BEERS SEALS THE DEAL IN NIGHT SIX by Matt Kentfield and Jeremy Troiano
Lia’s Domination Ends with Early Crash, Andrews Impressive
Eric Beers has been one of the unluckiest drivers during the first nights of Speedweeks 2006 at New Smyrna. He has also been outspoken about his frustrations thus far, citing judgment mistakes by race officials as the reason for his wrecked racecars.
Eric Beers finally had something to celebrate at Speedweeks on Wednesday night. (51 Photo)
Beers had no such gripes on Wednesday night. The 2004 Speedweeks champion made his first trip to victory lane of the year in Wednesday’s 50-lap NASCAR Tour Type Modified feature. He did so in dominating fashion. Beers timed fastest, redrew the pole and led every lap, allowing him to leave New Smyrna Speedway with a smile on his face for the first time during 2006’s Speedweeks.
“I think we showed tonight that we’ve had one of the best cars since we got down here.,” said Beers. “The first three nights I think me, Donny, and Chuck were the guys that were really fast. We got out front tonight and were able to show what we’ve got.”
After his car was nearly destroyed in a multiple car wreck during Tuesday night’s feature, Beers and his #9 team burned the midnight oil to get their car back to race shape. Receiving help from his Boehler Racing NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour crew, Beers’ car was better than ever from the time he hit the track in qualifying to the fall of the checkers in the race.
“My crew worked all night and this morning to get this thing ready and they did an awesome job. The thing was flawless. A lot of my crew and my crew chief from the Tour car are down
here this week helping me out. My crew chief down here, Kevin Crowley, is Zach Sylvester’s Tour crew chief this year and he really knows what he’s doing. He got the car going great and the guys from my #3 team are really working well together and it’s giving us a good head start when the Tour season opens.”
Beers’ path to victory lane was made pretty clear when an early crash took out the winner of the last two nights at New Smyrna, Donny Lia. On a lap four restart Lia got loose coming to the green flag, causing a pileup at the start-finish line that included the cars of Ted Christopher, Danny Sammons and Tim Arre. With Chuck Hossfeld struggling on Wednesday night, the only guy left that had a shot at Beers was Mike Andrews.
Andrews, who is subbing for Mike Ewanitsko in the Eddie Whelen-owned #36 after Ewanitsko broke bones in his foot earlier in the week, showed that he’s getting quite comfortable in the seat Wednesday night. He took over the second spot after Lia’s crash and hunted down Beers for the remainder of the race. Andrews stuck right on Beers’ bumper throughout the race’s eight restarts but was not able to make the move for the win.
“Tonight the car was flawless,” said Andrews. “Me and Eric Beers were probably running exactly the same times. We both were pretty consistent. I didn’t really pull on him and he didn’t’ really pull on me. We each had a couple laps where one of us would get a little loose but we just held our ground.”
Beers' #9 races in tight traffic. That is John Blewett, III (#00) and Donny Lia (#18) on his tail. (Jim DuPont Photo)
Andrews’ consistency earned him a new fan in Eric Beers.
“I couldn’t believe that kid in the #36,” said Beers. “He was sitting right there. I wanted to run a little slower but he was staying within a couple carlengths. I was amazed. He did a great job. He’s getting a lot of experience down here subbing in for Mike. Their car is awesome and if they keep it up they’re going to have one hell of a week.”
Besides Andrews’ threat, Beers had to withstand numerous restarts during the 50-lap feature. Beers knew that he had a good car, but he also knew that every restart puts him in danger of losing the lead.
“The biggest thing you want to do in a longer race is you want to get some laps in. We were going two laps, caution. Two laps, caution. That just kills you. On those early restarts I knew that if I didn’t get a good start I’d be back in third or fourth before I knew it.
“There’s a lot of pressure on the leader. You want to get a good start and jump out on them on the restarts. Then under green you don’t want to go so fast that you burn up the tires but you don’t want to go so slow you get bumped out of the way. But I’d still want to be out front like I was tonight.”
Andrews peppered Beers’ bumper over the closing laps but pulled out to about a five carlength lead at the fall of the checkers. John Blewett, III finished third, while Chuck Hossfeld was able to regroup to a fourth place finish. Robbie Summers rounded out the top five.
MIKE ANDREWS MAKING A BOLD INTROUDUCTION
When Mike Ewanitsko broke four bones in his foot on the opening night of Speedweeks racing, car owner Eddie Whelen and the #36 team were searching for a replacement. Ewanitsko is one of the most decorated drivers in Long Island Modified history, so when it came time to finding someone to drive the #36, it only made sense to put another Long Islander in the car.
Most Modified fans that aren’t regulars at Riverhead Raceway (NY) haven’t heard too much about Mike Andrews. Andrews has been making a name for himself at the tight Long Island bullring, but with runs like he had in New Smyrna on Wednesday, Andrews may soon become a household name in Northeastern Modified circles.
“What a thrill,” said Andrews. “I never knew something like this would ever happen to me. I came here to Smyrna just to watch for the whole week. Unfortunately Mikey broke his foot and I feel really sorry for that. He’s a guy I really admire and I’ve looked up to him my whole life. Just to get the opportunity to run this car for him is a
dream come true. Every night we just keep getting better. We pick it up on time and we’re doing outstanding.”
Andrews started Wednesday night’s feature from the eighth position but made it up to second by avoiding the lap four melee on the restart. He followed Beers for the remainder of the race, but Andrews used his runner-up finish as a learning experience. To make Wednesday’s run even more impressive is that he only got behind the wheel a few days ago and he’s never raced at New Smyrna before.
”That’s the thing that I’m trying to take in the most. It’s a little overwhelming to get used to it but the guys really make me feel comfortable. It’s going great.”
Now that he’s gotten a second place finish in his fourth start at New Smyrna, could a win in one of the final three nights come next?
“I’m not going to say yes because I don’t want to jinx myself. We’re looking pretty strong and I think it just could happen in the 100 lapper. Maybe tomorrow, maybe in the 100 lapper, but each day we’re growing as a team and we’re getting better and better.
I’m just along for the ride and taking it as it comes. I’m loving every minute of it.”
EARLY MISHAP COSTS LIA THIRD STRAIGHT WIN
Donny Lia has been the driver to beat this Speedweeks. His pole-winning qualifying runs and his back-to-back race wins on Monday and Tuesday nights have all drivers at New Smyrna aiming for his #18 car. Lia looked to be the man again Wednesday but he lost control of his car coming to the green flag on lap four. His car shot into the outside wall, came back across the track and was narrowly avoided by oncoming traffic.
we’ll get it done. We’ve been creeping up on it and we
had it perfect tonight and I went out and wrecked it. I feel bad for my guys but we’ll be alright.”
BLEWETT BROTHERS TANGLE ON TRACK
Early in Wednesday’s feature, both John and Jimmy Blewett looked to be teaming up for a march to the lead. John started second and was quickly running bumper to bumper with Beers for the top spot. Jimmy started sixth and followed Chuck Hossfeld through the field and were battling for the third spot when they caught John between the third and fourth turns. With Jimmy on the inside of Hossfeld, he got into the back of his older brother.
Lia escaped unhurt, but his car will need some work to get going for the end of the week.
“I was just trying to beat them down into one and got a little crossed up,” said Lia. “It’s slick up there out of four on the top and you’ve got to be just right. I guess I just wasn’t right. I got out of shape and tried to correct it but it just unloaded and shot to the right. There was no way I was going to keep it off the fence. We hit pretty hard but we’re going to fix it and we’ll be fine.
“It’s not that bad, it’s just a lot of bolt-on rear end parts. I had a car that was going to win tonight, there’s no question about that. We’ll be back tomorrow night and
The #18 was pretty used up on Wednesday night. (51 Photo)
Andrews puts the #36 ahead of Buck Catano's #45. (Jim Dupont Photo)
“John and Chucky were battling pretty hard before I got on the inside of Chucky,” said Jimmy. “When we got into three, John got on the brakes a little hard to protect the bottom at the same time I was trying to get by Chucky. I overshot the turn a little bit and got into his left rear. It was no big deal. He got sideways but when he corrected it he wanted to be sure he got it fully corrected before he kept going. There were no hard feelings, I talked to him after the race.
“Everybody’s losing their head. I screwed up a couple times this week, everyone here has screwed up. Nothing to blame on anyone in particular, but I think everyone needs to slow down and make sure we have something left for the end of the week.”
ZACH SYLVESTER FRUSTRATED WITH ROUGH RACING
Many drivers have been critical of the abundant beating and banging that has gone on during this year’s Speedweeks. Zach Sylvester has only been in New Smyrna for two nights and he’s already frustrated with the rough stuff. He was a victim of a multiple car crash early in the race, leaving him wondering what could’ve been on Wednesday night had it not been for bad luck.
MORE BAD LUCK FOR CATALANO
Buck Catalano has had a great racecar all week long at New Smyrna. His luck, however, hasn’t been so great. He’s been involved in skirmishes on several occasions and ran out of gas late in Tuesday’s race. It’s been a hectic week for Catalano and Wednesday night it was more of the same. He was caught in an early crash, leaving him scratching his head as to what he needs to do to put it all together.
“The guys up in third and fourth looked like they got to banging together and clanking wheels and by the time I got there, we just got caught up in it. It bent the toe real bad and bent the spindle. It wasn’t worth fixing to go back out.
“We haven’t had any luck yet this year at all. We crashed the first night, crashed the second night and ran good last night before we ran out of gas. We were running good tonight, but we didn’t’ get a chance to show it. When the guys up front get bottled up, there is no place to go. I’m not time trialing good., but the car is racing good. It is just bad luck I guess.”
ROLLER COASTER NIGHT FOR SEUSS
He may have had a disappointing qualifying run, but Andy Seuss was determined to make it to the front of the field Wednesday night. Seuss started 10th and had picked up three spots by the third lap. He was involved in an early crash with Jimmy Blewett but bounced back to finish a strong sixth.
Andy Seuss and his #70 run in a tight pack of Modifieds. (51 Photo)
Jimmy and Hossfeld both checked up to allow John to collect his car and the three continued on but impeded both Blewetts chances for a victory.
“Jimmy’s anxious,” said John. “He came down here to win some races and he’s going to do everything he can to get there. In a 50 lapper here is like a 100 lapper anywhere else. The track is worn out and you’re running out of grip. It was a perfect example of guys not being patient. We just needed to be single file.”
Jimmy took responsibility for the incident and also noted that he, along with his colleagues on the track, need to calm down and have some good racing rather than the caution-filled events thus far in Speedweeks.
Sylvester talks with Speed51.com's Matt Dillner (Howie Hodge Photo)
“A bunch of guys got bottled up out of four," said Sylvester. "I moved up and someone just got into the side of me. There was nothing I could do."
That kind of situation doesn't make for a fun time in Florida.
“You come down here to race and have some fun and every turn, these guys are hooking each other,” said Sylvester. “You bob and weave and pray to God you don’t get run over and tore up the left front again. It is sad because we’ve had such a good car.
"We have worked out some bugs this week already. We don’t need this. What are you going to do? We are going to fix it and come back tomorrow.”
“We made it fun tonight,” said Seuss. “We kind of missed it in qualifying and we got into trouble early just by being in the back. We came into the pits so we had to restart last. We made it back up to sixth but we had to use our stuff up getting there. I didn’t really want to run that hard at the beginning of a 50 lap race.
“By the end I didn’t have anything left to get up to Robby Summers. I could catch up to him but I couldn’t pull it off. We’ll take it. Sixth place is fine. We have a little bit of work to do on the front end but we’ll be alright.”
The incident with Blewett did not harm Seuss’ car much. The only damage was a mangled front bumper.
“He didn’t go on the restart and I got into him. I checked up but I couldn’t stop. I got the back of the car lifted right up in the air. It was nothing intentional. I guess his spotter talked to my spotter. We could’ve done without it but I guess that’s just racing. Who knows what we could’ve done if we had started up front and didn’t have to use up our tires.”
John Blewett, III goes for a spin with his brother Jimmy right behind him in the #12 car. (Howie Hodge Photo)