Ritch Is Good and Lucky at Concord By Elgin Traylor
Second Win of the Season Comes as Rain Cuts Race Short
Concord Motorsport Park (NC) owed one to Michael Ritch after 2007’s USAR Hooters Pro Cup event there. A year ago, Ritch was leading late in the event when contact with a laped car had series officials sending him to the rear for rough driving.
Saturday night, this year’s version of the Racing Electronics 250 at CMP threw a couple more curveballs at Ritch, trying to keep the driver’s string of lousy luck at the half-mile track in tact. First he drew the unlucky number of 13 for his qualifying run. Then his year-old track record was beaten by Wade Day. Come race time, the rain looked to wash away any chance for Ritch to redeem himself at Concord, but finally his luck turned around.
The rain showers moved in just in time for Ritch, who found himself up front after blazing through the field after a mid-race pit stop. When the checkered flag flew prematurely on lap 205 due to the heavy rain, Ritch was the lucky one this time around.
“I really wanted to win this race,” said Ritch. “It was kind of taken away from us last year with a USAR decision that they made. I was really upset about that because it was a bogus call in my opinion. I am glad to get this one back.”
“I used to hate this place when I first came here,” said Ritch. “But when we got the car to work halfway decent this place is a ball.”
Ritch had come in for tires on lap 60 and only had to make a fuel stop later on lap 118. At the time of the stop, Ritch was running second on the track but the need for fuel dropped him to 15th for the restart. The next 30 laps were Ritch’s chance to shine, as he anticipated the rain by flying back through the pack.
“I was mad,” said Ritch. “That’s not hard for me to do. We made the split decision to put tires on early. When the storm started to roll in with the cool weather it actually helped us out. It helped the longevity of our older tires.”
By lap 150, Ritch had worked his way back to the leaders when another yellow came out that forced the drivers that were playing the rain game to come in and pit. That handed the lead over to Ritch and he was ready to set sail for the win.
Michael Ritch and his crew celebrate some good luck at Concord for a change. (Kathy Bond/USAR Photos)
Michael Ritch scored win number-two at Concord
The race only lasted about 50 more laps before the skies opened up and showered the race track. When the race was stopped Trevor Bayne was running second with Carl Long in third, Mark McFarland in fourth and Clay Rogers, a former Pro Cup Champion back for his first of the season in fifth.
After about a 30 minute delay, officials pulled the plug on the remaining laps and Ritch was officially the lucky one this time around, leaving Bayne and others wondering what could have happened.
“This is what we wanted to do is come here and run in the top three,” said Bayne. “Who knows what would have happened here in the last 50 (laps). I enjoy this place,
this and Bristol are just a total adrenaline rush. Tonight was tough because we were racing the rain and we were racing the rain. It was a hard call tonight but we will take the good finish.”
Perhaps the most disappointed driver about the shortened event was Wade Day. The pole sitter stayed out long past halfway and led over 140 laps in the early on in dominating fashion. When he was finally forced to pit, Day quickly came back up into the top-10 before the rains came.
“We were going to stop late and with my driving style I would fade at the end of the race if we came in early,” said Day. “We probably stopped 40 laps later then we planed. We were just hoping the rain was going to come just a little bit past halfway and it never did. I am pretty happy, we have a good racecar and we don’t have to fix a wrecked car. We’re running good and it going to come we just need to put all the pieces together.”