Michael Pope Scores First-Career GAS Victory at Peachstate
Young Racer Avoids Carnage & Holds Off Former Champ For First GAS Triumph
Michael Pope was all smiles after his first-ever GAS victory. (51 Photo)
When a driver thinks about his first win, he or she always hopes for a story book ending. From beating former champions, holding off a hungry pack of drivers in a green-white-checkered finish, or steering clear when drivers ahead of him tangle late in the race, all kinds of visions go through the minds of racers while scripting their first race win.
If those thoughts passed through Michael Pope’s mind, then his first-career Georgia Asphalt Series victory went just as he imagined. The 18-year-old Dublin, GA native held off two-time series champion Fredrick Moore over a pair of final restarts and avoided the wrecking leaders late in the race to score the first GAS victory of his career.
“I didn’t know when this day would come,” said Pope in victory lane. “I love it. I drove my heart out tonight and we finally got one.”
Pope inherited the lead on lap 97 when leaders Bubba Pollard and Russell Fleeman got together coming of the second turn. Pope, who was running third at the time, shot between the two as the leaders spun. Fleeman slid out of the lead, while Pollard backed his car into the infield fence, nearly rolling over.
Pope had to take evasive action to avoid the spinning leaders – evasive action that won him the race.
“All I saw was (Russell) Fleeman get loose and he got up into Bubba (Pollard) and they both went spinning,” added Pope. “Bubba went down the track and Fleeman went up the track and there was a little hole in the middle that I was able to get through. I got lucky.”
Pollard had a full-straightaway lead on Fleeman when the caution came out on lap 96.
The wreck on the following restart marks the third-straight race in which Pollard has crashed while running with the leaders in the closing laps.
“It’s just hard,” said Pollard. “What kills me is that the last three races we should have won and nobody knows it. I had a half-a-track lead of them and the caution came out. Nobody remembers who is winning on the last lap; just who won and that kills me the most.”
Series point leader Russell Fleeman, who was trying for three GAS victories in a row, was apologetic for his role in the crash that also took out top-five runners Jimmy Garmon and Ronnie Sanders.
“It was one of those deals,” said Fleeman. “I wanted it bad. He (Pollard) wanted it bad. It’s just one of those racing deals. We’ll just have to pack up and start over. I went over and spoke to him. I apologized; told him I tried to stay off him and it was one of them deals. I would never do anything like that on purpose. I try to be a better driver then that.”
With the two former Peachstate winners wrecked, Michael Pope looked to have it won when he got away clean on the ensuing restart after the Fleeman/Pollard melee. Just when Pope thought he had the win sewn up, the yellow quickly flew for a tangle between Spence Maggard and Billy Chancy.
The final green-white-checkered restart was where Pope had to earn his dues. When the green flag waved, Pope spun the tires on his number-44 machine, giving Moore a chance to steal the win. Moore pulled even with Pope in turn one and the two raced side-by-side into the white flag lap. That’s when Pope pulled ahead off the second turn and sailed home for the win that locks him into the field for the World Crown 300 Pro Late Model all-star event at Peachstate in November.
“I was thinking, ‘why did I do that?’” said Pope of spinning the tires on the restart. “As good of a car that we had, I almost lost it for us. But I was able to manhandle the car and drive the heck out it to get the win.”
“I though I had him when he spun the tires,” said Moore. “He got a good run on the inside. I was sliding, he was sliding. The tires were gone at that point. Everybody looks at him like a kid, but this is his second year in the series and he’s a veteran just like the rest of us.”
Michael Phelps had a career-best third-place finish, while Wes Burton finished fourth. Joey Senter rounded out the top five.
The Georgia Asphalt series returns to action on September 1st at Watermelon Capital Speedway in Cordele, GA.
For more information on the Georgia Asphalt Series, contact Matt Kentfield at (704) 788-2134 x 5 and visit www.georgiaasphaltseries.com.
August 18, 2007
1. Michael Pope
2. Fredrick Moore
3. Michael Phelps
4. Wes Burton
5. Joey Senter
6. Ronnie Kittle
7. Spence Maggard
8. Kyle Fowler
9. David Elliott
10. Chris Dilbeck
11. Troy Radford
12. Mahlon Winstead
13. Dennis Wilder
14. Mitch Cobb
15. Bobby Keys
16. Bubba Pollard
17. Russell Fleeman
18. Jimmy Garmon
19. Ronnie Sanders
20. Billy Chancy
21. Joe Click
22. Joel Anderson
23. Shane Nalley
24. Mickey Wright
25. Kevin Stephens
26. Dakota Stroup
27. Heath Hindman
DQ Greg Motes
Russell Fleeman (Top) and Bubba Pollard's cars showed the signs of their battle for the lead after the race.