CRA Leftovers – Southern Slam 250 By Elgin Traylor
Drawdy Spins and Wins, Grill Comes Up Short, Williams Has Long Day
DRAWDY USES PIT STRATEGY TO WIN SOUTHERN SLAM 250
For Justin Drawdy, victory lane has been a distant memory. He last pulled into a winner circle at Five Flags Speedway (FL) in May of 2007. So when Drawdy drove under the checkered flag at the South Georgia Motorsports Park (GA) it was a big sigh of relief.
“It’s been about two years,” said Drawdy. “I got our guys behind early on when we spun out about 20 laps into the race. Gary Crooks (crew chief) had some good pit strategy for us there and we got off pit road with the lead. He made a heck of a call. I just didn’t know if we could go 170 laps on tires.”
The spin 24 laps into the race set the tone for Drawdy's pit strategy. He came in and got tires before all the other drivers did, and on lap 112 when the leaders came for their rubber, Drawdy ducked in for gas only and drove off pit road first.
It took only a few laps for Drawdy to move around the leader Scott Hantz. When Drawdy made the pass he held on to the lead until the end of the race, but it wasn’t just a Sunday afternoon drive for Drawdy. Jack Landis was right behind him ready to pounce. He got a fender underneath Drawdy, lap after lap, but could not complete the pass.
“It was pretty intense,” said Drawdy. “We never really got any breathing room. I had to keep running my line and try to clear him each time he made a move. Every lap we had to run as hard as we could. It was a lot of fun.”
Drawdy picked up $10,000 for the victory. He will take his big paycheck and head to another prestigious Short Track race, the 41st Annual Snowball Derby at Five Flags Speedway in Pensacola, Florida.
KYLE BUSCH TRADES IN HELMET FOR BRUNNHOELZL JACK
Perhaps no driver will have a season that compares to Kyle Busch’s 2008 campaign. The NASCAR star won eight races in the Sprint Cup Series. He also took home 10 NASCAR Nationwide victories and three Craftsman Truck Series wins as well. At South Georgia, it was discovered he was pretty good at something else. Busch served as the jack-man for his development driver Alex Haase.
“We were just messing around at the shop one day and we had a competition,” said Busch. “I whooped my driver’s ass at jacking, so I figured I would come and give it a shot.”
Busch was flawless during the team's pit stops. In fact, Haase went from seventh to third after the most important round of pit stops. Going over the wall was a good chance for Busch to have some fun outside of the race car after driving in over 80 races in the top-three series of NASCAR this season.
“We might have tried to race today,” added Busch. “Having two cars going down to the Snowball Derby made us kind of short on our fleet. So we had to stay on the sidelines today.”
Justin Drawdy in victory lane. (51 Sports Photo)
Kyle Busch chats with a fan (51 Sports Photo)
Grill ran in the top five all day long. After making a pit stop, he made contact with Johnny Van Doorn, sending him for a spin with less then 100-laps to go. CRA officials put Grill to the rear of the field for the contact. The Alabama driver would make it all the way back to second place before time ran out as he was one of the only drivers to consistently make passes on the track.
“We got into the #16 (Van Doorn) and spun him out and got sent to the rear,” said Grill. “We had to pass too many cars and this place is kind of hard to pass. I’d catch somebody and it would take 15 or 20 laps to get by them, then I would drive away from them. We just ran out of time.”
Grill was not afraid to put his chips on the table, racing the same car that he plans on running in the Snowball Derby in two weeks. It was a risk that Grill wasn't afraid to take.
“We do this for a living, so we have to try to represent ourselves.”
Augie Grill Works the turns (51 Sports Photo)
LANDIS TAKES A SOLID THIRD
Jack Landis wished that the Southern Slam 250 was about a 100-laps shorter. The CRA regular looked like he was shot out of a cannon from his second-place starting spot. Landis led the first 112 laps of the race before pitting.
“We just wanted to stay on the track as long as we could,” said Landis. “Track position was obviously the key here. We tried to wait it out as long as we could. Justin (Drawdy) came in 20 or 30 laps before we did, so that got them out front at the end.”
Landis banged doors a bit with Grill in the closing laps, but the two shook hands after the race. The fans enjoyed the beating and banging on the track in the final laps.
“We didn’t turn each other around,” said Landis with a smile. “So that just shows how good of a professional driver he (Grill) is. It was just hard racing. He didn’t crash us, so we had a good time.”
BEN ROWE OVERCOMES FLAT TIRE FOR FIFTH
Ben Rowe is getting to know his southern geography a lot better after the last few years. The second-generation driver has been coming south ever since the PASS South tour was created a few years back, but he has competed in other Super Late Model shows as well, including The Rattler 250 and Speedfest. Now Rowe has added another race to his resume, the Southern Slam.
Rowe told Speed51.com after the race ‘that this track drives like Bangor’. Not many people in the southern Short Track scene would know that Rowe was referring to Speedway 95, which is a few miles south of Bangor, Maine. With that knowledge, it can be expected that Rowe would fair well at South Georgia Motorsports Park, but tires issues set them back early.
“This track is very flat,” said Rowe. “It’s so flat I got up into a guy and caused a big mess. We had a right-front tire go down. We came in and the crew changed it. We got our laps back and got a good finish out of the deal. We struggled a little bit with the set up on Saturday. This place is tough.”
COREY WILLIAMS' BAD LUCK CONTINUES
Corey Williams can’t wait to see 2008 in his rear-view mirror. After having a solid season in Super Late Model competition in 2007, Williams has had anything but in 2008. Strange things kept sneaking up on him, causing problems for the young Maine racer. Those gremlins continued at South Georgia as a blown tire from Chris
Ben Rowe (51 Sports Photo)
AUGIE GRILL COMES UP ONE SPOT SHORT
Augie Grill might be peaking at just the right time. The 2007 Snowball Derby Champion blew the field away in qualifying by turning a blistering lap around South Georgia Motorsports Park. Perhaps the most impressive fact was that Grill had never seen the track until the Friday of race weekend.
Gabehart’s car nearly destroyed the back end of number 47. In racing it’s common to get hit by another car, but not usually a tire off of a competitor's car. After some repairs, Williams made it back on the track, only to get caught up in another wreck.
“It’s just been our year (for bad luck)," explained Williams. "We started out running pretty decent, and then the #17 car (Gabehart) had something go wrong with his right front. When he hit the wall his tire blew off and ripped our whole bumper cover off. We just got swept up everyone else’s mess.”
After a tough season, Williams is ready for a long winters rest.
“I am going to take break for a while, go ride my four-wheeler and not think about racing for a few days.”
GABEHART’S DAY ENDS EARLY
Chris Gabehart has been on fire in his last few starts. He won the pole and led several laps at Indiana's Winchester 400 in October. At Nashville's All-American 400, he took the checkered flag in the CRA portion of the weekend.
Gabehart's Southern Slam 250 was going as planned until he slammed the wall. Despite the bad day, he hopes to be at the Derby.
HAASE USES SOLID PIT WORK FOR TOP-FIVE FINISH
Alex Haase had an average car at the Southern Slam 250. Pit strategy put him in the top five during the late stages on the race.
“We got a good pit crew,” said Haase. “They don’t really do a lot of practicing, but they get the job done when they go out to the race track. At Nashville we got five spots on pit road. We’re happy with a top five. You always want to win, but we've never been here before, so it was a good run for us.”
SLAM ON THE RADIO
The CRA Southern Slam 250 will be Re-Broadcast in its entirety Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday night this week on www.bigstickracingnetwork.com. The broadcast begins at 6:00pm and the race will start at 7:00pm.
The event will also be recapped on Speed 51 Radio, Tuesday night, November 25th at 9:00PM Eastern with guest Justin Drawdy on www.racetalkradio.com.
(Top) The remains of Chris Gabehart's Car (Bottom) Alex Haase on pit road, Kyle Busch is the jackman. (51 Sports Photos)