ASA LM & CRA Leftovers:  Nashville  by Matt Kentfield
Hoffman, James, Fleeman, Gabehart & More
Hoffman’s Hot Streak Stopped in Nashville

Going into the Spring Clash weekend for both the ASA Late Model Challenge Series and the CRA Super Series Super Late Models, many people had the number-8 on their boards as the favorite for victory in both races.  And who can blame them, after the kind of success that Eddie Hoffman had at Nashville in 2006.  Hoffman swept both ASALM events at Music City Motorplex last year and had good cars in both CRA events in Nashville last year.

Eddie Hoffman didn't have his normal type of weekend in Nashville. (51 Photos)
Alas, Hoffman’s hot streak is over.  He had a frustrating night with an ill-handling car in the ASA event on Saturday, but was able to rally late.  Even after starting the second-half of the race from the rear of the field after making a carburetor change that took more time than the 10-minute halfway break would allow, Hoffman was able to salvage fifth.

“We’ve been struggling with this ASA car,” said Hoffman.  “I don’t know if it’s because of the radial tires or what, but this one has been a struggle. It wasn’t very good.  I think maybe just riding out an ill-handling and a not-so-good-off-the-corner carburetor was the only thing we could do.

“The car wouldn’t get off the corner, but maybe that saved the tires enough so that I could come on there at the end.  I think, as drivers, we do our best work with a not-so-good racecar.  Anybody can drive a fantastic car.  I get them every now and again, but anybody can win with those.  It’s what you can do with a 12th or 13th-place car that shows what you can do.”

In the CRA race, Hoffman was trying to hold on to a respectable finish, but contact ended those hopes.

“There wasn’t much left of the car and I think I was just in the way,” said Hoffman of the late-race contact that sent him spinning.  “I don’t know who hit me, maybe the 33 (Dave Mader III)?  We were just loose and started to go back.  Starting back in 10th and losing a few spots in the beginning, we just had to use it up.  I tried to take care of the tires, but those last 20 those guys in the back were just coming.  Through lap 50-100, we were just as fast as the leaders.  We got our way up to third, but we just ran our tires off.”

Mader Blames the Dip

While Hoffman thought that perhaps Dave Mader was the culprit for his spin late in the CRA feature, Mader had a different take on the incident.

“I had to move back up to the second lane because my car was a little tight,” said Mader.  “I moved back up and I was gaining on (the leaders) and they loosened up and were backing up to me.  I was going on the outside and he (Hoffman) went and hit the dip and he barreled off on the outside.  It wasn’t his fault and it wasn’t my fault.  We both tried to keep it from happening.”
“We got going and the first five laps were good, but I don’t know,” said James.  “Maybe we broke a valve or something, but it dropped about 600 RPMs.  The only way to run around here like that was on the outside, just trying to keep the momentum up.  It was almost like driving with a restrictor plate. 
Super Late Model star Dave Mader (left) talks with Modified racer LW Miller.
For Mader, who has taken a bit of a back seat from his driving duties to help out young up-and-coming driver Grant Enfinger this year, enjoyed his time back behind the wheel at Nashville, a place he’s come to know quite well over the years.

“It’s so nice to come to Nashville, but I hate that I missed it a little bit.  This was the first time we ran this car and we’re trying to find out what it needs from me.  We’ll be real good the next time we run it when we get to Pensacola (for the Blizzard Series event April 13th)

Colt Gallops Early, Comes Up Limping Late

Throughout the ASA Late Model Challenge Series event, it looked as if nobody was going to be able to beat young Colt James.  James, who won the first Challenge Series event of the year at San Antonio, checked out to an early lead that he held past the lap-100 halfway break.  When Charlie Menard moved by James on lap 120, things seemed to go awry for James. 
“Then with about five to go, we got that long run and it was actually decent because the car wasn’t burning our tires.  I got on the outside of the #09 (John Wes Townley) and he just hung a right.  The left-front was flat the last five laps and the right-front was all knocked out.”

Despite the engine problems that crept up and the late incident with Townley, James still was able to leave Nashville with a seventh-place finish.

“It could’ve ended a lot worse.  It hit so hard that it knocked the wheel right out of my hands.  I was lucky that we got what we got.  It’s kind of half my fault.  Maybe I shouldn’t have been so greedy with the motor situation.  I should’ve just stayed where I was, but with us chasing the points deal I wanted to get as many spots as I could.  That’s part of racing.”

ASA LM Challenge Series points leader Colt James.
In GAS Or SLM, Fleeman Fast

Russell Fleeman got out of the gate quickly in the Georgia Asphalt Series Pro Late Model circuit.  With two dominating wins in the first two races of the season, Fleeman was the man in the GAS ranks. 

But inside Fleeman’s Dacula, GA shop is a pretty stout Super Late Model, too.  The Pro Late Model with the crate engine was put under wraps for the weekend, allowing Fleeman to have some fun with his #98 Super Late Model in the CRA event at Nashville, where he finished an impressive third.
“The longer the run goes, the faster and more comfortable my car got.  I tried to be real conservative until about 30 or 25 laps to go.  But with about 40 laps to go I started picking the pace up a little bit, but the car was driving so good I decided to wait a few laps.  I think maybe I waited a little too long.”

Change Doesn’t Do Gabehart Good
Russell Fleeman
“We’ve got two cars,” said Fleeman.  “This is our primary Super Late Model car, and the crate motor car is an exact identical to this one.   They were bought within two months of one another, but we just keep them separated in the shop.  We’ve got two fast Port City Racecars hot rods.

“We expected good things here in Nashville.  We’ve had a good racecar here in the last few races.  We try to keep good notes and bring the same setup back.  We’ve been in the top-five the last few years, but we keep coming up short.  But I think if we had a few more laps we would’ve maybe contended for the win a little more.”

Fleeman looked to have a good shot at Natahn Haseleu and Josh Vadnais for the race victory late in the race, but he simply ran out of laps.
In recent visits to Music City Motorplex, Chris Gabehart has had one fast racecar.  He has consistently qualified up front and ran among the leaders, but the one small break that could have propelled him into victory lane never found its way to Gabehart.

So rather than relying on the tried and true setup in his CRA Super Late Model, Gabehart and his team tweaked with their racecar a bit for the Spring Clash 150.  That decision brought him to fifth, but it wasn’t everything it could have been.

“I came here like every racecar driver trying to get a little bit better than I was last fall,” said Gabehart.  “You just can’t sit on what you’ve got, so we brought a little different package.  It was good, but it wouldn’t drive as great off the corner.  That’s what we needed.  The motor’s a little more tired.  It was fresh last fall.  All in all it was a good run, but like I said, you can’t just come here with the same setup.

“We learned something and I think we had something for them until about 15 or 20 to go.  Coming from ninth with as great of competition as we had here today was too much to overcome.”
Chris Gabehart had a new look to his #17, here as he races Dennis Schoenfeld's #43.
90% Good Enough for Schoenfeld

Dennis Schoenfeld was another one of those drivers, like Chris Gabehart, that had always had a strong car in Nashville, but never a winning one.  In the Spring Clash 150 CRA race, Schoenfeld once again ran up front, securing a fourth-place finish.  But it was a little bit of advice from a noted NASCAR Crew Chief that helped him strategize his way to a top-five.

“We’ve always struggled in qualifying mainly in qualifying, but we’ve always raced good here every time we’ve been here.  We ran second here to Ricky Turner three or four years ago in a Southern All-Stars race.  We can lay down a lap here in qualifying every once and a while, too, but in qualifying it’s like a double-edged sword.  You’ve got to be loose, but at the same time you’ve got to be tight.  It’s finicky here at this place, I guess.

“The first 30 or 40 laps, you run as hard as you can and make as many passes as you can, then you’ve got to back it down a little.  James Ince used to tell me when we were working with Johnny Benson - he used to tell Johnny to give him 90-percent all day.  Just give me 90 percent and we’ll have a good day.  We had a good day like that today.”

Up and Down Day Ends Well for Townley

“I think this is a great starting point of the year.  I was hanging on there at the end.  That was one of the longest races I’ve ran.”

Dassow and Old WalTom Team Starting to Click

When the WalTom Racing team closed its doors after the 2006 season, everyone in the ASA Late Model ranks saw it as their chance to compete for wins and the championship.  After two years of dominance with Stephen Leicht and Kelly Bires, there would be no WalTom three-peat.

But the equipment and personnel, including crew chief Howie Lettow are just as good as ever even this year with Travis Dassow behind the wheel of the TD Racing machines that were once a part of WalTom.  Dassow, Lettow and the rest of the former WalTom team are beginning to gel in the ASA ranks, as can be seen with Dassow’s fourth-place finish in Nashville.
Josh Wes Townley is a Development Driver for Wood Brothers Racing.
John Wes Townley likely felt like a pinball throughout the 200-lap ASA Late Model Challenge Series.  He got bounced around by Travis Dassow, did some bouncing of his own to Colt James, but still ran up front and hung in well enough to finish a strong sixth.

“The first half, we had somebody get into us (Dassow).  I’m sure it was because they just washed up the track.  We don’t have anything against them.  I’m pretty sure it was just an accident, but we had some flats in the tires and we came in at the halfway point and got some new tires on there.  That really helped us out a lot.  We hung with them a lot better the last half of the race once we got those good tires on there.”

“Rubbin’s racin’ man.  If it was my bad, it was an accident, but if it was his bad I’m sure it was an accident too.  I was just trying to hold my groove.  It was an accident if it was my bad.”

Battling door-to-door with the ASALM stars for 200 laps in Nashville left the young racer visibly wiped out after the race, but he still had a smile after finishing sixth.
“After qualifying 13th, we had to come up through the field,” said Dassow.  “We got our way up close to the top-five.  We got sent to the back (after the contact with Townley), which I think is kind of controversial.  We were all the way up on him and he came down on us.  But whatever, we got sent to the back and we had to rally back.

“Man, we had a car.  I could put it wherever we wanted to and we drove right back up to the front.  But we ran out of time and I may have used it up a little too much.  If we could’ve stayed up there, I know we would’ve had something for the 5 (winner Derek Thorn).”

Even though Dassow and his team can be satisfied with the top-five, he was still scratching his head after the checkered flag flew about the Townley incident.
Travis Dassow (#89) is getting faster and faster in 2007.
“I got a run going in through one and two and I’d be up to his left-rear tire or up to his door and he’d get on the gas and get on the bottom off turn two.  I guess it’s just inexperience.  If the guys upstairs aren’t going to make a decision to stay up there then it’s just going to keep happening.  I was surprised with the call.  It was just one of those deals.  You can’t badmouth somebody, you just hope that it doesn’t happen again.”