Russell Fleeman Paces Himself for GAS Victory in Pensacola
Tough Five Flags Speedway Can’t Keep Fleeman from Back-To-Back Wins to Start Season
Fleeman (center) and crew celebrate their second-straight GAS win. (51 Photos)
“It took the car a while to come in,” said Fleeman. “Everybody knows about Pensacola and the track history and how it eats up tires and stuff. We could only take four tires for the whole race, so I knew it was going to be a conservation deal. The car finally came to me after the 50-lap checkup on tires.”
An issue was discovered after qualifying with the tires that were used at the track. Because of this, GAS officials and Five Flags officials convened and decided to have two competition cautions during the race to ease the minds of many teams, and that procedure worked well for the race itself.
Fast-qualifier Korey Ruble drew an invert of two and that put Joey Senter on the pole for the GAS 100. Senter and Ruble smoked the field in the early stages of the race by running a blistering pace that left the rest of the field struggling to catch up.
Prior to the night's first competition caution on lap 10, Nick Potts' car slammed into turn one, the cause of which was not immediately determined. Potts was uninjured in the wreck.
After the second competition yellow at lap 50, teams were able to make the necessary adjustments to their cars and also check their tires before returning to the track. However, due to the fast pace set early, Ruble and Senter lost grip on their machines first and that allowed Fleeman to catch up. Fleeman got a good run off of turn-two to grab the lead on lap 73, a pass which turned out to be the final lead change of the night.
In short track racing, the phrase “Tough on Equipment” is used quite often. It’s used to describe certain drivers and tracks, ones like Five Flags Speedway in Pensacola, FL. For the first time ever this past Saturday night, drivers from the Georgia Asphalt Series found out first-hand how tough the legendary track is with the series’ inaugural visit to the facility.
Being so close to the Gulf of Mexico, the salt and sand in the air have taken its toll on the asphalt and hence makes tire-wear an issue in every long-distance race at Pensacola. While nearly every driver in Five Flags’ pit area on Saturday night was fully aware of the challenges that the track would throw at them for the 100-lap event, few were able to pace themselves enough to capitalize in the closing stages of the race. Yet, that is exactly what led Russell Fleeman to become the first-ever GAS winner at Five Flags.
Greg Motes brought the "Flyin' Nine" home with a second-place finish.
“I think we just pushed it too hard,” said Senter, who held on to finish third. “Down here, you have to conserve. Leading there in the beginning, I didn't have anybody to judge off of. At the time, I didn't think I was pushing the car that hard but I was. I actually forgot about the halfway break, and if I would have remembered it, I would have conserved a lot more. I just used it up, and I was lucky to finish where I did.”
Fleeman fended off a challenge from a hard-charging Greg Motes on the final restart of the night to seal the victory. Motes believed that tire conservation was the key to getting him the second-place run.
“The good thing about this is if you're patient enough to save your stuff, you look like a hero,” said Motes. “I was really surprised that they took off and raced when they did. They got over a straightaway (advantage) on us, but I was waiting until the caution.”
Motes attempted a couple of times to close the four-car length gap between his and Fleeman's cars, but each time Fleeman would maintain that gap.
Fleeman's #98 was as hard to catch as a "doggone greased pig" according to Greg Motes.
“It's like trying to catch a doggone greased pig,” said Motes. “Every time I'd gain on him, he would just ease back off from me. I just used everything up trying to get to him. He's run dirt for years and years, so this kind of track really suits him.”
After scoring a win at Birmingham two weeks ago, Fleeman came into the race with momentum. Now two-for-two on the season, he has even more confidence in his team.
“We got a real good start to the season,” said Fleeman. “I have a good crew, and I have good cars. We're just trying to keep things in perspective and look for a lot more wins.”
Fleeman, Motes and Senter swept the podium, while David Elliott and David Hole rounded out the top-five.
The Georgia Asphalt Series will be back in action in its home state of Georgia on March 24th when the GAS stars head to Watermelon Capital Speedway in Cordele, GA.
March 10, 2007
Five Flags Speedway (FL)
1. Russell Fleeman
2. Greg Motes
3. Joey Senter
4. David Elliott
5. David Hole
6. Kevin Stephens
7. Michael Pope
8. Dakota Stroup
9. Fredrick Moore
10. Kyle Fowler
11. Jacob Grizzle
12. Roger Delp
13. Taylor Satterfield
14. Korey Ruble
15. Ryan Paul
16. Brandon Odom
17. Michael Phelps
18. David Odell
19. Bubba Pollard
20. Nick Potts
21. Paul Kelley
22. Jimmy Garmon (DNS)
23. Shane Nalley (DNS)
24. Logan Boyett (DNS)