Concord Proves Not Too Dangerous For Pistone This Time Around by Jeremy Troiano
Pressure Is Off Third-Year As He Gets First Pro Cup Victory
Chase Pistone grabbed his first win at a track he's been to a lot, but not raced at very much.
Growing up in the Concord, North Carolina area, and with the last name Pistone, you would think that Concord Motorsport Park would come easy for a up-and-coming racer.
But that wasn’t the case for Chase Pistone. The 23-year-old hadn’t seen much of Concord Motorsport Park in his life, despite growing up in Cornelius, North Carolina. In fact, despite years of Late Model Stock racing, Pistone has only raced at the half-mile tri-oval a total of three times in his life, all coming in the USAR Hooters Pro Cup Series.
The third time proved to be the charm. Pistone collected his first-career Pro Cup Series win on Saturday night, dominating the second-half of the Naturally Fresh Foods 250.
“It’s wild because my dad always thought this place was dangerous, so he would never let me race Late Models here,” said Pistone. “So I had to run Hickory and Tri-County and places like that. So I’ve only raced here the three times the Hooters Series has been here. I’ve grown to like it. When you are driving equipment this good, it makes any track this fun.”
Pistone’s Pro Cup career has been a journey. He started his rookie season with FastTime Motorsports. Then, his sophomore season began with Stringer Motorsports, followed by a couple races with both Premiere Motorsports and Titian Motorsports.
But now, Pistone has found a new home with JCR3 Racing. And with a victory together, the first for JCR3 Racing in Pro Cup as well, it could be the long-term deal that Pistone is looking for.
“I thought I had the ability to win when I came into the series,” added Pistone. “Then, I got here and you realize it’s a lot tougher than you think. I have been in some good situations. Last year, I was in a good situation and got a couple of top fives, got my confidence up and realized I could do this. It just felt like all day today, I knew it was my day. We had a good car and all day it was really good.
“The Craigs (owners of JCR3 Racing) have some good equipment. I just need to thank them for the opportunity they have given me. It felt good all day long and it feels awesome. They won a lot of All Pro races and championships (with driver Jeff Fultz, who ran the JCR3 Racing car in Pro Cup last season).
“They expect to win because they get good stuff. If we don’t win, it’s my fault. They put a lot on me at first, but its nothing but fun now. I knew I had to win when I got in this car and I feel like the pressure is finally off my shoulders.”
Pistone’s ride to the front wasn’t so easy though. After qualifying second, he jumped out to the early lead, then fell back to second until the first round of stops when pole sitter Michael Ritch got by him.
On the pit stops though, Pistone and the team screwed up. The new Pro Cup rule allows teams to only change tires or fuel the car on the same stop. The extended caution allowed teams to come in the first time around and change tires, then come in the next lap and take their fuel. As most of the leaders did this, Pistone and the team had a little miscommunication and stayed out an extra lap before coming back in to take fuel. That put him much further back in the field than the other leaders.
However, Pistone turned on the afterburners and got back to the front of the field. The run to the front was made easier when race leader Michael Ritch was slapped with a rough driving penalty when he got into the back of Bill Plemmons, who Ritch was getting ready to lap at the time. The spinning car of Plemmons then forced second-place Mart Nesbitt to lock up the brakes, which put Pistone back up front.
After that, it was Pistone’s race to lose.
“I got frustrated in the pits, because with this new strategy, you can’t fuel and change tires at the same time,” added Pistone. “So we changed tires, but I never heard my pit crew say come back in. So I went another lap and then came back in. So it put me back around 13th or 14th and I had to get around all those cars.
“I’ve never been really aggressive in this series, but tonight I was. I felt like I needed to be. I knew I had the car to win and I wanted to get it there.”
Chase Pistone has been fast ever since he hooked up with the #54 JCR3 Racing team.
Carl Long finished second, but never was a threat to Pistone the rest of the night. Rookie Richard Boswell came home third.
Two Different Names Nearly Steal The Show
Michael Ritch and Mart Nesbitt have both won Pro Cup Series events during their career. But in the day and age of young guns in the Pro Cup Series, seeing the older veterans run up front is becoming more of a thing of the past.
However, Ritch and Nesbitt tried to throw that philosophy out the window on Saturday night. The two veteran drivers found themselves with two of the fastest cars late in Saturday night’s race, running one-two.
Eyes (and cameras) were on Michael Ritch at Concord all night long.
Bill Plemmons, turning Plemmons around. Ritch continued on, but Nesbitt had to slide to a stop to miss Plemmons’ spinning car.
After review, Pro Cup officials deemed the contact avoidable and hit Ritch with a rough driving penalty, dropping him from first to the last car on the lead lap, which at the time was 19th. Nesbitt fell back as well, blending in to the field where he got his car going after stopping on the track. That put Chase Pistone in the front, and Ritch could never make his way back through the field.
"After looking at various replays, race control deemed the contact was severe enough to warrant a rough-driving penalty," said Paul Warner, USAR Media Relations Director. "The standing rule is: If any driver that hits another driver square in the bumper and causes a spin, a penalty will be issued. The replays show that the contact was square, and a penalty was issued."
Speed51.com looked for Ritch in the pit area and at his trailer after the race, but couldn’t find him for comment.
Ritch finished eighth. Nesbitt was 13th.
“I don't know how it happened, but Michael and [Plemons] got together in traffic," said Nesbitt. "I had to slow down to miss Plemons. The car never stopped, but they said I was part of the accident and that I blended back in eighth.
“My car was a long-run car. And once I got back there, with all the late cautions, I just couldn't go anywhere. That's just how racing goes sometimes, but this is the second race in a row that a lapped car cost us a good finish."
One Quick Field... Again
While most fans show up for the 250-lap Hooters Pro Cup events, the amazing race has been coming in qualifying of late.
The starting field for the Naturally Fresh 250 at Concord Motorsport Park was separated by .422 seconds. In addition, 17 drivers bested Shane Huffman's track record of 16.342 seconds. Michael Ritch blistered the half-mile track in 16.026 seconds.
No More “Also Ran”
No, it wasn’t a misprint. Carl Long finished second in Saturday night’s Pro Cup event at Concord Motorsport Park.
To most, this might be a shock, but to Carl, his team and those that know him, it shows what this former NASCAR “field filler” really is behind the wheel.
“It feels good to come back and be competitive,” said Long. “When you go to the Cup race and you are a field filler, an also-other or whatever you call them, it feels so good to come back and be competitive with the caliber of people that race here. There are great drivers in this series and there are some that are going to be great drivers. I am no longer a field filler or going home on the trailer. That makes it awful exciting.”
Long didn’t have anything for Pistone late in the event, but he was happy just to be where he was.
“The cautions were killing me. We were so loose on the restarts, then when I got back on the gas, we would just buzz the tires. It didn’t matter if I was in second gear or third gear, if I laid back or went early. I had to have a couple of laps to get it going, and then I had to run the high side.”
Long is planning to run just a handful of Pro Cup races this season in both divisions.
Longer Than Expected
Frank Deiny Jr. didn't have a set plan for the season. He was going to Lakeland for the season opener, and that was the only certainty the Virginia driver had. But after three top-five finishes in four races, including a fourth-place finish iSaturday night, those plans have been scrapped.
"This deal started out as one race; now we are full-blown," said Deiny, who leads the rookie points. "We ran well at Lakeland, so we went to South Georgia. We're going to do them all now. I can't thank Bailey's and my owner, Rusty Skewes, enough for this opportunity.
"I was kind of points racing tonight, because I knew Woody, Gill and Hawkins all had problems early. We were just a little off. But if we keep knocking down fourth-place finishes, we'll make a dent. And we may even win a few."
Deiny currently is tied for third in the overall standings.
Tough Day For Points Leader
Woody Howard had a lot day at Concord.
Woody Howard has always raced in the Pro Cup Series Northern Division. However, this year, he’s competing full-time with the Southern Division. That means new race tracks and new challenges.
Coming into the race as the Southern Division points leader, Howard had a tough night. He blew a motor early in practice, getting no time on a track that is tough for regulars and especially tough for someone that has never been on it.
Then, early in the race, Howard spun and fell several laps down.
But Howard never gave up and made up four laps, getting himself back on the lead lap and back to 14th in the final rundown.
“We had the best car here,” said Howard. “We didn’t get any practice and I never raced here before. I went into turn one and just lost it. It was my screw up. I should have
took tires. When I spun, I flat spotted the tires. When we went back out, I lost all those laps. We finally came in and got tires. We finally went out back out and made them all up. We’ve got a good race team, but we’ve got some things we’ve got to straighten out.”
And of making his four laps up, Howard said: “I was pissed off. I wanted to get those laps back. We had a car to beat. That is all there is to it.”
Some Days Good, Some Days Bad
Bobby Gill has been pretty good this year in the Pro Cup Series. In fact, he won the opening event of the year for the Northern Division, which came just a couple of weeks ago at South Boston Speedway.
But Saturday night, Gill finished dead last, falling out of the event early after motor problems.