Alex Haase Scores Win in Miller Lite Series Finale By Elgin Traylor
Jeff Choquette Celebrates Championship With Third-Place Finish
It’s been an amazing season for young Super Late Model driver Alex Haase. After learning the ropes on the Pro All Stars Series South Tour, he has quickly become a threat to win at every track he goes too. It also doesn’t hurt when you have Sprint Cup Star Kyle Busch funding the operation as the team owner.
Haase was supposed to be in Hickory for the PASS race on Saturday night, but when weather and a fuel scare postponed the event, they headed south for the Five Flags Speedway / Mobile International Speedway double dip. Haase struggled in Pensacola, but scored a hard-fought win at Mobile.
“It feels good, especially after how Pensacola went the other night,” said Haase. “We qualified real good here and went forward during the race. The 99 (Casey Smith) dropped out and I would of like to have seen if I could have raced with him. We were better I think on the long run than anybody. I have never been here before and it really takes a little bit to figure out what you need.”
Alex Haase in victory lane with team. (51 Sports Photo)
Haase led twice for 54 laps and held off Augie Grill, who came rip-roaring through the field in the final laps, getting his nose under Haase on the final lap going down the back stretch. When the two hit turn three Haase closed the door and Grill went lower until he ran out of race track. Grill went for a spin, sliding across the track and off the top of the banking, forfeiting a second-place finish.
“He was parking pretty good in the middle of the corner,” said Grill. “I didn’t want to just hit him and knock him out of the way, so I let him do it. Then I finally got a run on him on the last lap off two and had a nose on him and I just let him run me down into the grass and spun myself out. I just hope one day he’ll return the favor. I was really nice to him and I hope he can do the same to me one day.”
The hard racing was a treat for the fans as Haase collected $4,000.00 for holding off Grill in the final laps. It marks his third win of the season after scoring victories at Greenville-Pickens Speedway (SC) and Wake County Speedway (NC) on the PASS tour.
“I didn’t (see him spin) until I came back around and they didn’t say anything so I just kept digging, trying to get to the start-finish line.
“I knew I could hold off the 82 (Donnie Wilson), I knew we were better then him the longer we went, I knew he kind of burned his stuff up a little bit. They said Augie (Grill) had tires on and I was getting a little nervous there. I’ve watched Augie race. He tends to be a little rough, but it was clean and we got the win, so we’re really happy.”
With the spin, Wilson ended up second and Jeff Choquette was third. Jeff Fultz and Chris Davidson rounded out the top five.
WILSON CONTINUES TO GET STRONGER
For Donnie Wilson it may only be a matter of time before he pulls his white number 82 into victory lane. The Okalahoma City driver has been steadily improving week after week and with the aid of Dave Mader III in the pits, victory is just around the corner.
“Dave came on about three races ago,” said Wilson. “We got second with the first night he was with us at Pensacola a few weeks back. We got rained out here once and we went to Indianapolis. We had a good car there, but had a flat. He has been helping me get dialed in with the little things I need to do. I’ve been fast for the last three or four years, I just don’t have the finishes to go with it and maybe it’ll come.”
After a few weeks of strange happenings at the race track, Jeff Choquette took home a hard-earned trophy. The 2008 Miller Lite Super Late Model title might mean a lot more to Choquette then most drivers after the recent stories surrounding the popular Late Model driver. After winning the previous week at Hickory Motor Speedway in the ASA Southeast Asphalt Tour event, Choquette was DQ’ed for engine-rule violation. A week later, Choquette understood the issue and accepted the penalty as it was.
Jeff Choquette won the Miller Lite Series championship at Mobile. (51 Sports Photo)
It wasn’t until late in the week that Choquette and fellow racer Jeff Fultz decided that they wanted to race. The two teamed up and brought their cars down in one rig in search of a possible victory. Choquette ran a smart race and took home the title after finishing third.
“Thursday at four o’clock, me and Fultz were sitting in the shop and we looked at each other and his spotter was there and said ‘Do you want to go to Pensacola’ and I was like yeah I’ll go, but I’m only running Mobile,” said Choquette. “So it turned out to be a good weekend if we get out of post-race tech here. We’ll walk away with the championship and get a good top-three run. It was a good night all in all.”
Choquette joked a little about the post-race tech area, but had reason to smile when he was cleared and officially declared the champion. After starting the season on fire with a bunch of wins, it looked as if luck is back on his side.
“In the sport of racing, you have to have good luck,” said Choquette. “It doesn’t matter how good of a car you have. There are 100, 125 and 150 laps out there and so much stuff that could go wrong. It happens to the best of them. I mean, look at Kyle Busch right now. He’s 12th in the (Sprint Cup) standings with bad luck. He shouldn’t be there, but that’s where he’s at. You have to have good race cars and you have to have good people working on them, but luck has to be on your side more than anything.”
UP IN SMOKE FOR CASEY SMITH
Some years you are on top of the world, others you find yourself looking up. Casey Smith knows the feeling when you look at 2007 versus 2008. In 2007, Smith won the Miler Lite Series championship. He also swept the Super Late Model races at South Alabama Speedway. In 2008, the results were a bit different.
Things were looking good during the final race of the Miller Lite Series last Saturday. Smith started on the outside of the front row and jumped out to lead the opening laps. When the caution flew on lap 16, the number 99 shut off, Smith coasted to the pits and was done for the night.
“That’s the way all of them have been this year," said Smith. "If we’d just run about 20 laps we would have three wins and a championship.
"We broke another motor. It’s a shame, but I don’t know what’s happening. We had an awesome car all night and we were trying a bunch of new stuff that made the car better than we have been here. I think we definitely had a win, but I can’t take anything away from the 51 (Alex Haase) and the rest of them because we only ran 17 laps and it was 100 lap race.”
FULTZ STRONG AT THE END
Jeff Fultz started his night in the back at Mobile International Speedway. That didn’t stop the former NASCAR Southeast Series Champion from climbing into the top five before the checkered flag flew.
“We weren’t very good at all,” said Fultz. “That’s a car we haven’t raced in a couple years. It’s got all good stuff on it, but we just struggle with it. We had a couple of things that got bound up. A shock was hitting and bottoming out. We had some issues, but the guys really rallied on it hard to get it to work.”
Fultz will be heading north in a few weeks for the 37th Annual Winchester 400.
JOHANNA LONG WINS THE POLE
16-year-old Johanna Long led the pack of 22-cars down to the green flag on Saturday night at Mobile. There wasn't a redraw or inversion. The popular female driver from Pensacola, Florida, had the fastest time against all the boys at Mobile International Speedway.
Long ran in the top 10 all night long and finished ninth, which was not bad considering she is still a Super Late Model rookie.
“It was really nerve-racking at first because I have never been on the pole and this is only my sixth race in the super car,” said Long. “It was just great to be up there because I knew I was racing with the best.”
Long will look to possibly wrap up the Pro Late Model Championship in a few weeks at Five Flags Speedway. She will be making her first attempt at the Snowball Derby in December.
MITCH COBB DQ’ED AFTER QUALIFYING RUN
The last car to go out in qualifying ended up starting last. It was not that Mitch Cobb didn’t have a fast time; in fact he had the pole position before post-qualifying tech revealed something that would jumble the running order. There was a discrepancy in the carburetor on the #94 Bill Elliott Driver Development machine. Cobb’s time was disallowed and he had to start shotgun on the field.
“It’s unfortunate, but it is what it is,” said Cobb. “We don’t feel like we did anything wrong, but the tech man saw it another way.”
It may seem strange to see another DQ after last week’s rash of penalties. Wins were taken away and points stripped in three major touring series. The one thing that made this situation different is that there have been issues with the same part before.
“We’ve raced this carburetor here,” added Cobb. “We’ve had this exact tech official completely go through this carburetor because we had an issue with it earlier in the year. We sent it back to the builder, got it fixed, had the tech guy go through it completely, it was good. We’ve raced it four or five times this year and it has been fine.”
Technical inspector Ricky Brooks explained the violation.
“The boosters were too short on the two front boosters," explained Brooks. "That’s a no-go gauge and it went right over the boosters. It’s cut dry. It’s a go or no go. If it goes, you’re wrong, if it doesn’t go, you’re right.”
Cobb finished eighth with his back up carburetor.
Johanna Long won the Pole at Mobile.
(51 Sports Photo)