one knows if Fritts would have been able to still pass both Artuso and Fitzpatrick had the two not gotten together, but he’ll take it anyway he can get it.
“Artuso had a really good car,” said Fritts.  “It was just like ours (Fritts takes care of the car that Artuso pilots).  He was trying to get by the other guy.  They got together once and the other guy went up.  He was trying to guard the lead and I don’t blame him.  They just got together.  That is Speedweeks racing.  You have to go when you can.

“I was laying back about a car length.  I would have liked to have seen Artuso win it.  That is the first time I’m probably had one given to me like that.

“It is great to start off this way.  I told the guys if we can finish right where we start and have no damage, I’d be tickled to death.”
Mike Fritts (#27) worked past pole sitter Travis Kittleson (#88) toward his way to the front. (51 Photo)
Landon Cassill was also able to slip by and moved from fourth to second in the melee as well.  Cassill was able to keep his overheating car in one piece to collect second in his first ever Speedweeks Super Late Model run.

Wayne Anderson rounded out the top three finishers.



The story of the night in the Super Late Models was that of the two Canadian speedsters to got together while racing for the lead.

While it took both drivers out of contention, neither seemed as mad at the other as most would assume.
“They were all over me,” said Fitzpatrick.  “We were going into turn one and (Artuso) was underneath me.  I didn’t give him that much room and he got into me.  We slid up the track and he got under me again.  The spotter said ‘car there’ but I think he came up.  I was already a little loose and he hit me and I spun out and got into the wall. 

“I was surprised.  I knew these guys were roughed.  I got warned about that.  It is a shame though.  As a driver, you don’t like to admit mistakes.  I should have gave him more room, but he shouldn’t have done what he did to me on the straightaway.
Jerry Artuso (#8) gets into the back of race leader JR Fitzpatrick (#5).  (Howie Hodge Photo)
“I don’t think the car is that bad.  We’ll be here the rest of the week.”

Despite being put to the back of the pack after the accident, Artuso said it was just a racing incident.

“We ran him down again after he got by us in lapped traffic,” said Artuso.  “He was guarding the bottom.  He knew we were a little bit faster than him.  I was up to his door in one and two.  We bobbled there a little bit.  He ran me down coming off of two there to the inside.  I didn’t think I could go any farther to the inside.  We collected and I went to the rear. 

“I don’t expect anyone to let you go, but I thought with the consequences there, he might stop coming down.  It seemed to be like he kept coming down.  It is just a racing deal though.”

Landon Cassill’s second place run didn’t come nearly as easy as it sounded.  The youngster had a badly overheating car on Friday night and was luck to finish second. 

He was overly proud of his team after the race.

“I have to give it all to my guys,” said Cassill, who is also fighting a bad case of the flu.  “They didn’t give up today.  I’m so proud of them. 

“I made a huge mistake this morning and slept through the driver’s meeting.  I missed that you couldn’t pull tape
Landon Cassill (#7) works to the inside of Mike Fritts (#27).  (Jim DuPont Photo)
off after qualifying and I had the thing taped up like I normally do.   We were out on a limb.  Two more laps and the motor would have gone.

“I can’t believe the car made it.”


Defending Speedweeks Super Late Model champion Louis Mechalides had a tough night, finishing well back in the pack on Friday night. 

“This is not how I wanted to start the week off,” said Mechalides.  “We didn’t bring the same car back.  We had a bad weekend in Lakeland a couple of weeks ago.  This is the car that I wrecked pretty bad that we put back together.  I’m just not sure if it is the car, the tires or what.   Every time we go out, it is a little bit better and a little bit better.  Hopefully tomorrow, we’ll be better even.

“It is all the same stuff as last year.  That is why I don’t know what it is; if I’m missing something for what.  Last year, this car came out a rocketship.  We have always been really good here with whatever we run.”

Travis Kittleson was the night’s quick qualifier for the Super Late Models, but his race didn’t go quite how he would have liked.

“We were just fighting a tight condition in the center of the corner,” said Kittleson.  “We’ve been having a rear brake problem and anytime I got aggressive with someone and got hard on the rear brakes, I’d want to spin out.  That happened to me twice. 

“We’re close.  We have a fast car.  We had the faster car in practice and in qualifying.  We just are fighting little things.  Hopefully, we’ll be pretty bad ass by the end of the week.”

Travis Kittleson (#88) works to the outside of Ted Christopher (#29).  (Howie Hodge Photo)