An ASALM Star Is Born At I-70 Speedway By Matt Prieur - ASA Late Model Series PR
Drew Brannon Becomes the Youngest Driver in ASALM History to Win Feature Event
Drew Brannon with his team in victory lane. (Chuck Gonzalez Photos)
"This is so amazing, I can't believe we actually won this race!" Were the words spoken by 15-year-old Drew Brannon after becoming the youngest drivers in ASA Late Model Series Presented by GM Performance Parts History to Win a Feature!
The Kansas City, Missouri native who now calls Miami, Florida home, started on the outside of the front row of the Light Up The Night 150 at the wicked fast high-banks of I-70 Speedway, located East of Kansas City in Odessa, Missouri on Saturday, July 5, 2008.
Next to him on the front row was 2007 ASALMS Northern Division Rookie of the Year, Jesse Saunders! Brannon edged out Saunders heading into the first corner to take the early lead and thoroughly dominated most of the extended distance 150-lap Feature.
Saunders made a late run at the Sunshine State teenager with 10 laps to go and when the final caution flag came out on Lap 149, setting up a "Green-White-Checkered" finish, Saunders gave the Florida teen all he could handle in that final shootout and as they collided heading into Turns One and Two on the final lap, Saunders slid up into the Turn Two wall!
Prior to Saunders' incident though, I-70 Speedway Weekly Late Models and Super Trucks Points Leader, Ron Hartford tagged the Inside front stretch wall coming out of Turn Four and was deemed the cause of the caution flag, forcing a Checkered / Yellow finish and giving Brannon the Win and Saunders second place!
"That was some good hard racing right there, Jesse and I were both going for our first ever Feature Wins!" Brannon explained in victory lane. "I did what I needed to do to hold him off at the end! I just can't believe this is happening."
The top three finishes, from left to right, Cody Smith - 3rd Drew Brannon - 1st and Jesse Saunders -2nd. (Chuck Gonzalez Photo)
Drew Brannon poses with the flag and trophy in victory lane. (Chuck Gonzalez Photo)
Saunders offered his version of what happened in his post-race interview as well and it almost mirrored Brannon's sentiments; "We were both going for the same spot! I'm trying too win my first feature, he's trying too win in his first start with us, it was hard racing for sure."
"If this wasn't his first win and he wasn't so young, I'd be a little more mad, but we'll definitely take second. We're looking at the bigger picture here." The New Glarus, Wisconsin sophomore explained.
"When Eddie (ASALMS Northern Division Points Leader, Eddie Hoffman) got caught up in that wreck, I knew we'd have a great shot at getting caught back up to him in points if we hung on. I got another second place! One of these days we'll win a race. We're going to my home track in Madison next and I'm sure we'll have a little something for everybody there!" He smiled.
Hoffman, who won the first three North races of the season, saw his winning streak stopped at Three after getting knocked out of the race due to an accident on Lap 133 and was credited with a 20th place finish!
It would be Saunders and Brannon leading a stellar 32-car field to the green flag to begin the extended distance Light Up The Night 150 to close out an exciting Fourth of July Holiday Weekend in the Show-Me State.
Brannon grabbed the early lead while the field quickly sorted themselves out all around the famed high-banks. The 15-year-old built up nearly a full straightaway lead at the beginning of the race when the first of seven cautions flew on Lap Nine (9).
The first caution actually turned into one of Three (3) Red Flags of the night as Silvis, Illinois rookie, Joey King slammed the Turn Two wall head on! He was ok, but his Adrian Carriers Chevrolet was done for the evening.
In the interest of fuel conservation, Cautions laps counted up until Lap 140 as the last 10 laps would be run under green flag conditions if needed.
As the green flag waved once again, Brannon would again take off and run away from the rest of the field while Saunders held down the second spot. Action behind Saunders was intense as at one point, third place all the way back to 18th were nose-to-tail and in some cases, side-by-side as no one was holding anything back.
More cautions slowed the pace down with the most serious incident of the night occurred on Lap 134 as 18-year-old Alec Carll and rookie, Jerry Einhaus Jr., who were both battling for fourth place, collided coming down the front stretch and both slammed the inside retaining wall! Einhaus Jr., actually flew up into the air and part of his machine actually skidded the Top of the inside retaining wall!
The force of Einhaus Jr.'s contact sent him up the Turn One embankment and directly into the path of ASALMS Northern Division Points Leader, Eddie Hoffman, who was running sixth! Both cars then skidded up into the Turn One wall. All three were ok after the dramatic accident, but were all finished for the night.
Saunders wasted no time letting Brannon know he was there on the next restart as the I-70 crowd came to their feet. Saunders searched high and low looking for a way around the 15-year-old rising star.
Each time Brannon was up to the task and would fight off the reigning ASALMS North Rookie of the Year! The final caution of the night flew on Lap 149, setting up a green-white-checkered finish!
On that final restart, Saunders went to the high side to get around the Sunshine State Teenager and Brannon threw a block at the 22-year-old, so Saunders dove low and Brannon was right there as well. The white flag flew as the crowd was deafening as they picked sides as to who would win.
As the field came down the back stretch, Ron Hartford, who had damage to his machine, tagged the Inside front stretch wall coming out of Turn Four and was deemed the cause of the final caution flag!
Immediately after the Hartford incident, Brannon and Saunders collided heading into Turns One and Two on the final lap, Saunders slid up into the Turn Two wall!
With only once chance to finish a Green-White-Checkered restart under ASALMS rules, the Checkered / Yellow flags both waved in the air giving Brannon the historic Win and Saunders second place!
"There's so many people who made this possible, I don't know were to begin!" Brannon continued in his victory lane interview as the massive crowd on hand roared their approval at a new star rising in the Show-Me State. "Tom Hedin from South Park Auto down in Florida flew up here for this race, my Grandma is here from Garnett, Kansas, I just can't believe this!"
"Jack Smith and Greg Urbine have made this possible for me and to come here to I-70 Speedway and win in my first time ever racing here? This is a dream come true." The emotional 15-year-old added. "We're going to pick and choose races in all three ASA Late Model Series division and hopefully we'll be able to back this win up with a few more." He ended.
As for Saunders, the New Glarus, Wisconsin driver is now just Two (2) points behind Hoffman in the chase for the 2008 ASALMS Northern Division title heading into Border Wars Weekend beginning on Friday, July 25, 2008 at the fast ½ mile high-banked paved oval of Madison International Speedway in Oregon, Wisconsin for the Mayor of Madison 100.
Border Wars Weekend concludes on Saturday, July 26, 2008 with the King of Rockford 100 at the fast 0.292 Mile High-Banked Paved Oval of Rockford Speedway in Loves Park, Illinois, just an hour South of Madison.
"I give the kid credit, he did a good job and he did what he had to do to win this." Saunders continued. "We seem to finish second everywhere we go now, but I know one of these days we'll be over their talking about our first win like Drew just did!" He ended as he pointed to Victory Lane.
Earlier in the afternoon, Defending ASALMS Northern Division Champion, Trent Snyder won his first ARP Bodies / Aluminum Racing Products Fast Qualifier Award of the season over the 32-car field as the Ironton, Minnesota driver turned in a 16.450 which measures out to 118.833 MPH.
Later on, Ron Hartford from near-by Raytown, Missouri started on the pole and checked out on the field en route to his first career ASALMS Win in the 25-lap GM Performance Parts Shootout over 18-year-old Billy Crane, another I-70 regular who finished second while Josh Lane was third over a third I-70 regular, David Wood and 16-year-old Thor Anderson who completed the Top Five.
Originally, the GM Performance Parts Shootout would only transfer the Top Two (2) cars, but immediately after the Shootout, ASALMS Co-Founders / Presidents, Ron and Sandy Varney and I-70 Speedway Promoter, Brad McDonald agreed to start all 32 cars for the 150-lap Feature to the deafening roar of the packed I-70 Speedway crowd on hand!