KITTLESON KILLS ‘EM IN NIGHT FIVE by Matt Kentfield
Choquette and Stewart Wreck, Defending Champ Struggling
Travis Kittleson has been looking forward to coming back to New Smyrna Speedway since leaving last year’s Speedweeks. Kittleson got off to a great start in 2005 when he won on the first night of Super Late Model racing, but on the second night he was involved in a crash that destroyed his racecar and cut his Speedweeks experience short.
So far in 2006, Kittleson has bounced back nicely.
Travis Kittleson dominated the action on Tuesday night in the Super Late Models. (51 Photo)
Tuesday night Kittleson scored his second pole in three events and won the Super Late Model feature to bring everything full circle since leaving New Smyrna last year.
“It was a great run tonight,” said Kittleson. “Coming back from last year, this is way better. I hope to make it every night this year. After what happened last year I just want to be able to start and finish all nine nights. I don’t have to win every night, I just want to prove that I can finish races.”
Finishing races hasn’t been a problem so far for Kittleson and neither has qualifying. Kittleson won his second Speedweeks pole in three events on Tuesday. This meant that he once again had the chance to put together
both ends of the night by qualifying on the pole and winning the race, something that he hasn’t been able to do thus far in Speedweeks.
“The first night we had a good car in qualifying but not that good of a car in the race. The second night we had an awesome racecar but we were stuck in the pack after qualifying eighth. There are so many good cars out there and since it’s such a short race you don’t want to get sent to the back for spinning someone out, so we finished sixth that night. Tonight we had a really good car and we qualified up front so we finally put it all together.”
After the post-qualifying redraw, Wayne Anderson started on the pole but it was Trevor Stewart that got the jump on the start and had the lead by the first corner. Kittleson started fourth and made it up to second by lap two. Two laps later Kittleson made the move by Anderson for the lead and never looked back. If he did look back, all that he would have seen plenty of open track between him and the rest of the field.
The only drivers who may have had a shot at Kittleson wound up out of the race on lap 17. Trevor Stewart and Jeff Choquette made contact while running second and third. Choquette got under Stewart going into the first corner, they wrecked, and both cars were finished for the night. That allowed Kittleson even more breathing room for the remainder of the race.
“I got out early and just wanted to check out,” said Kittleson. “It’s really hard to pass here so I knew that if I could get out front I had a car that could definitely win. It’s great to be able to back up our qualifying runs like we did tonight to prove that we’re not just good for the two laps in qualifying.”
Kittleson (#88) gets past Trevor Stewart (#91) for the lead.
Wayne Anderson held on to finish second in a backup car after his fiery crash on Monday night, while David Rogers, Donald Long, and Monday’s winner Landon Cassill rounded out the top five.
NIGHT FIVE NOTES: SLM
CRASH TAKES OUT TWO CONTENDERS
On lap 17, third place runner Jeff Choquette got a run underneath the second place car of Trevor Stewart off the fourth corner. As the two cars entered the first turn, Choquette made contact with the left rear of Stewart’s car sending both cars spinning. Stewart’s car slammed the wall while Choquette’s stalled car was piled into by the #59 of Greg Boone.
“I just got run over,” said Stewart. “I don’t know what happened. After it was over, I just asked my spotter ‘what the hell just happened?’ I got hit so hard from behind going into the corner that he must have not thought about using the brakes until he hit me. It was surprising. It is always surprising, but I guess it shouldn’t be anymore.”
Choquette admitted that he did make contact with Stewart, but saw the incident as nothing more than a racing deal.
“The bad deal about these races is that they are so short,” said Choquette. “You have to make your move whenever you can. We followed the #91 for a few laps and he bobbled in turn four. I got a run underneath him on the frontstretch and when we got to one I guess he
didn’t think I was far enough underneath him. He came down on me going into the corner and I had to go down on the apron. I came back on the track and got into him a little bit. It’s just a part of racing.
“The guy that hit me while I was sitting there I guess his spotter didn’t tell him that there’s a car sitting in the middle of the track and he gave me some bumper cover damage but nothintoo serious.”
DEFENDING SPEEDWEEKS CHAMP STRUGGLING
In 2005, Louie Mechalides made the long haul from Massachusetts to New Smyrna Speedway and went back to his Bay State home with the Speedweeks championship. This year is not going quite the way that Mechalides had hoped. He has struggled to get a hold on his racecar and has not been finding the strong finishes that led him to the ’05 title.
“We’ve been running pretty well in practice but I guess we’re just having some adjustment problems when it comes to race time,” said Mechalides. “We’ve been fast when it doesn’t count. We just can’t really get going. These new tires are different than what I’m used to running on. We’re working on getting better but we’re struggling a little bit now. We’ve got a couple more nights to get rolling here and we’re gaining on it.”
BACKUP CAR FOR ANDERSON PRODUCES A SECOND
Wayne Anderson gave fans the scare of Speedweeks 2006 on Sunday night. He was forced into the wall off the second corner, forcing his car upside down on the backstretch, erupting in flames before coming to a rest atop the inside retaining wall in turn three. Anderson escaped unharmed but that particular car was done for Speedweeks.
Anderson pulled out his backup car for Tuesday’s Super Late Model race and it was fast right off the trailer. He held fast time for most of qualifying and wound up with the fourth best qualifying run. The redraw put Anderson on the pole and the Wildwood, FL resident held the lead for the first few laps of the race before being shuffled back
After his wild wreck on Sunday, Wayne Anderson was forced to go to his second car.
to second. Second is where Anderson finished, putting a positive end to a hectic couple of nights.
“We just pulled this car out and we haven’t practiced it very much,” said Anderson. “We came out and qualified fourth but we probably only had a third or fourth place racecar but two guys took each other out ahead of us. We’re going to work on it, but I feel a lot better tonight than I did last night.
"Sunday night was the first time in 20 years that I’ve ever been upside down, so I’m glad tonight I was able to stick to my plan of keeping it on all four tires.”
ROGERS AND LONG DOING IT FOR THE OLD SCHOOL
Two nights in a row the young talent at New Smyrna Speedway has taken over. Monday and Tuesday’s winners Landon Cassill and Travis Kittleson are both are in the developing stages of their careers. Tuesday night’s third and fourth place finishers David Rogers and Donald Long are, well, not.
The young guys may be taking over, but the old school guys like Rogers and Long aren’t going to go out without a fight.
“When I looked up it was Wayne, David and myself,” said Long. “I felt like that was pretty good with some of the older guys being up there.”
While Rogers is also happy that the veterans are running well, he knows that the youngsters are the ones that are truly impressive.
“There’s so many young kids out there today that it just amazes me,” said Rogers. “They’ve got the best equipment but they also know how to drive it. You can’t take anything away from anyone who wins a race at Speedweeks.
“That being said, it doesn’t matter if you’re young or old, but if you start up front here you’re going to finish up front here. I’m not taking anything away from anybody because if you come here and you run well then good for you. I’m just saying that since there are so many good cars here it makes it hard to pass.”
David Rogers (#11, top) and Donald Long (#11x), bottom) were two veterans who had a good days on Tuesday.
Jeff Choquette (#70) and Trevor Stewart (#91) get together, collecting Greg Boone. (51 Photos)
For Long, coming to Speedweeks to race with the best of the best regardless of age is a wonderful distraction from the everyday grind.
“It is a ritual,” said Long. “It is fun because that is all you think about. Every night, it is just about racing. You forget about everything at home I guess. You have to be prepared to race here, it’s just a grind.”