Second Verse, Same as the First for Yontz and Crum at Bristol by Matt Kentfield
Yontz Takes Second Bristol Win as Crum Has Bad Luck Again
Stop us if you’ve heard this one before. Alex Yontz was bad-fast in the UARA-Stars race at Bristol Motor Speedway. Jake Crum was equally as good and had a legitimate shot at victory, but bad luck struck and kept him from winning.
Sound familiar? Well, that’s probably because that’s been the same plotline for UARA races at Bristol over the last two seasons. Yontz won the first UARA race at Bristol last July and led a ton of laps in both the August and this May’s races, finishing second both times. Crum, however, has never had the good luck that Yontz has found recently at Bristol. He broke a wheel last year’s first BMS race, rebounded with a second-place finish in August, but suffered alternator problems earlier this year. Every time he had bad luck, he was in position for victory.
Saturday, Crum found himself in perfect position to overthrow Yontz’s stranglehold on UARA success at Bristol and finally get to victory lane. Yontz dominated early, but Crum came on strong, taking the lead on lap 99. On lap 121, Yontz moved back in front, but Crum stalked him in every turn.
A lap 129 restart gave Crum his shot at overcoming the bad luck. He had Yontz all but passed going into turn one on the high side, but suddenly his #1 car shot towards the wall. Crum stayed in the gas down the backstretch, getting all he could out of his car, but in turn three he slid back up into the wall with a flat tire.
Crum has certainly heard that story before. He didn’t want to hear it again Saturday.
“I went down into one on the restart and everything was good, but right around the time I was about to get in the gas, I felt something with the tire,” said Crum. “I went down the backstretch and buried it off into three, but it went right up in the wall.
Alex Yontz (center) celebrates his second Bristol win with his family. (51 Sports photos)
“I really wanted to win one here at Bristol. This is a big place and there’s a lot of people here. I just keep having problem after problem and bad luck after bad luck. I definitely had a race-winning car.”
With his biggest challenger out of the picture, Yontz had clear sailing down the stretch for his second Bristol victory in as many years.
“Jake had a really strong car,” said Yontz. “I hate that he had bad luck and I didn’t want for it to happen like that. We had a good run going with him and it was a lot of fun.
“We didn’t have to work nearly as hard for the first one as we had to tonight. That’s what makes it fun. The year we’ve had, this boosts not just me, but the whole crew up. It’s just great.”
Since that Bristol win last season, Yontz had fallen upon a dry spell. While he had not forgotten the way to victory lane, the path there seemed to have hazards everywhere he turned. Yontz was able to salvage several top-10 finishes out of the early part of 2008, but bad luck still kept Yontz’s #55 out of victory lane. But all the while, Yontz and his family-backed team never stopped digging, making Saturday’s Bristol victory even more emotional.
“Words can’t explain this. It’s unbelievable. Never did I think I’d be standing here once, let alone twice.”
Although Yontz qualified on the outside pole, in practice he wasn’t about to tip his hand as to how good of a car he had at Bristol. Once the race took the green, however, and Yontz led the first 89 and the final 29 laps of the 150-lap race – 118 in all – the 21-year-old proved that he can get the job done at Bristol.
“We were holding back a little bit. We’re back to a family deal this year, so we were trying to save a little money in practice and didn’t put on tires. We knew we had a real good car and we just wanted to show it in the race.”
With two wins and two second-place finishes at Bristol in his four races at the historic half-mile, what makes Yontz so good at Bristol?
“I don’t know, actually. I just owe a lot to the crew. We really like this place and we seem to get along well with it.”
With Yontz checking out and Jake Crum out of the victory picture, Jamey Caudill took Crum’s spot as Yontz’s toughest challenger late in the race, but not even the veteran racer could hunt down the young gun up front.
“I dug all I could dig,” said Caudill. “I got everything I could out of it. I closed in on (Yontz) and got within a carlength, but I lost the nose in the center. You’re going so fast in the corners here that when you get sucked up behind another car, but you can lose the nose in the center.
“Alex was better than we were. It’s just a little bit disappointing to have as good of a car as we had here the first time here and not capitalize on it.”
Caudill’s JR Motorsports teammate Richard Boswell finished third, but was likewise disappointed with the otherwise strong finish.
“I felt like we probably had the best car of anybody in practice,” said Boswell. “In qualifying, we pumped the tires up a little bit too much and lost our chance at getting the pole. I feel like we were as good as the 55 (Yontz) and the 50 (Caudill) on long runs, but we’d lose eight to 10 carlengths in the first five laps of a run. By the same token, we had a good points night. It’s been hard for us to finish the last five laps the last few races, so this is something we can build off of. “
Rookies Cliff Daniels and Darrell Wallace, Jr. backed up their strong finishes in the first BMS race last month with fourth and fifth-place finishes, respectively.
Jake Crum (#1) gave Yontz (#55) everything he could handle at Bristol (top) until a flat tire ended his chances at victory (bottom).