Like Pressure? Gabehart Does; And Takes $10,000 Win by Jeremy Troiano
Hanson Fast But “Blows” Lead, Jackson Mad At Himself & More
Chris Gabehart was a jack of all trades this weekend... here working on teammate Chuck Barnes Jr.'s car. (51 photos)
Chris Gabehart had a lot on his mind this past weekend at Indianapolis Raceway Park. How much was he mentally out of it?
It took him almost two days of practice to figure out that his #17 Super Late Model still carried the same spring on the right rear corner that he had run at Berlin Raceway just a week ago. And that wasn’t the same spring that anyone would run again at IRP.
Why so out of it? Because Gabehart wasn’t just a racer looking for a $10,000 payday this past weekend.
He was also a promoter. Gabehart and Jim Winters, who co-owns Gabehart’s Super Late Model team, promoted the inaugural Circle Track Nationals at IRP. They put the race on and did all of the legwork to get to the final product, from advertising to sponsorship hunting.
He was also someone looking for a championship. Gabehart had the CRA Super Series championship points lead heading into the final two points races of the year: IRP and Winchester (for the Winchester 400). He had a shot at locking up the title in Indy.
And after all was said and done on Saturday night, Gabehart showed that the pressure wasn’t enough to keep him down. Instead, Gabehart stepped up and picked up the $10,000-to-win “The 100” in dominating fashion. In the process, he also locked up the 2007 CRA Super Series championship.
“It was a tough weekend,” said Gabehart. “Yesterday I was (mentally) out of the racecar all day. I didn’t practice much. I was so far out of it that I thought I had one right rear spring in the car and all weekend long, I had something totally different in there. I was so focused on everything else. I was just busy and off focus all weekend long. But today, I told myself I was going to give it my all in practice. We got the car driving well and once we got that Modified rubber off the track, the car was awesome.”
Gabehart grabbed the lead on lap 36 when leader Andy Hanson’s engine let go while running out front. Hanson spun to the infield and out of the event. Once Gabehart grabbed the lead, he held off a late-race charge from CRA rookie John Van Doorn and pulled away. The win earned Gabehart a check of $10,000.
“I’ve been close to a couple of big ones now,” said Gabehart. “I was 19 laps short of (wining) the Winchester 400. I had a dominating car at Nashville and had a suspension failure about halfway through the race.
The work paid off for Gabehart. (Ron Harner photo)
“We’ve been close and it feels good to win a big one. It’s not as big as some of those others because it’s an inaugural event, but its big none-the-less. Anytime you can beat all of these Southern boys that came up here and the local guys in their own backyard. I’m just tickled to death.”
It wasn’t just Southern boys that Gabehart beat, either. It was one very fast Northern boy, in Wisconsin’s Hanson.
“We had a great car all weekend,” said Hanson. “We were right up there at the front during practice, qualifying and the race. I wasn’t even pushing the car. I was saving the tires. I was hardly on the brakes. I just was being very cautious. The car was just phenomenal.
“Then, a red light came on there in turn four. It said I had no oil pressure. I thought ‘this is $10,000 to win, I’m going for it.’ I got into turn one and the motor died on me. I tried
to get to the bottom and spun out. All I had in my mind was keeping it off the wall and bringing the car home in one piece. I should have won this race.”
Once Hanson was out of the event, there was no catching Gabehart. Not even all the pressure could get to Gabehart, and that is something he wants the racing world to take notice of.
“This is what I’m trying to tell the racing world. I don’t think about (pressure). It doesn’t matter to me. Pile it on. I don’t care if I’m 26 (years old). I’m going to do everything I have to do. I belong and I believe. I can do it. It doesn’t matter to me how much is on my shoulders. I am not going to give and not going to fall over. I keep working, I keep digging and I keep building the best racecars I know how to build. I keep driving the way I know how to drive. Sooner or later, performance is going to matter.”
Andy Hanson was the only guy that could beat Gabehart.
In the end, there was no taking the win away from Gabehart. And, as he stated many times over, he wasn’t going to let the pressure take it from him either.
But there will always be naysayers and Gabehart knows that, especially with how circumstances of the racing weekend played out. Gabehart qualified fourth on Friday evening. When Even Jackson, the fast qualifier, pulled the inversion pill, he pulled a four, putting Gabehart on the pole. And then, the final results will show Gabehart in victory lane.
Not bad for the guy who co-promoted the race.
But Gabehart was and will be quick to point out it was all just circumstances.
“Isn’t it too bad that this is the way this will come out looking,” added Gabehart. “We verified everything all weekend long and anyone can find out about that. And I want them
(CRA officials) to take this car apart. They can take the engine. They can do anything they want. I don’t cheat. I don’t believe in cheating. It’s not how I was raised. It’s not the way I work. I didn’t spend $80,000 on my engineering education to go out and cheat. I just want to get my car running well, put my head down and keep digging. That is what we did here tonight.”
John Van Doorn Having Great Year
During the middle portion of the 2007 season, John Van Doorn got hooked up with short track legend Tim Steele and the two began racing together, with Steele the owner and mentor and Van Doorn the up-and-coming prospect.
John Van Doorn finished second at IRP
Things have come together at the right time. Van Doorn is now a CRA winner and almost won Saturday night, finishing second. And he’s pleasantly surprised with the results thus far.
“It’s not what I expected, but it’s what I wanted for the year,” said Van Doorn. “I knew I could do it before I got with Tim, but it’s all come together now. It’s been going real well this year. I’m fortunate to get all that I’ve got.
“This past weekend, we qualified second and finished second. That isn’t a bad average.”
Polesitter Has Tough Third Place Run
It wasn’t exactly what Evan Jackson was looking for after winning the pole for Saturday night’s race. But, what he came out of IRP with was a third-place finish.
“We had a lot better racecar than what I showed all weekend,” said Jackson. “We
should be getting out name on that check. I brushed the wall about 15 laps into the race. I don’t know what happened. I guess I was just asleep at the switch. I guess that is what happens when you don’t get to race too often. We only get to race about four or five times a year. “
What’s Jackson been up to since cutting back on his full-time CRA schedule?
“Me and my dad do a bunch of work. We buy and sell cars. We farm. I mow yards. I do anything I can to get enough money to buy a set of racing tires. I would do anything to race all the time these days. I would race every weekend if I could. We just don’t have the money to do what we did in the past.”
Boris Jurkovic's hood paid homage to his brother in law.
Boris Has One Interesting Hood
It’s a look that everyone has seen before on some car or truck’s back window. It’s the look of a bulldog pissing on something. Sometimes it’s a Ford symbol. Sometime it’s a college logo.
On Boris Jurkovic’s hood, that was the #00. And that #00 belongs to fellow racer Mike White, who was not in attendance at IRP.
White and Jurkovic have gotten together a couple of times this year at Illiana Speedway racing for wins. Obviously, Jurkovic isn’t all that happy about it. So Jurkovic made up a decal and put it on the hood of his racecar for the weekend.
The kicker to the whole story… White is Jurkovic’s brother-in-law.
Barnes Back.. For Now
Chuck Barnes Jr. is a former CRA Champion. He’s an ARCA race winner. He is also an All American 400 champion.
But recently, Barnes hasn’t been behind the wheel much. Instead, he’s moved to North Carolina, where he works for Petty Enterprises and is enjoying his new child.
But Barnes showed he can still wheel a car, finishing fourth.
“It feels good to be back behind the wheel. I miss it so much. I have a family now so I have to have a job now. Life is changing, but I’ll just keep digging.”
Drawdy Sees A New Type Of Track
Justin Drawdy hadn’t seen anything like Indianapolis Raceway Park before this past weekend. And after his fifth-place finish in Saturday night’s 100-lap event, its something he will surely want to see again.
Justin Drawdy (left) talks with Butch Miller (right) at IRP.
“The long green run at the beginning was good for us,” said Drawdy, who moved from 13th to fifth in that first green-flag run. “As soon as the first caution came out, we got really tight. We had a fifth-place car and that is where we finished. Not too bad for the first time here.”
So what did he think?
“I love this place. We have nothing like this down in Florida. It’s just all short track bull rings down there. This is just different and more challenging. It makes it much more fun for a driver being able to move around.”
A Record He Didn’t Really Want
So there isn’t probably any official stats kept for it, but if someone knew what the record was for the number of pit stops made in a 100-lap race, Butch Miller might have topped it Saturday night.
Miller pitted during every one of the six cautions in Saturday night’s race looking to improve the handling on his #52 Super Late Model. Sometimes, he would pit multiple times during one caution period. Other times, he would just stay in for lap after lap after lap.
In the end, nothing really helped the handle and he finished 19th.
“We needed everyone one of them pit stops,” said Miller after the race. “We found something wrong with the car, but the race is over. I don’t know. I got nothing good to say. We brought a good racecar. We just got out to lunch with it.”
Gabehart – The Promoter’s Thoughts
The first-running on any event is going to have its ups and downs. That was the case for the Circle Track Nationals at IRP.
He shared his thoughts on the weekend, from a promoter’s points of view.
“I am a little disappointed in the turnout from a car count standards,” said Gabehart. “I can’t be greedy. We didn’t have quantity, but we had quality. Anytime you have Eddie Mercer and Johnny Brazier and Dennis Schoenfeld and all of the local guys. Quality was excellent. In the end, we all want to see good racing and that is what quality will give you.”
And how did the idea come about?
“Jim (Winters) and I came home from the Snowball Derby last year, and he used to promote the Junkyard 100 here, and we were inspired by the greatness of that event and decided to put one on in his backyard. We worked the next nine months on it. We worked hard. We did everything we could do. We hope everyone that was here was entertained. We wish it could have been bigger, but I think it was a success.”
Fultz Makes Fuel Stop?
Jeff Fultz did something unusual in Saturday night’s 100-lap event. He came in and took on fuel early in the event.
“I had to come in and take fuel. A bunch of us were questionable on fuel,” said Fultz. “The first 25 laps, the car was really good. We were right up there in the top-four. But I knew I couldn’t make it. We did a fuel test today and it just wouldn’t go. So we came in and got fuel. We started coming right back through the field. The car was good. I was just taking my time. The car started coming too me. But, then something happened and we broke a valve spring or lost a plug wire or something. That was a good handling car. I wasn’t even breaking a sweat with it. Even with seven cylinders, we were able to run ninth.”
Impressive Run For “Who?”
There were a lot of big name drivers at IRP. But there was one driver that not a lot of people had ever heard of. And that driver made the biggest improvement from the start of the race to the finish. That driver, was Keith Gardner
“This is our first time here and first time on these tires,” said Gardner, who made the show through the first Last Chance race on Friday night. “We don’t usually run with this series. We just have some catching up to do. I run down at Salem Speedway.
“We had a good handle on this car in the race. I loved it after I got going. We had a couple of passing lanes. It is a nice track.”