Crane Stinks Up GAS Show at Peach State by Matt Kentfield
Pit Strategies by Mitchell & Fowler Can’t Ruin Crane’s GAS Debut
Before Thursday night, Ryan Crane had never made a lap in a Georgia Asphalt Series event. After Thursday night, many GAS regulars are hoping he never makes another one.
Crane made mince meat of the GAS field on Thursday night, leading all but 11 laps in the Toyota Tundra 125 at Peach State Speedway (GA), putting the caps on one of the most dominant efforts in recent GAS memory. Other drivers tried using fast pit stops, not pitting at all and other strategies to try to keep Crane out of victory lane, but all those efforts went for naught.
It was Ryan Crane’s race and the Panama City, Florida driver was not afraid to let everyone know it.
“It feels great to have that good of a car,” said Crane, whose car was set up by legendary short tracker Mike Garvey. “ There’s so many races you let get away from you because of part failures or missing the setup, but to have one you can just run away from the field with is great.”
Early on, no one even was within shouting distance of Crane, yet the young racer kept clicking off blistering lap times – likely because he never knew how close anyone was to his rear bumper.
“(The crew) never told me anything. All they told me was that I was clear and never heard anything again. I had no idea how much of a lead I had because my mirror wouldn’t hold up so I couldn’t see where they were. I just drove as hard as I could for 125 laps.”
If he could’ve seen behind him, Crane would have seen a lot of empty race track back to Ryan Sieg, Wes Burton, Paul Kelley and Joey Senter, who all were locked into a fierce fight well behind the race leader. The only chance that those drivers and others had of keeping Crane out of victory lane came on a lap 89 caution, when the leaders all hit pit road for new right-side tires.
Ryan Crane celebrated his victory with his team and friends at Peach State. (51 Sports)
Kyle Fowler had assistance from the BDI Racing crew during the race. (51 Sports)
Crane went into the pits first and came out second to Kyle Fowler, last year’s GAS Rookie of the Year. Fowler, who ran no better than sixth the entire first half of the race, suddenly found himself the first car on new rubber behind new first- and second-place runners Kyle Mitchell and T.J. Reaid, both of whom did not make stops under the yellow.
“We had a blazing fast pit crew,” said Fowler. “This crew is made up of people that helped us out all year, last year and guys from all over the place. We put them all together for this race and it turned out to be a great combination. Mr. Dillner (SPEED television commentator Bob Dillner) did a great job on the jack and everybody else was really fast and we got out of there in a hurry.”
But still, Fowler and Crane had to contend with Mitchell and Reaid before they could settle the race themselves. Mitchell, however, was not going to let old tires slow him
down any. The GAS rookie held on for a handful of laps as Crane, Fowler, Kelley and Sieg worked their way through lapped traffic on the restart after the pit stops. It took a handful of laps for Crane to get by Fowler and to hunt down Mitchell, eventually taking the lead for the final time on a lap 99 restart.
As the caution flew again just a lap after Crane re-took the lead, disaster struck Mitchell. As the field got the one-to-go indication from the flagman, Mitchell’s #26 took a hard left-hand turn into the pit road exit at the end of the frontstretch with a rear-end issue, eliminating what could have been his best-ever GAS run.
“We definitely had a second-place car, but we broke a bolt in the rear end,” said Mitchell. “Stuff happens for a reason. God was looking out for us because thankfully it happened under caution and not on the restart. We wouldn’t have a car in one piece if it happened in turn one on the restart.
“We played low all week,” added Mitchell. “We never pushed it. We were on old tires all practice because we knew how good our car was. My sponsor funded this race again for us and my crew chief promised that the car, if we saved our tires, we could beat anybody out there. He was right. The car was 100-percent, but that #10 car was pretty good too. I think we could’ve stuck to him, but beating him would’ve been a different story.”
With Mitchell out of the picture, Fowler was right on Crane’s bumper as the field restarted with just 25 laps to go, but even Fowler’s pit road prowess was enough to stop Crane and keep Sieg, Kelley and others from making a late charge into the top-five.
“We were sitting there in second on that last restart and I thought we’d have a shot. I wasn’t sure if I was going to be able to get Crane or not, but I thought we could at least get second. But at that point, we had burned the tires off again, so we kind of got shuffled out again.”
Fowler got shuffled all the way back to sixth as Ryan Sieg and Paul Kelley led the charge towards the front behind Crane. As Crane cruised up front, Sieg and Kelley waged a side-by-side battle for second that was interrupted by a lapped car with just three laps remaining. The lapped car stayed on the bottom groove, which was right where Kelley was locked into, forcing Kelley out of the gas on the backstretch and giving the runner-up spot to Sieg.
Ryan Sieg didn't feel he was fast, but he was good enough for second. (51 Sports photo)
“I was frustrated with that,” said Kelley. “It really gets to you because I just wanted to race the #39 (Sieg). When that happened, I threw my hand out the window - I didn’t flip him off or anything - but I was like ‘man get out of the way and let us race!’
“But a third-place finish, we’re happy with that. We haven’t raced in a month and a half. I just got married about two weeks ago and I was in Hawaii for a while. I destroyed the car just before my wedding at Lanier. Just getting back and getting the car together makes us happy. I got the motor back in the car just in time for this race.”
Sieg wound up second despite not having as strong of a car as he would’ve liked.
“I’m just not that happy with the car,” said Sieg. “I’m going to have to go through it and see what the problem is, but I just couldn’t get all that I wanted out of it. I’m happy with finishing second, but it could’ve been better. Winning is always better than finishing second, but we’ll get it figured out and hopefully we can come back and win another one of these things.”
One thing you’ll never hear Ryan Crane say these days, however, is that he is unhappy with his #10 car.
“I love that car,” said Crane. “It’s the car that we won the Snowflake and the Rattler in. It’s three out of five now. It’s a brand new car and I love it.”