51 Leftovers: CRA Super Series Winchester 400 By Mike Twist
More From Busch and Stremme, Hantz is a Champ, Wilson is Lucky and Unlucky and Much More
BEAUTY OF HANTZ/BUSCH BATTLE IS IN EYE OF THE BEHOLDER
The middle to late stages of the Winchester 400 featured some breathtaking racing between Kyle Busch and Scott Hantz for the lead. It thrilled the fans, but did it do the same for the drivers involved? Well, that depends on who you asked.
“That was fun,” said Hantz. “Kyle and I had a pretty good battle there. The only thing better would to have it on TV. The car was good. I was just riding. He kept getting under me and finally we hit there, and I said that I really didn't need to be leading right now. I was still thinking about the championship”
“Not really,” said Busch, when asked if he agreed if the race with Hantz was fun. “It was kind of frustrating. He'd run low, so I'd try to pass him on the high side. Then he'd block me. So I'd go low and try to get underneath him and he'd crowd me off the corner low. I was having a hard time there. Then he started running up higher, but every time that I'd get to his quarter panel, he'd chop the exit to my corners and kill my run.
“He was doing what he needed to do to keep the lead, but those are things you do with 25 laps left. Not when someone is faster than you at that stage of the race if someone is faster than you. If I were him, I would have let the other guy go. If I guy wants to lead that bad, tear up his shit and put himself outside the park, then go ahead.”
The thought of wrecking did cross Hantz's mind briefly.
“I kind of thought that I was Dale Jr. there for a minute,” said Hantz. “Then I thought, 'Nah..he's not going to wreck me.' But I don't think any of that is intentional. On TV it looks intentional, but it's just hard racing. When you're out there, you're on the edge. This track in particular that's true. It's really tricky. There are different grooves out there and the car does different things in different grooves. You're trying to pass a guy and he's trying to maneuver past you. Sometimes a car gets out from under you and
you don't mean for it to happen. That's the scary part about running side by side at this track.”
And while Busch might not have become a fan of Hantz's in the race, the opposite appeared to certainly be true.
“Kyle, like him or not, he's amazing,” said Hantz. “You watch them on TV and wonder if you could really do that. Then the next day, I proved that I really could. For him, it was his third race of the weekend and he jumped out like he just ran a 50 lapper.”
LUCKY DOGS LEAD TO TOP FIVE FINISH FOR WILSON
Donnie Wilson was unlucky when he had a few flat tires during the running of the Winchester 400, but the Oklahoma driver also had a run of good luck when he received several lucky dog passes to get back on the lead lap and finish a strong fourth in his first Winchester 400 start.
Scott Hantz (#72) and Kyle Busch (#51) do battle on the high banks of Winchester. (51 Photos)
Donnie Wilson (#82) runs underneath Kyle Busch's #51
“We're definitely going to Nashville. We went there for the earlier race this year and didn't run so good, but now we've got Dave Mader helping us out. I've always been fast down south, but our finishes never showed it because we'd miss a few little things. But now, we're doing well.”
SCOTT HANTZ - 2008 CRA CHAMPION
In addition to finishing third, Scott Hantz also had a championship to celebrate at Winchester. His podium finish wrapped up the 2008 CRA Super Series title for him.
“We never gave up,” said Wilson. “I just kept doing what I needed to do. It was unfortunate - we had two flats today. One, we realize when I came in to tape down the hood and the tire was down on the rim. I had a little luck there. Then we finally got lucky dog and our luck was pretty good there. It's my first time here, so I'll take this.”
“We were fast in practice and we were consistently in the top 10 every session except for one. Then we had a bad qualifying lap. Since it was my first time here, I didn't change some things that I should have. [In the race], I just stayed out of trouble and wanted to see what I good do and it turned out good. This let's me know that I can race with them. 400 laps will prove it…maybe not 100, but 400 sure will.”
Now, Wilson has his eyes set on the All American 400 weekend at Nashville's Music City Motorplex.
“I just clinched the title and that's good,” said Hantz. “It's been an unbelievable season. A lot has happened and I owe a lot of it to Tim Steele. He helped us out at the beginning of the year with set-ups. We got the car working pretty good from his way of doing things and the car went really well.
“It's been really good all year. There has been a lot of competition and full fields every week. It's been a lot of fun.”
Hantz has a few non-point fall races to look forward to next.
“Right now, we're planning on going to Nashville, then the CRA race at South Georgia and then the Snowball Derby,” said Hantz. “We had a really good car there last year. Tim Steele helped me out at the Snowball Derby and we had a real competitive car. Pit strategy messed us up, but I think we had a top five car.”
MORE FROM THE RACE WINNER…
Most of the teams at Winchester practiced for two days prior to the event, but not winner David Stremme. Because of other commitments, he didn't even show up at the track until the morning of the race.
“I think that it says a lot for my team to come here, unload and run 10 laps [of practice],
this morning and win the race from dead last. I was pretty impressed with that.”
Stremme has a long history of running Winchester….and even his own unique way of
lapping the high banks there.
“I've always run different here,” said Stremme. “I like it and it's fun. It was tough today
because I about got into a couple wrecks there. But you have to run where they don't.
I wouldn't go out there and sit on the pole here, but I'm good for long runs.”
Even with his knowledge of the joint, the 400 was a tough race to finish…and win.
“I needed long runs and I needed time to work on my car,” said Stremme. “It was not
good and I had a lot better last year. I was just so loose and I about wrecked twice.
“The track is really rough…which I like because it's got character - If it didn't have
enough already. It was hot today and slippery.”
BUSCH REBUILDS TO GO TO 400
After the Winchester 400, Kyle Busch was sure to point out to the reporters assembled where he felt the credit for his runner-up finish should go. Busch pointed out to everyone that the car he ran in the race was nearly destroyed in a testing wreck there a week and a half before. It was his team of crew members who made the difference to not only get it to the track again, but also make it one of the fastest cars of the weekend.
“It needs to be a big part of the story what my guys did,” said Busch. “Last Tuesday, I was testing and wrecked here and my car was demolished. We rebuilt the whole car. Those guys went non-stop fixing that car. I need to thank the guys and Ryan Lawler too for coming up here and setting it up. He's a pretty good Late Model shoe.”
Race winner David Stremme was at the test where Busch wrecked and he was amazed that the car came back like it did.
“I was here and that car.…well…he destroyed it,” said Stremme.
Still, for Busch though there were no plans to run a back-up car - unless Stremme opened up his shop and loaned out one of his fleet of Hamke Super Late Models.
“Not really, I didn't think about another car…unless Stremme gave me his back-up,” said Busch.
Which could have been a bad move for Stremme if he did.
“I think my back-up might be even better than this one,” said Stremme, the race winner.
PIERCE ADAPTS WELL TO RUNNING WINCHESTER WITH FENDERS
Aaron Pierce was a rookie in the Winchester 400 and he turned heads by finishing a
very solid fifth in the extra-distance race. But don't think that Pierce is a newbie to the
tough confines of Winchester Speedway or long races there. He's actually an
accomplished veteran in the USAC open wheel ranks who moved into Super Late
Models this season.
“This was my first 400,” said Pierce. “I've run the Little 500 five or six time and come
really close to winning that a few times that I can remember. This car is a little slower
and heavier, but it's still great.
“We had a decent car all day and tried to stay on the lead lap and be there at the end.
We had a good day and a really good car.”
BARNES HAS HIS 400 HOPES SPUTTER
Chuck Barnes was hoping for big things in the Winchester 400. Unfortunately, any
hopes of a good finish sputtered away from him during the race before it was even halfway completed. Barnes pitted his #55 once and the hood went up. The second time he pitted, the hood also went up, but this time it ended with the racecar being pushed into the infield and out of the race.
“We had a fuel vapor problem. It was sputtering at the top end and I kept running it, but finally it just shut off on us. We lost a bunch of laps, so at that point we called it a day. We came here to win and if we were only two or three laps down, we would have stuck with it.
But we were seven laps down, so there wasn't any point of going on. It was running and we could have fixed it over a period of time, but we were already too far back.”
Barnes was credited with a finish of 28th. He completed only 125 laps.
VAN DOORN DROPS OUT TOO
Another big dog who was watching the Winchester 400 from the sidelines before halfway was Johnny Van Doorn, whose #16 machine dropped out on lap 77 and left him with a finish of 32nd.
“Something in the valve train went south. It sucks. We already had a flat tire and we fixed that and went back out. The car was just awesome. But this is part of racing. It's racing and sometimes that's just the way it goes.”
Johnny Van Doorn's team goes to work on their #16 as the team dog looks on - unwilling, or unable, to assist.
Chuck Barnes' team goes under the hood of their #55.
David Stremme starts to make the donuts after his victory.