The Monkey's Off Scofield's Back After Orr Memorial by Matt Kentfield
Jeff Scofield Wins 100-Lap SLM Finale and Speedweeks Title
Jeff Scofield entered Speedweeks 2007 at New Smyrna Speedway with some problems. One of which had to do with his lackluster results in recent races. Another was personal, with rumblings going around the pit area that Scofield was getting a little too cocky for his own good after his 2006 Sunbelt Series Super Late Model championship.
Jeff Scofield won the battle and the war on Saturday night. (Jim DuPont photo)
Rather than putting up a stink about the bad-mouthing, Scofield did his talking with his #07 racecar during Speedweeks. Scofield won Saturday night’s Pete Orr Memorial 100 and clinched the Speedweeks championship after week-long leader BJ McLeod fell out of the event with mechanical issues.
The win and championship came at a time that Jeff Scofield needed them most.
“It’s a good start to the season with a win in this race and to win the championship,” said Scofield. “I had a little disappointment a couple days ago when somebody came up to me and said they thought I was getting a little big-headed. I don’t want to be like that. I want to be the guy that hangs out and has fun with everybody. That was like a wakeup call for me and I started to come around a little bit.
“Racing is hard as it is, so you don’t need guys going around thinking you’re an a-hole and things like that. Hopefully we earned that back with some of the people tonight. I like to think that I’m a clean racer, so I just have to keep my mouth shut and we’ll keep this going all year I think. We started off at the Snowball and had another wakeup call when we didn’t even make the show. We went to Lakeland and had problems after problems. We came here just to get the monkey off our backs, and I think now he’s gone.”
With all the things that seemingly have been going against Scofield since the Snowball Derby, everything seemed to turn around for him Saturday night. Scofield took the lead on lap 45 after the race’s first leaders Ted Christopher and Jeff Choquette had each fallen off the pace while up front. Christopher slipped up from the lead early on as Choquette took advantage, before Christopher was spun out of second-place by Brian Scott.
Choquette showed the way until sliding up the track on a lap-45 restart, allowing Scofield to take the lead that he would not relinquish until the checkered flag.
“I was kind of riding there, sitting and waiting for later in the race,” said Scofield. “Everybody kind of forgot that it was a 100-lap race tonight. I was sitting back there in sixth place, riding. Choquette took off and led, but his car started to tighten up and he slowed down. Ted Christopher took off too, so I knew I could get by them later in the race. Guys started blocking, Christopher was blocking the guy behind him, so it was kind of a chain reaction and I got through those guys. Then Choquette starting having problems and it worked in my favor.
Jeff Scofield had a fast car all week long in New Smyrna. (DuPont photo)
Mike Fritts tried to catch Scofield in the closing laps, but nothing was going to stop Scofield this night. The championship, much like the race lead, fell into Scofield’s lap Saturday night, when McLeod fell out of the race on lap 52. From there, it was Scofield’s title to lose, but this time luck was on his side for a change.
“BJ had a DNF tonight, and that is what won it for us. He was our main competition for this championship. He started things off early in the week with a couple wins and we had a couple DNF’s back-to-back early. We weren’t worried about the points at that point, we just wanted to win races. Then we had a first, a second and a first. We came on strong at the end and the points fell as they did.
“Overall, to win the World Series championship in the first year that we’ve ever run it and to win the biggest race of the week, really means a lot to me. We struggled at times this week with the clutch, the motor and we wiped out a car. We had to start at the back of the field tonight, so we earned it.”
Not lost on Scofield was the importance of winning the Pete Orr Memorial. Orr was a staple of racing in Florida and Scofield will never forget the role Orr played in his career as well as his importance to Florida Super Late Model racing.
“It’s an honor to win this race. Pete was a big part of all of us. He helped me some, (Travis) Kittleson some, BJ some. He was one of those guys that would help anyone if he could. He was always bouncing around everywhere and was always there to help out. I had a tremendous amount of respect for him and I hope that his son can keep up that tradition whether it’s in racing or whatever he wants to do.”
SLM NOTES: PETE ORR MEMORIAL 100
Russell Strong at End of the Week
Tim Russell had plenty going on during Speedweeks 2007, but he was not about to multi-task. He started off Speedweeks in the #9 Dodge for Hagans Racing in the ARCA RE/MAX Series race at Daytona International Speedway. He had planned on beginning his Super Late Model portion of Speedweeks beginning last Sunday after the ARCA race.
Tim Russell (#36) leads BJ McLeod (#78) in a strong run Saturday night. (DuPont photo)
But with just a handful of laps remaining in the Daytona 200, Russell was taken out and made heavy impact with the outside wall that left him sore for several days. Once he was healed, he was back behind the wheel of his Super Late Model and never finished worse than sixth in his four races at New Smyrna, including a third place finish in the Orr Memorial.
“I’m pumped up for this whole Rinnai Tankless Water Heaters team,” said Russell. “They worked their butts off all week. Third tonight is not too bad considering all the tough competition that was out there. Plus we had to start seventh, so that made it a little tougher with all the good cars up front. We’ll take a third and we’ll move on, but I know we’ll be a lot better when we come back here.
With two runner-up finishes, a sixth and a third, Russell can’t help but wonder what could’ve happened if he had run in all seven SLM events during Speedweeks 2007.
“If we could’ve been brave and had run the whole deal, then we could’ve won the points I think. But it’s just too much to go back and forth from both tracks. I wanted to give my full attention to the ARCA team and the guys at Hagans Racing at the first part of the week. I wanted to be focused only on the ARCA stuff when I was in Daytona and be focused only on the Super Late Model stuff when in New Smyrna.”
Landis Gets The Most Out of What He’s Got
It might not have been what Jack Landis was hoping for, but Landis still was thankful to get out of the Pete Orr Memorial 100 with a fourth-place finish.
Jack Landis has had an up-and-down Speedweeks. (51 photo)
“It’s a top-five, it’s a good finish for us. This is a backup car because we kind of beat up our other car last Monday or Tuesday. We’re pretty happy that this car hung in for as long as it did. I knew this would be a better car for the long race because it doesn’t have that much power. That’s kind of how the way it ended up, and I’m glad it’s over.”
Landis has had a frustrating Speedweeks. With several mechanical issues and a crash, he was down in the dumps. A full-team sit-down helped turn things around for Saturday night’s race.
“My attitude was down in the last few days, but we had a 10-minute conference and we pulled ourselves out of it and we were good to go. We brought our morale back and we did what we had to do to try and get the best finishes we could.
"That’s what we did today, we got the best finish we could.”
Mike Fritts Comes Up One Spot Short
Mike Fritts was another driver that has had a frustrating Speedweeks. He has had one of the fastest cars in the pit area all week long, but luck was never on his side. Crashes while running in the top-five and motor issues kept the Florida SLM veteran limited to just one win when he was in contention for several others.
Saturday night, there was no bad luck to be found, as he escaped the Orr Memorial with a runner-up finish.
“If I had to grade our efforts this week, I’d say as a driver I was a five out of 10, but the team was about a 10.5 or 11. We had some motor trouble through the week, but we did the best that we could with it. We were fast pretty much every time we were at the track, but we just had a bunch of bad luck.”
“It was great being so fast in qualifying, but we would’ve liked to have been there with a couple of wins to show for it at the end of the week. The guys worked hard to get the car fixed up after the crash the other night and we managed to come out with a second-place finish tonight, so we can be happy with that.”
Fritts closed up to Scofield’s bumper late in Saturday night’s race, but just when Scofield’s car began to show signs of slowing in the final laps, so did Fritts’.
“I was hoping I’d have a shot at Jeff there at the end and he started slowing down a little bit, but at the same time we started slowing down too. At that point I was giving it everything I had, but I didn’t have enough.”
Sean Murphy Recovers from Qualifying DQ
Florida Speedweeks has seen its fair share of disqualifications and controversy this year. While much of the sport’s attention was focused on the scandals in Daytona, Sean Murphy was a victim of it as well Saturday evening.
Sean Murphy had plenty of work to do in order for his top-five finish Saturday. (51 photo)
After Murphy set fast time for Saturday night’s Orr Memorial, his time was disallowed due to a fuel infraction. While it was not a blatant attempt at cheating, Murphy was forced to start the feature from the rear of the field. Murphy was able to put on a show, however, working his way all the way up to fifth at the fall of the checkered flag.
“I had a little bit of that Michael Waltrip special fuel stuff, I guess,” joked Murphy. “Actually, we were using a fuel that we had used in some other races like the Snowball Derby this year, but I guess it didn’t match up to what they sell at the track. It wasn’t that much off, but they sent us to the back anyway. That just made it more fun to come back up from the back.”
After having to start at the rear of the field, Murphy began picking up spots immediately, but by the end of the race, he didn’t have much left to pick up even more.
“I just figured I’d keep the fenders on it and see how far it’d go, but it was fast from the get-go. We just picked them off one by one. Around lap 75 or 80, my tires had burned off because I had to do a lot of my passing on the high side. I was just trying to hang on and hope for a couple cautions to cool the tires down, but I didn’t get them.”
Mechanical Problem Costs McLeod Championship
BJ McLeod was in perfect position to lock up the Speedweeks Super Late Model championship Saturday night. He was running solidly in the top-10, just as he needed to do to lock up the title, around halfway when a mechanical problem arose in his #78 machine.
McLeod's #78 came up just short of the Speedweeks title. (51 photo)
McLeod was forced to retire early from the race, handing the points title to Scofield. Even though the young driver was disappointed about losing the championship, he still had a memorable Speedweeks.
“The power steering belt got thrown off. That made the car real hard to drive. It wasn’t a normal steering setup. I twisted the universal off going to the rack trying to drive it, waiting on the next caution. That was it.
“I’m disappointed, but the way I look at it, if we could’ve run better the three nights I didn’t run good, we would’ve won it easily. We would’ve had it wrapped up, but we had an oil pump break on us and then the power steering problem. Even those nights where I finished sixth and fourth, I could’ve won both of them. Plus we still had the two wins. That makes it the best Speedweeks I’ve ever had. I’m just ready to go to the next one and try to win that.”