CHOQUETTE TURNS IT AROUND, WINS WEDNESDAY by Jeremy Trioano and Matt Kentfield
Kittleson Comes From the Back, Barnes Makes Short Debut
On Tuesday night, there was a little bit of controversy following Jeff Choquette. The young racer, who is known for his brash driving style, got into the back of second-place Trevor Stewart while trying to run down race leader Travis Kittleson. The contact resulted in Stewart spinning around and hitting the wall and Choquette bring penalized by getting sent to the rear of the field.
Jeff Choquette sits in victory lane at NSS. (51 Photos)
On Wednesday night, Choquette made sure there was no controversy around him. Choquette started on the pole after the redraw and led all 30 laps of the Super Late Model feature, giving him his first win of Speedweeks. He became the fourth-different winner in four SLM races during this year’s Speedweeks.
“It isn’t a bad way to back up last night,” said Choquette, who is no stranger to Victory Lane at New Smyrna. “Last night was an iffy deal. I thought I was there. He (Stewart) didn’t think I was there. It ruined our shot at catching Travis.
“Just to come back and win tonight just shows how good we are.”
There wasn’t much of a race up front. The night’s quick qualifier, Jack Landis, started second and fell back behind Choquette at the start.
As the race wore on, Landis moved up to Choquette’s bumper. But as the race moved into the later stages, Choquette pulled farther and farther away, eventually getting the checkers.
“Starting position means everything here,” said Choquette. “You need to qualify well, but you need to get a good draw too. These are only 30-lap races and you need to start up front to have a chance. That is the key. It is just so hard to pass on this track. Starting position is a majority of it.”
Choquette has been slowly making a comeback after a weak showing during the opening night of Speedweeks when the team used a different car. Since going back to their old, faithful black #70, Choquette has been a consistent threat up front.
“I feel like the car has been good all week long. I think we were able to show it the other nights, but tonight, we were really able to back it up. These 30 lappers are hard though. You just have to go. But I feel like we are gaining as well.
“I think we’ll have something for them the rest of the week.”
Landis has also been slowly gaining on his car as well. The Indiana-native has been a top-five runner all week, but showed Wednesday night that he also has a car capable of winning when he gets up front.
Jeff Choquette keeps the #10 of Jack Landis at bay.
“We just couldn’t make the pass,” said Landis, who appeared to win a race during the 2005 version of Speedweeks before later getting disqualified, which ironically handing the win to Choquette. “We were a little loose off and we had to wait just a second to get in the gas. That probably cost me a chance to run into him, that’s about it.
“We’ve been out to lunch most of the week. We’ve been qualifying in the top seven, but tonight we had fast time. Obviously we’re making ground. We got second and it’s the best we’ve run all week.”
BJ McLeod came back from a horrible early week to finish third.
“Sunday I got in that wreck and that pretty much shot points,” said McLeod. “That is why I took Tuesday night off. I just wanted to practice with this new car. This car is about a tenth and a half quicker than that other car. We should be ok for the rest of the week. We have some stuff to fix. We weren’t’ as fast as Jack or Jeff, but we’ll get it figured out.”
NIGHT SIX NOTES: SLM
KITTLESON DQed, COMES BACK
Travis Kittleson had one of the best times in qualifying, but had to start in the rear of the field after having his time disallowed.
After flying through the field, Kittleson then got into an accident with Jerry Artuso. That contact sent him to the back of the pack, meaning he had to come back through the field one more time.
Kittleson didn’t mind though.
“There’s such great competition out there and you have to take advantage of everything,” said Kittleson. “Apparently the heat kind of hurt us. We changed the way we scuffed the tires and when we came in after qualifying they said our tires were a little soft. One was two points off and one was three points off. Whatever the case was, we just got sent to the back. That just meant that we’d have to go out and put on a show and that’s just what we did.
“I was running really good and got behind the #5 (Artuso) car. I kept getting a run on him and he kept cutting me off. I eventually just sent it in there and he came down and I just got into him and got sent to the back again. If that hadn’t happened then I think we would’ve finished in the top five.
“They know we’ve been fast, so of course they wanted to see us put on a show from the back of the pack. It was frustrating being back there at the start, but I knew I had a good car so I couldn’t do anything stupid.
“I have a Cadillac of a hot rod. I didn’t want to go out there and be stupid and let my pride get in the way but I wanted to go out there from the back of the pack to prove that we can race and win.”
BARNES DEBUTS FOR 30 FEET
There was a familiar car in the race on Wednesday night, but the driver behind the wheel was a little different.
The car was the #12 Drawdy Brothers Construction car, normally driven by Florida veteran and fan favorite Justin Drawdy. But behind the wheel was CRA Super Series veteran Chuck Barnes Jr., who was actually in town to help fellow driver Greg Boone.
But Barnes’ debut was a short one. He was collected in a lap one accident that occurred just as the driver took the green flag on the front stretch.
“The only thing I saw was a green flag and a wrecker,” said Barnes. “We just took off and they all stacked up. I gave myself plenty of room on the start and saw them all stacking up. Somebody got into the wall and bounced off and into my right front. I was already checked up and was just waiting to get involved somehow.
Chuck Barnes' test drive in Justin Drawdy's #12 car didn't last for very long.
“Last night I was working on Greg Boone’s car and one of his guys came up to me and said, ‘Are you Chuck Barnes? Do you want to run our car?’ I knew that Justin’s got badass equipment. I had never met Justin before but I’ve raced with him and know he’s got great stuff so I was excited to get into it. I’m just sorry the car had to get wrecked for him.”
ANOTHER BIG ACCIDENT
Things got off to an ugly start in the Super Late Model feature. Just as the cars took the green flag, a couple of cars in the middle of the pack got crossed up and got into the outside wall. The resulting accident eventually took out a several cars and involved more than 10 different drivers.
One of those drivers involved was Greg Boone, who wrecked his car for the second-straight night.
“There was a bunch of oil in the second groove that they wouldn’t clean up,” said a frustrated Boone. “A lot of the guys were trying to get started in the bottom groove. The lineup was all screwed up and they wouldn’t do anything to fix it. That’s how they started the race. Then a couple of cars on the outside lane got crossed up coming to the green flag. I dove to the bottom of the track to clear them and got punted from behind and into the wall.
“I blame it on the track for throwing the green flag in a situation like that. Stupid stuff like that just breeds
A gaggle of cars sit damaged at NSS.
trouble. We had a guy on the fence here on the backstretch and he pointed out the oil to an official. You come flying off the corner at 120mph and you don’t want to hit any oil. The official said it was raceable.
“So we go out there, the lineup is all screwed up and we say something about that to the officials. They say that since we already bothered them about the oil then we should leave them alone. So we shut up, started the race and this is what we got. The car’s junk, it was a pretty big hit.”
Mike Stacey was also involved.
“Somebody said (Ted) Christopher got into somebody or somebody missed a restart,” said Stacey. “I saw cars sideways in front of me and I was trying to slow down but somebody got into me in the back. There was nothing I could do. Nothing even I could think of doing.”
EDDIE VAN METER BLOWS UP
Eddie Van Meter has been running strong all week long at New Smyrna Speedway.
His luck finally came to an end on Wednesday night. While running third, Van Meter fell off the pace with a lot of smoke coming from the tailpipes of his car.
“I think we burned a piston,” said Van Meter. “We were trying to run the motor a little lean to get a little more power to run with these guys down here. The car was pretty good. I don’t know if we had anything for the front two guys but we were definitely going to run third.
“We’ve got another car in the trailer but I don’t know if we’ll break it out before Saturday’s 100 lapper. That way we don’t take any chances and we’re sure that we’ll have a good car for Saturday.”
Eddie Van Meters' team works to change powerplants.