A View From the Top of the I-70 ASA LM Race by Richard Wahl
What is it Like to Be a Winning Spotter?
I am going to try and write this from a totally unbiased position, but seeing as I am the spotter on the winning car… well I’ll do the best I can. Man, did Trent Snyder kick some serious butt recently at I-70 Speedway! And I’m talking about some seriously good drivers, Jeff Choquette, Charlie Menard, Beau Slocumb, Dave Gentile Jr., Jesse Saunders and the list goes on.
Some of the best short track drivers in the country converged on Odessa, MO. for this modern day Civil War, as it was billed. But first a little bit of background on myself. I have worked on racecars for the better part of 20 plus years. Starting at the short racks of Minnesota both on dirt and pavement, I never thought I would get so much enjoyment from racing without actually driving but could never really afford my own car. Then I started to fuel cars on the old ASA National Tour, what a rush!
The #88 team in victory lane at I-70 Speedway (ASA LM Photo)
Always working for what would be considered underdogs, names like Brandon Sperling, John Spaw and Greg Williams, I quickly got good at it and enjoyed the travel and camaraderie of teamwork and the respect of my colleagues on pit road. This was where I really got to listen in on some great spotters like Todd Diehl whom I still get to hang out with on the new tour. After the demise of the old National Tour I started spotting for Tim Olsen and others and really enjoy it in spite of the high pressure.
I hooked up with Trent Snyder a couple of years ago at The Milwaukee Mile when his dad Steve had his shoulder operated on. We have been going after the Northern Division points championship all year after running a few races last year. In practice at I70, it looked like the South guys were going to be tough to beat. With Jeff Choquette topping the speed charts and ARP Bodies Qualifying he looked like the guy everyone would be gunning for. After pulling a seven inversion and our car starting in eighth position we would lineup right next to him. The start of the race was clean, a welcome change for us.
Chris Fontaine and Brandon Johnson lead the field to the green flag and battled side by
side with Johnson getting the early lead. As the cars settled down into a single file order, Dave Gentile Jr. was making his way up and past Fontaine eventually for second. He then made his move on Johnson for the lead and held it from lap 30 to lap 50 when a flat tire sent him to the pits. With Brandon Johnson again solidly in the lead he took off with Beau Slocumb and teammate John Wes Townley in tow. Once again it looked as if the south contingent had the upper hand. Meanwhile back in the pack my driver was making his presence felt, picking off other cars and dealing with lapped traffic. Local driver Brian Green brought out a caution which bunched the field up and put Trent on the bumper of Townley in fourth. Another wreck by Iowa’s Thor Anderson in turn four at lap 98 brought the halfway break early.
After the ten minute break for two new Hoosier racing skins and Torco Racing Fuel the real race was on. Immediately after the restart young Snyder began to pressure Townley and Slocumb for position. After passing Townley fairly easily and getting by Slocumb, the two southern teammates collided sending Slocumb to the pits on a flatbed and Townley to the rear for causing the wreck.
On the restart, Snyder was relentless, never allowing more than a car length lead by Johnson. He made several attempts at the pass but couldn’t quite pull it off! Finally a little fatherly advice gave Trent the ammunition he needed and dropped back slightly in the backstretch and made a hard run through three and four and getting alongside in the front stretch. This is where I earn my money, oh yeah…I don’t get paid!
Well anyway, Trent and Brandon had a great battle side by side for several laps when I finally got to say clear, clear, clear on lap 130. Pulling fellow northerners Alex Kennedy, Mike Heiss and Jesse Saunders along for the ride, as Johnson faded to an eventual eleventh place finish with a flat tire. Snyder would not be denied on this day however finishing well ahead of Kennedy at the conclusion with Saunders in third, Heiss in fourth and Nick Neville in fifth with a strong run. Brother Derrick Neville was sixth and former points leader Peter Cozzolino seventh making it a northern top seven. John Wes Townley was the top finisher from down south in eighth with Jesse Smith in ninth and Charlie Menard rounding out the top ten.
The win gives Trent a slim 21 point lead going into the final race of the season at the always exciting Oktoberfest Weekend as the backdrop for the championship race on October 6th.
Believe it or not, us spotters are not always at each other’s throats and I can say I have a few good friends in the stand. It was also pretty cool getting congrats from pretty much everyone up there. I would also like to thank the southern guys and their spotters because they all ran us clean since we really didn’t know any of these guys or race against them before. It’s a great honor for us to be able to race in a series like ASALMS because we are a small team without much funding.
That’s all from spotterville - We will be bringing two cars to Oktoberfest and running three races in three days so the whole team will be extra busy. My Buddy Ken Noyce will spot for Trent on Friday Night as we have been joking all season about trading headphones during a race. I will spot for Josh Vadnais as I have been looking forward to the opportunity to do this for a while. He is a hard charger and should have an awesome car as usual.