Choquette Wins Final Tune-Up Before Pete Orr Memorial by Steve Neely and Jason Buckley
Jeff Takes Advantage After Fritts and Christopher Tangle
It was a familiar battle. Only seven months earlier, on this very same track, Jeff Scofield and Jeff Choquette had a war of words in the 2006 Clyde Hart Memorial. That time, Scofield was livid when Choquette spun him on a critical restart.
On Friday night, the two drivers came together again. This time thought, they only shared smiles and congratulations.
Jeff Choquette waves to the crowd following Friday night's victory. (51 photos)
Choquette was able to hold off Scofield for his second win of The World Series of Asphalt Stock Car Racing at New Smyrna Speedway.
The biggest action of the night actually happened on the first lap. There, fast qualifier Mike Fritts and Ted Christopher made contact, sending Christopher's car hard into the outside wall in turn one.
After the initial spin, things settled down and new pole sitter Choquette (Fritts was unable to continue as well) and Scofield were able to check out on the rest of the field. With both cars being evenly matched, Choquette was glad he was out front.
“We started from the pole again and got real lucky when Mike Fritts and Teddy Christopher wrecked,” said Choquette. “I mean, I don’t wish bad luck on anybody, but you have to take what you can get. We had a little bit of a problem with the lapped cars. I think if we didn’t have them and it was just me and Jeff Scofield, we were running about the same speed. I just got out front and got lucky.”
Both drivers were thinking of tomorrow night’s important Pete Orr Memorial 100, however, not wanting to risk hurting their cars, especially since both drivers were using their backup cars.
“We had too many laps left to go, and those guys were sliding all over the place,” said Scofield. “He had everything to lose and I had everything to gain, so I was letting him mark his own spot. It almost worked out.”
Friday night’s 30-lap feature was the final tune-up race of the week, meaning it was the final run in regular race conditions until the big race. Some drivers were apprehensive for the longer race.
“The 100-lap race with the Super Late Models hasn’t been run on this (newly paved) track,” said Choquette. “The only information you can go off of is the stuff during the week. Based on what happened in 30 laps and what used to happen here, the tires stay with you a lot longer, so hopefully that happens again.”
However, third-place finisher and Ginn Racing Development Driver Jesus Hernandez described how he is looking forward to Saturday night’s race.
“Everything that we’ve been learning all week on chassis is going to be applied tomorrow as well,” said Hernandez. “Right now we’re in the fine tuning stages, and with it being a 100-lapper, it’ll be a little different. We’ll just try to be a little more conservative early in the run and not use up the equipment and the tires and just get a good feel for the tires in the long run.”
Wednesday night’s winner Scofield was another driver who is glad to go back to a longer race format instead of the short feature races.
“We just go back to the normal routine, forget all these 30-lap shootouts,” said Scofield. “If we settle down, and everybody uses their head a little more, with 100 laps, it should be good. With 30 laps, it’s balls to the wall. Look what happened to Fritts and Christopher. Both of them were nine miles over their head going into the first corner on the first lap. All one of them would’ve had to do is back out.”
SLM NOTES: NIGHT EIGHT
Fritts and Christopher Fuming After Turn One Wreck
When Sean Murphy had problems before the start of the race, that moved Ted Christopher up alongside Mike Fritts on the front row. When they got to turn one after the green flag flew, Christopher was in the wall with the #27 of Fritts having damage as well.
Mike Fritts (#27) and Ted Christopher (#29) make contact in the first turn.
"I was looking forward to the race until someone got up on the outside pole," said Fritts. I was looking forward to racing with Sean Murphy. He is a good, clean driver. He broke a transmission or something warming the tires so that moved Christopher up on the outside. I knew it was going to be ugly after that.
"Basically I just pushed up into him and turned him around. We were going around there on the pace lap and he is warming the tires up and beating the right front off the car the whole time before we even took off. Then we went to take off and he was pushing me down, about to run over the pace truck. You know, so I am not going to put up with it. I mean, I hate to lose this for the guys. We could have got a good jump in the points there, but I am not going to let someone get away with that stuff."
Christopher was equally upset.
"Well, I got a good jump," said Christopher. "That is what I knew I had to do. I knew I had to stay to the outside. I knew I had half a car but I knew he (Fritts) was still in there, my spotter told me. He drove it on in there and went up about a lane and a half and hit me.
"I talked to the 07 (Jeff Scofield) that was right behind us and the 70 (Jeff Choquette) and they said the exact same thing. So we will see what happens. I don’t race that much here, but I will be back and I will remember the 27."
During the caution flag, Christopher drove down the backstretch slow in front of Fritts, who was still leading the field. They almost came to a stop as Christopher sped up and ran across the track in front of Fritts, almost making contact.
Mike Fritts (center) surveys the damage to his car.
"I just stayed behind him," said Fritts. “He was wanting to tear the car up, but it didn't happen. I have seen him tear up two other cars this week and he isn't going to tear ours up. I will tear it up before he does."
When asked if Christopher had any problems under the caution that caused his #29 car to swerve up the track, his answer was a simple.
While Fritts will be able to race tomorrow after changing a broken tie-rod, Christopher said his car was done.
Promising Day Turns Sour For Sean Murphy
Thursday's fastest qualifier Sean Murphy didn't get a chance to show his stuff as rain canceled that night’s events. Friday, he was ready to go again, starting from the outside pole. However, once again, Murphy was snake-bit.
"We blew the rear end out on the pace lap," said Murphy. "I was just running the hot laps before the race and coming out of four, it just broke. I don't know. It's like we have to not qualify on the front row or something, it's just odd."
Murphy has an ace in the hole as veteran racer Butch Miller is coaching him.
"Butch is kind of acting as a crew chief," Murphy said. "It's been pretty good help. I'm learning some things off of him. In racing you can never learn enough and he's got, I don't know, 30- or 40-more years of racing than I do."
Even with a veteran racer in his corner, Murphy is also looking to the sky for some assistance.
"We just need to align the stars and get Jupiter somewhere right and we'll be alright."
Mike Fritts Smokes The Track Record
A new track surface has led to some super fast laps, breaking the track record night after night.
When Mike Fritts took to the track Friday in his #27 Super Late Model for qualifying, he knew he was going to be bad fast. He proved it by breaking the track record again with a time of 16.943 seconds.
"That was good," said Fritts. "The guys have been working their butts off all week. They made some changes on the car today and it really helped a bunch."
Fritts is the first Super Late Model driver to clock in under the 17-second bracket on the new pavement at New Smyrna Speedway.