Mark Setzer Breaks Into UARA Victory Lane at Bristol by Matt Kentfield
Veteran Racer Dominates New Surface For First Tour Win
Mark Setzer celebrated his first UARA victory with his wife and three daughters. (51 Photos)
He’s led plenty of laps in his two-plus seasons on the tour, but he had never been able to seal the deal. He came close two weeks back when the series made its first trip to Bristol Motor Speedway (TN), finishing a hard-fought second to Alex Yontz.
The strength shown in the first Bristol race wasn’t a fluke and Setzer proved it Saturday afternoon when the series returned there. This time around, Setzer had that little bit extra in the tank that had been missing since he first started on the UARA circuit and dominated the 150-lap Bristol event, holding of Jake Crum and Yontz for the crown.
With a bunch of wins already to his credit, winning on the UARA tour on the series’ biggest stage, Bristol Motor Speedway, left the veteran racer speechless.
“I can’t put it into words,” said Setzer of his victory. “I can’t thank God enough or my wife and kids for letting me be away from home for so long to do this. This is a seven-day a week job just so we can come out here and have this opportunity.
“We’ve been so close. We’ve led so many parts the last two years. We picked up a weekly show win at Tri-County a couple months ago and we’ve been working so hard. This new car has just done great from the time we got it four or five races ago. We sat on the pole at Ace and finished second. Backed it up with a second-place qualifying run the next week. The car’s just performed great. Everybody on this team has just worked so hard.”
There may have been hard work going on behind the scenes, but Setzer made winning at Bristol look pretty easy on Saturday. Setzer took the lead on a lap 18 restart from former UARA Champion Matt McCall and never looked back. The pass for the lead was easy, as was the decision-making process for what to do with the #27 racecar when it left Bristol with a second-place finish a couple weeks back.
“I’m ashamed to say we never changed a thing on it,” said Setzer. “The car was that good two weeks ago, but we ran over a part and damaged the exhaust. That really smothered the motor where it wouldn’t run, but we were still strong enough to hold on to second. We showed what that Ford Fusion power could do when we can keep it hooked up for 150 laps.”
Mark Setzer’s name echoes success in the Late Model Stock Car circles around the Southeast. He’s won at pretty much every weekly track and been the victor in some of the biggest events around, including the heralded Bobby Isaac Memorial at Hickory Motor Speedway (NC).
Setzer has filled up his trophy case and filled out his resume pretty well with LMSC victories all over the map, but there has been that one little thorn in his side through all this winning – he had never won on the UARA-Stars Late Model Stock tour.
Setzer continued to cruise out front as the top-10 drivers ran relatively single-file throughout the event. He seemed to be well on his way to victory, but a caution for John Gottsacker’s crash in turn one just before Setzer saw the white flag closed the field back up behind him.
The caution closed up Jake Crum on his bumper, who, like Setzer, had a strong car in Bristol race number-one. Two weeks ago, Crum dominated early before losing the lead to Yontz and spinning out of second late in the race. The caution came out just in time for Crum, but at an inopportune time for Setzer, who had a solid lead over the field washed away.
“Oh my goodness, we didn’t need that,” said Setzer. “I really didn’t want to worry about it because the car was so good. We just put it on cruise and we were just counting off laps. We had a comfortable lead and we didn’t have to push the car. It just performed flawless. The last couple laps, I ran just as hard as I needed to.”
For Crum, the late caution was just what the doctor ordered. If only he could’ve ordered a few more laps, too.
“We don’t just think we had something for him, we had something for him,” said Crum. “A couple more laps and I would’ve won that race. I do have to congratulate Mark Setzer, though.
“Those cautions helped me because when the tires cooled off, I could hold it wide open around this place. But when they warmed up, I had to back off it a little bit.”
Crum has now had two straight strong runs only to come up short both times. For Crum, running well, but not making it to victory lane is a gift and a curse.
“It’s a good feeling, but it’s frustrating at the same time because we know we’ve got a car that can win, but the last two times there was someone that was a little bit faster.”
The one car that was faster than him Saturday was Mark Setzer’s #27. The veteran racer was quick to point out that while his West Motorsports team made him fast, it was his family, including his wife Dana and three young daughters, that helped keep him pumped up to get that first UARA race win.
“I drive 200 miles round trip every day to work on the cars,” said Setzer. “There’s at least one day a week where I put in a 15-hour day in the race shop and stay overnight. She (Dana) actually puts up with that so we can do this sport that we love so much.”
Behind Setzer and Crum, Yontz brought home the third spot, but didn’t have enough to sweep Bristol. Setzer’s teammate Mikey Kile finished fourth, while Ross Furr rounded out the top-five.
Kile Nets Career-Best
Saturday was a strong day for the West Motorsports team. Behind Mark Setzer’s first-ever UARA race victory, Mikey Kile scored his best-ever UARA finish of his rookie season.
Matt McCall led early, but spun out of contention, allowing Setzer to cruise the rest of the way.
Jake Crum had another strong run at Bristol.
“My hat’s off to my teammate Mikey Kile, his best finish,” said Setzer. “He had a great qualifying run, so it’s just a great day for West Motorsports. I think the thing that helped us today was I had a chance to get in his car and make a couple of laps while he watched. He put that to good use and outqualified me. I’m glad I got the win so I didn’t get too much ragging.”
For Kile, though, having a fourth-place finish wasn’t as good as he would’ve liked it to have been.
“We started off and I knew the car was good. I’m finally getting used to driving these things. I’m not really used to these heavy cars. Things are really coming around and we’re getting things together.
“It’s cool, but I know the talent that I have and I know there’s more there. We’re new this year, but everything’s starting to click. I’m relating to them and the feedback and everything is good.”
Guido Survives Bristol Round Two
Matt “Guido” DiBenedetto left Bristol cursing the high-banked half-mile after the first round of the Bristol double-dip two weeks back. He had a strong car and was running in the top-five when he was caught up in an early wreck that nearly destroyed his #41 machine.
Many hours at work in the shop got DiBenedetto’s ride fixed up and the hard work paid off with a solid eighth-place finish.
“I wish it could’ve been a little bit better, but at least we survived it,” said DiBenedetto. “We had to take our whole rear end apart just before we went out to qualify. We kind of blew away our whole practice session because we didn’t know our rocker springs went bad and that’s why we were chasing our tail. We went out there to qualify and we had no idea how we were going to be.
“The last race, the track had a lot of grip. You could get off the gas just a little bit, then nail it. Today I was just coasting in the corner for a long time. Even though my car wasn’t great, it seemed like everyone was sliding around a lot. It was a lot slicker, but it also wasn’t as hot.”
Even while chasing gremlins all day Saturday, racing at Bristol is an experience that can’t keep a smile away from the 16-year-old’s face.
“It’s a lot of fun. I like it. After they repaved it, obviously I didn’t run the old track, but there’s more than one groove of racing out there.”
Mikey Kile (#28) battles Jason York (#18) en route to his best career finish.
"Guido" had a good car, avoided the wrecks and finished inside the top-10.
Dean Can’t Make Show Again
Two weeks ago, Brandon Dean was fastest in final practice and appeared to be a viable threat for the victory. That was, at least, before Mother Nature intervened.
The rain showers that came in after practice wiped out time trials for the first Bristol race, leaving the UARA part-timer Dean out of the race because he was not in the top 20 in points and did not have an entry in on time to make the show.
Looking for redemption, Dean was again quickest in final practice on Saturday with no threat of rain. In time trials, however, Dean was not fast enough to make it into the field, and went home early for the second week in a row.
Top-Five Fine For Furr
Ross Furr is one of the most consistent runners in the UARA ranks. Furr always has strong cars, but he sometimes lacks the small bit of luck that it takes to keep top-five runs going.
On Saturday, though, Furr had just enough to keep himself in the top-five at Bristol.
“We struggled all day long in practice. We qualified sixth and the car was good, but we were looking for that little extra bit to get better in the race.
“We just need that little extra bit to get up there in the first position. I don’t know what it’s going to take to get up there. We’ve been plugging away with top-fives everywhere we go, we just can’t get up there and win one. I think if we can ever win one, we’ll be good.”
Bristol Sweep Not Possible for Yontz
Newton’s Flat Causes Big Pileup
While the leaders all chased Mark Setzer up front, the battle mid-pack was intensifying as the laps clicked away. On lap 121, the action to get into the top-10 between Roger Lee Newton, Jeffrey Earnhardt, Lucas Ransone and a host of others got wild, but when Newton began to have problems on the high side, all heck broke loose.
With the flat, Newton collected Andy Johnson and Clint Mills. Behind that melee, Earnhardt and Ransone both tried to slow down, but neither could avoid the incident.
The race was red-flagged for cleanup, and while a good half-dozen cars were junked, all drivers escaped unharmed.
“I was just riding around in about 15th or so and just working our way up, but we got into Justin Hill about mid-part of the race and mashed the nose in, but there I just don’t know what happened. I think we blew the right-front tire and I was holding on to her and we were wrecking from there.”
NASCAR Busch East Series rookie Jeffrey Earnhardt slowed his car just enough to avoid the wreck ahead of him, but his Tam Topham-owned #1 was collected by Ransone, who also had nowhere to go, from behind and pushed into the wreck ahead of him.
Just two weeks ago, when the series made its first trip to the track, Yontz came away the winner. That meant this time, everyone else would not only be looking to conquer one of the most famous short tracks in the country, but would also be looking to knock Yontz off the pedestal.
That’s some pressure.
But Yontz was able to handle most of the comers on Saturday night. After starting fifth, Yontz was able to bring his #55 home without a scratch and with a third-place finish.
“I can't complain too much about it. Coming out of Bristol with a first and a third, that's not bad at all,” said Yontz. “That's pretty good, especially at this place. Nothing's tore up and it's really helped out in points. We should be back up there now.”
Roger Lee Newton (top, #33) spun, and collected others behind him, including Jeffrey Earnhardt (bottom, #1) and Lucas Ransone (bottom, #21).
“I really couldn’t see anything,” said Earnhardt. “The only thing I could do was woah her up and I would’ve been alright, but I got hit from behind. That’s racing. You can’t avoid all the wrecks.”
Pickles Can’t Produce From Pole
Payne Pickles may have surprised many in the UARA pit area with his fast time in qualifying, but the 16-year-old Concord Motorsport Park (NC) regular knew he had the capabilities of having a strong showing in his first-ever Bristol start.
He was proving himself right early on in the race. Even though he lost the lead early to Matt McCall, Pickles continued to cruise in the top-five in the beginning stages, but a blown motor on lap 13 brought the young driver’s night to an early close.
“I was just kind of being patient and waiting for the sun to go down and the track to cool off. I noticed it about five laps before it went, but then it just let go.”
Having trouble so early would frustrate any racer, young or old, but Pickles is not going to let the bad luck get him down.
“We’ll just have to regroup from here. We’re racers and we’re going to bounce back.
“Winning the pole is definitely special. That’s my first pole, but I hate that it had to end like this.”