Haseleu Beats Vadnais Without a Knockout in Nashville by Matt Kentfield
Final Bell Rings For Haseleu in a Battle of Jabs, Not Haymakers
Josh Vadnais and Nathan Haseleu stepped into the ring as two contenders from the Upper Midwest. Only one would leave Nashville with the title belt from the Spring Clash 150 at Music City Motorplex. The other would just go home.
Nathan Haseleu dominated the entire bout. He looked to have an easy win, but Vadnais came on strong in the late rounds.
Nathan Haseleu rocked out in victory lane, much to the enjoyment to the trophy girl. (51 Photos)
But the big, powerful knockout punch never came from Vadnais. Rather than striking that final blow to leave with the title, he rested on his laurels and settled for the decision.
Vadnais’ decision not to move Haseleu from the lead in the final laps made for one of the cleanest, yet most exciting, CRA Super Series Super Late Model races in recent memory in Nashville.
The fight did not need a final knockout blow. That’s not how either driver wants to race, and it proved to be the makings of a great side-by-side battle that the two waged over the final laps. With Haseleu taking the lead at the drop of the green flag and Vadnais in tow, the two ran one-two for the majority of the race. Late, Vadnais pulled even with Haseleu and was scored as the leader on lap 146, the only lap that Haseleu did not lead.
Haseleu and Vadnais traded jabs, but the knockout never came. The two drivers raced side-by-side, even in the final handful of laps, but Vadnais never slammed Haseleu out of the way. He never ran him up the racetrack. He gave it everything he had, but nothing more, allowing Haseleu to come to the checkered flag first for his first-ever Nashville victory.
“I don’t think I breathed for the last couple laps there,” said Haseleu. “He got inside me one time and we got together. I had the lead and I wasn’t going to give it up, so I just drove it as hard as I could. I drove hard and he drove hard. For me, it was just a lot of fun racing with him like that. He raced me clean and the next time I’m racing him for the lead I’m going to race him like that.”
Haseleu and Vadnais have raced each other in various series in the Midwest, so they were plenty familiar with one another going into Nashville. They also knew that neither would rough the other up. That made for the thrilling side-by-side battle late in the race.
Vadnais and Haseleu were about equal on the straightaways late in the race. One was better in one corner, the other driver was better in the other corner. That’s why the two were able to race door-to-door for the win.
“He was really good off of two and I was good off of four,” said Vadnais. “I kept trying to figure out how to get better off of two and maybe I could get him there. That’s when he figured out how to get off of four. My car was just a little loose in, so I was wheeling the car as hard as I could to help from getting into him. We bumped a couple times, but it was about five laps to go and it’s go time, but it wasn’t anything to wreck him.”
The two combatants in Nashville shook a friendly hand after the race.
“I knew he wasn’t going to do anything stupid,” said Haseleu. “This is a pretty big race, but I wouldn’t have been surprised if he got into me a little bit or something like that. I would’ve understood if he did because we’re both racing hard. But I knew he wasn’t going to do anything intentionally.”
Vadnais agreed that there wasn’t going to be anything rough that would’ve put him in victory lane and not his buddy Haseleu.
“Nate’s a good friend of mine and I love racing with guys like him,” said Vadnais. “There was no way I was going to drive through him. If I did, that would’ve been a tarnished win in my opinion.
“That’s the way I want to race for the win. When you race with someone like Nate who races you clean, you just don’t want to do that. We were both in it and we were giving it all we’ve got and not giving an inch. But we’re not beating on each other and wrecking other cars at the same time, either.”
Nathan Haseleu's winning #187
For Haseleu, the title belt came in the form of the traditional guitar in victory lane and it came against a good friend and a formidable foe at a place that he has dreamed of walking away from with the title.
“It’s huge to win here,” said Haseleu. “If you look at all the names that have won here, growing up watching the All American 400 on TNN and stuff, you watch those guys and kind of idolize them – Freddie Query, Butch Miller, Wayne Anderson and guys like that. It’s pretty special to win here. I know it’s not the All American 400, but it’s the next best thing.
“I’ve always wanted to win here, and it’s great to finally do it.”
Russell Fleeman, who won the first two Georgia Asphalt Series Pro Late Model features of the year in that series, broke out his Super Late Model and made it a three-car race in the final laps, but the end battle came down to Vadnais and Haseleu. Dennis Schoenfeld and Chris Gabehart finished fourth and fifth, but nobody was going to come between the two heavyweights
In the end, it was Haseleu who won the decision, but Vadnais may have sealed his own fate early on. Like a boxer in the pre-race press conference announcing victory, Vadnais talked a little smack in a friendly way to Haseleu. That came back to bite him, and it was a mistake he won’t make again.
“Nathan and I were joking around before the race about what the track was going to do because of the rain and the Modified tires being on the track before our race. I told him that I think the 36 car (Vadnais) was going to be taking home that guitar and he was going to be finishing second. It wound up exactly the opposite. Maybe next time I should tell him that today’s his day so that I can win.”