WONDERFUL REPEAT: KITTLESON KILLS ‘EM AGAIN by Jeremy Trioano and Matt Kentfield
Travis Dominates 50-Lapper, TC Finally Makes a Comeback
To the general racing fan, there is nothing worse when a racecar driver is on their game and stinks up show after show after show. But to a racecar driver, there is nothing sweeter.
Travis Kittleson ended Thursday night in a familar place.
That sweetness of victory is what Travis Kittleson is feeling right now at New Smyrna Speedweeks. Entering night seven of Speedweeks, the 26-year-old had earned four poles and a victory. But that didn’t even tell the full story.
He’s had the fastest car in almost every single practice session as well. And, baring a mechanical issue the first night and a tech problem that forced him to start at the rear of the field on Wednesday night, he might have a few more wins.
Kittleson added to those stats when he collected his second win of Speedweeks on Thursday evening and he did it in the way he’s been doing it all week; in a dominating fashion. Kittleson led all 50-laps en route to the victory.
“It feels so good to be back competitive again in a nice, new Lefthander car,” said Kittleson. “Me and (crew chief) Gary
(Crooks) are back together and working well together again. It has been a blast. I can’t tell you how awesome it is to be out there and be ‘that guy’ again. It’s great to have people gunning for you.
“When we were running Super Late Models in 2003 and 2004, we’d come out and be this competitive every time. We’d be the car that people are standing at the fence, taking times on. Now we just have a stretch of nine nights to do it here.”
On Thursday night, Kittleson qualified on the pole and led all 50 laps of the event after starting from the pole position after the redraw. That allowed the #88 to jump out front and never be touched or pressured from anyone from behind.
Kittleson’s other win during Speedweeks, which came Tuesday night, was just as dominating.
“We are just on a roll now,” said Kittleson. “This is our year. There are good years and there are bad years. There are years you can’t do anything wrong. There are years you can’t do anything right. I hope this is the start of a year where we can’t do anything wrong.
“Tonight, we had an awesome race. The car was so good at the beginning. We had a stagger issue here at the end, but we were still able to maintain and run away from them.”
Travis and his #88 at speed. (51 Photo)
Now, Kittleson has his eyes set on two more wins in the final two nights of competition. On Friday, it is another 30-lap main event. On Saturday, it’s the Pete Orr Memorial 100. That is a race Kittleson has been wanting to win for years.
“That race is really special to me. I worked with Pete (Orr) for a couple of years. We’ve tried to win that race and I almost won that race last year. If we could win that race, it would be an emotional one for me.”
And if he stinks up the show for the next couple of nights, he doesn’t really care.
“To win the championship right now would be awesome, but right now, we want to dominate. We want to keep doing what we are doing.
“If we are stinking up the show; oh well. We are doing this for us and we are having fun.”
NIGHT SEVEN NOTES: SLM
TC FINALLY MAKES A COMEBACK
To say that is has been a bad week for Short Track superstar Ted Christopher is a huge understatement. He’s struggled in both the Modified and Super Late Model classes during the begnning and middle stages of Speedweeks.
On Thursday night, he finally got back into the swing of things with a third-place finish in the Super Late Model 50-lapper.
“We had a good car,” said TC, who finished 10th in the Modified race on Thursday night. “I have to give credit to those guys. They never stopped working on it. I was actually underneath the guy for second. It was a good battle. My car was really, really good on the restarts. Those guys would push up a little bit. I squeezed right under him there. I run this place as hard I can, but I’m not going to move him out of the way. He runs here all of the time. I’d rather take third, do it in once piece. I ran him real clean. We were just loose enough off that I couldn’t’ keep the car there to get clear by him.
“It was a good run. Anytime you feel good it makes you feel better.”
VAN METER’S BACKUP JUST AS GOOD
Eddie Van Meter blew his engine on Wednesday night. On Thursday, he pulled out the backup car and it proved to be just as good as the regular car, as he came home fifth.
“I’m pretty pleased with it,” said Van Meter. “That is the first time I’ve actually ran this car. It has been sitting in the garage and we brought it down here just for a backup. This is just the second time it’s been run. Matt Hagans ran it at Winchester. So I’m pleased with it. We are still getting used to it and everything.
“I’m looking forward to the 100-lapper. After hurting the motor in the one car last night, we didn’t have much of an option. Our only other option was to swap the motors in the two cars. I didn’t want to put the guys through that much work. I told them I’d just drive this one and do the best we could do.”
BIG WRECK SENDS TWO HOME
As it seems like happens every night, there was a big accident on Thursday night. The fallout of this accident sent two cars headed back home.
It started when Jerry Artuso got a tap from behind from Wayne Anderson. Artuso spun and came to a stop at the exit of turn to. Then along came Donald Long and Jack Landis, each of who piled into Artuso.
“I don’t know; talk to the #5 (Artuso),” said Anderson when asked what caused the accident. “I didn’t do nothing. We went into three and he comes down three lanes and came back down into me. Then into one, two laps later, he came down from the third lane and clipped my f**king nose. If I knocked him out, I’d admit it. I’ve been racing for 20 years and if I take a guy out I’ll say so, but this time the guy came down on me.”
Artuso had a different view of the accident.
“To me there was no need to do what he did,” said Artuso. “I mean, it’s early in the race. All he had to do was show his nose and I would’ve let him go. He was faster than us anyways, but he just punted us out of the way. I talked to Jack Landis and he said that by the time his spotter said there was a wreck all he could see was my driver’s door so he headed for the infield. I thank him for that. But the whole thing was totally uncalled for.
“I don’t believe I did anything. He punted me. Anyone who was standing in the corner told me he took me out.
Jerry Artuso's #5 and Jack Landis' #10 were pretty well managled after an incident on Thursday night. (51 Photos)
Maybe it was just a racing deal, I don’t know. We’re all done here though.”
Artuso’s car was heavily damaged, as was Landis’ car, who piled into Artuso’s stopped car.
“I came off of two and I ran into the side of the #5 car,” said Landis. “I just saw a lot of wrecking then all I saw was his driver’s door. I was headed right for it and I didn’t want to do that so I just jerked the wheel and it sheared off the front end of the car. Then I got out and all I saw was a bunch of junked racecars.
“I think we’ll go back to Ohio and see how deep the snow is.”
Jeff Choquette, who finished second in the event, was right behind all of it as it started.
“I saw that accident coming for a few laps,” said Choquette. “I saw the #5 (Artuso) go way up and he kept coming down and kept coming down. I knew it was going to be just a matter of time before he got spun out. From the spotter’s stand or from the official’s stands, that is Wayne Anderson’s fault. From a racecar driver’s point of view, I wouldn’t’ blame him for it.”
POINTS LEADER PUT TO THE BACK
Coming into Thursday night, Landon Cassill was the surprise point leader in the Super Late Models. A run-in with another car and a penalty that put him to the back of the field after that run-in dropped him from the point lead on Thursday night, but won’t detour him from his ultimate goal of the championship.
“We had a good run going but I screwed it up a little bit,” said Cassill. “I need to be a little more patient on that guy, that’s all. It’s tough. He was all over the racetrack and running into everything but I should’ve been a little more patient.”
The car Cassill was battling with was the #119 of JR McMickle. Landon got into the back of McMickle heading into turn one and spun him around and into the outside wall.
“There was a lapped car and I was trying to get around him,” said McMickle. “I guess once I cleared him, the #7
Landon Cassill (#7) got into the back of the #119 (JR McMickle and things didn't work out well for either driver. (Jim DuPont Photo)
Ted Christopher and the #29 Jay Cushman-owned team have got their Super Late Model dialed in. (51 Photo)
(Cassill) couldn’t see me. There might have been a blind spot. I don’t know. You have to stop to turn. He ran into the back of me. It is racing I guess. What are you going to do?”
Cassill is not detoured though.
“Our goal was to win two races and the championship. As easily as we lost the points lead tonight we can easily gain it back tomorrow night. I just have to work that much harder. We’ve definitely had fun down here. We’ve had a good car and I think we’ve had the car to beat. Everyone’s been talking so that’s a good thing. We just need to keep our points lead but we’re still having fun. It’s like a Saturday night race every day. They’re all big races and they’re all right in a row.”