Choquette Leads Slim Field To Flag-to-Flag for Victory by Steve Neely
SLM Count Down And Drivers Have Different Reasons Why
The Super Late Model races in the World Series of Asphalt Stock Car Racing at New Smyrna Speedway have both had the same theme so far. In two nights of racing, the first-place starter after the inversion has led every lap and gone on to win convincingly. On Friday, the man sitting in victory lane was B.J. McLeod, but Saturday, it was Jeff Choquette who celebrated the win.
Jeff Choquette at speed. (51 photo)
There has been a lot of talk after the first two days of action regarding the lack of grooves, the low cars counts and the condition of the track. That has led for some boring racing for the fans and left the drivers scratching their heads.
However, that doesn’t detour someone from winning each and every night. On Saturday night, that was Choquette.
“There’s passing going on out there,” said Choquette. “But my main concern was holding guys off and stay on the bottom for three or four laps until the tires got hot enough to get going.”
Choquette held off challenges from Ryan Sieg, McLeod, and others en route to his first victory of the year.
Choquette was among the drivers who had been fighting to find the right setup for New Smyrna’s tricky new asphalt that many have said changes rapidly from day to night.
“With the track changing so much, it kind of brings me back to the old dirt tracking days,” said Choquette. “On dirt, one minute it could be wet, but then it would get dry. You just have to search for the right line each lap.”
Choquette is sixth in points after two nights.
Other drivers have been much more critical about the track’s new surface and the lack of competition at the half-mile track.
“The track’s still in horrible shape,” said Jeff Scofield. “There’s no racing room here. Its just one groove.”
Scofield argued that the speedway officials need to be more proactive to get cars to race in the upper groove of the track.
“I’ve talked to them and I’ve complained, but I’ve seen them put no cars on the outside part of the track,” said Scofield. “They need to put us out there and make us run 50 laps of practice on the outside, and not at 20 miles per hour.”
SLM NOTES: Day Two
Track Affecting Car Counts?
The car count for the Super Late Models has been down from past years and the drivers all have different theories as to why.
“I think it’s the track,” said Mike Fritts. “A lot of guys wanted to skip the new surface to find out what it’s going to do for next year. A lot of guys that used to do it on a shoestring budget can’t do it anymore.”
Jack Landis, a competitor from Indiana, travels to Florida for a select few events each year. He offered another reason that the car count is lower.
“It’s probably just the economy,” said Landis. “Car counts were down just about everywhere I raced at last summer. It didn’t seem to affect the (Snowball) Derby, though. I guess it’s because they pay $20,000 to win. I don’t know what they pay here to win, about six- or eight-hundred bucks maybe (Choquette won $1,500 for winning Saturday night’s SLM feature).”
The car count for the Super Late Models has been down this year.
One Florida competitor said that the opposite might be true, that other winter-season races are growing bigger.
“There’s a lot more races in January and February now,” said Middleton. “There’s a lot more big races in the early part of the year that divides up the field across the nation. It’s still a good field, there are just not as many cars.”
Middleton also said the format for The World Series of Asphalt weighs in to the decision-making process that teams make for showing up.
“Speedweeks is a rough deal,” said Middleton. “You have eight nights of racing and you get worn out pretty quick.”
Good Run For Sieg
Ryan Sieg had a surprising second-place effort in the Super Late Model feature Saturday night. The young driver has attributed his second-place finish to the help of a Florida racing great.
“Wayne Anderson really knows how to set this thing up,” said Sieg. “He knows this place and he knows what he’s doing.”
Sieg improved nine spots in the 25-lap feature.
“There were a few tense moments here and there,” said Sieg. “The 27 hit the wall, I dodged him. Other people went up the hill, but I got through.”
Mechanical Troubles for Scofield
Jeff Scofield has had a tough week.
The fast qualifier for both Super Late Model races this weekend thus far has been Jeff Scofield, but he has failed to lead both times. Saturday night, it was a motor problem that put him out of the race.
“About two laps before it broke, it started binding down a little bit,” said Scofield. “I’m not sure what went, but we got out of the way without tearing anything up except the motor.”
Scofield was able to hold the bottom line and moved as high as second before the car shut off.
“I just can’t get the monkey off my back,” said Scofield. “We’re fast, we’ve had the position; pole winner last night, pole winner tonight.”
Fritts Hits Wall
Mike Fritts had been battling in the top five for much of the 25-lap super late model feature, but he ended up hitting the wall in turn four.
“I had a tight condition there,” said Fritts. “We were moving up and after about three or four laps I could start running Jeff (Choquette) down, but we were really tight coming off turn four.”
He acknowledged that the scrape with the wall was due to pushing the limits of the track.
“It’s just a one-groove track,” said Fritts. “I just kept pushing that edge, and pushing it more, and then got in the marbles and couldn’t keep it out of the fence.”
Fritts soldiered on to finish the race in 12th position.
Middleton Slips and Slides to Fourth-Place Finish
One of the victims of the upper-groove blues was Jay Middleton. In the opening laps of the race, Middleton slid up the track and fell deep into the field.
“It’s a really, really bad one-lane track right now,” said Middleton. “B.J. (McLeod) was behind me and he was able to find a hole quicker than I was. I fell from second to 12th in two laps because the outside was so bad.”
Middleton was able to hold the bottom and move back up as other drivers skated up the track.
“It was like Daytona,” said Middleton. “They get out of the draft by getting on the outside. We’d catch them on the bottom and pin them out there.”
Middleton skipped Friday night’s feature event after sorting through some tire issues in practice.
“We were a little worried about the track,” said Middleton. “The track was really bad on tires on Thursday. It took a long time to get rubber on there. We only have one car, so we didn’t want to risk it. We were just being careful.”