Steve Carlson used a last lap pass to score the victory ahead of Brian Campbell at Gateway International Raceway on Saturday. Chelsea, Alabama driver, Josh Hamner had the dominant car, but broke a wheel bearing on his www.wciparts.com Ford Fusion while leading with less than three laps remaining. This allowed Campbell and Carlson to duel side by side for the win, with the deciding pass coming in turn three on the white flag lap. "I went into three and I did not lift," said an ecstatic Steve Carlson from victory lane. "I was tight in one and two on that last lap, but I went for it in three and four."
The race started with young Ross Kenseth on the pole with Joey King alongside. King jumped out to the early lead until Brandon Johnson grabbed the top spot away on lap 8. Johnson would hold the lead for nine laps before giving way to Josh Hamner at lap 17. Hamner would lead from lap 17 to lap 77 before breaking the right front wheel bearing and crossing the finish line in 23rd spot. “If there is a thing such as luck, all I have is bad luck,” said a dejected Hamner after the race. “This is very disheartening. Our cars are well prepared and this was not from a lack of maintenance. It was just one of those freak racing deals.”
On lap 39, Iowa native Griffin McGrath brushed the wall off of turn two. McGrath had been fast in both practice sessions on Friday and tried to stay on the racetrack until the competition caution. However, McGrath cut a tire down just shy of the competition yellow on lap 45 and crashed his McGrath Power Sports machine into the wall in turns three and four. “We were really tight the first thirty laps and I got into the wall off of turn two,” said McGrath after the race. “We cut the tire down going into three half a lap shy of the competition caution and the rest is history.”
Once the race resumed for its final 35 laps, Dillon Oliver appeared to have one of the fastest cars on the track. However, as the Bowling Green, Kentucky driver came off of turn two on lap 53, he crashed hard into the outside wall. The damage was too severe for the Piranha Water/Potencia Blast machine to continue on in the race. “It felt like somebody got into me because it just snapped way after I got into the gas,” said Oliver after the race. “I am not going to blame it on anybody because I am not 100 percent sure what happened.” Oliver was involved in a tight battle for fifth position with Steve Carlson and Ross Kenseth prior to his accident.
As Oliver slid back across the track, second place point driver Drew Brannon drove through the grass to avoid contact. Brannon's ASI Limited car went airborne as he transitioned from the grass to the access road and brushed the inside wall while in mid air. This relegated Brannon to a 24th place finish, one lap down.
The final yellow flag of the day waved on lap 74 when 2008 ASA Late Model Series Challenge Division Rookie of the Year, Kyle Sirizzotti, was forced into the grass entering turn one while racing for position. As Sirizzotti spun back across the track in his Port City Chevrolet, he collected 15 year old rookie driver Martin Tuck who had nowhere to go. Both cars were damaged heavily and were unable to finish the race. Thankfully, neither driver was injured.
Prior to the yellow flag on lap 74, Hamner had raced his way to a lead of nearly a half a straightaway. When the green flag waved for the final six laps, Hamner again jumped out in front and appeared that he would not be challenged for the victory. It seemed that the battle would be on for second place.
Carlson and Campbell raced ferociously for the second spot until Hamner fell off the pace coming to complete lap 78. With Hamner out of contention, Carlson and Campbell waged a battle for the ages over the final two laps. As the white flag was displayed, Campbell and Carlson were side by side. They remained that way through turns one and two and down the long back straightaway at Gateway. Carlson was finally able to fend Campbell off entering turn three on his way to capture the checkered flag.
Brian Campbell was able to again increase his point lead in the ASA Late Model Series Challenge Division by finishing second. “We had a good car and I tried to hold off Carlson but he one upped me," stated Campbell after the race. "This was another solid points day for us."
The ASA Late Model Series Challenge Division will be in action this Saturday in Newton, Iowa at the Iowa Speedway. This will mark the fourth consecutive year the ASA Late Model Series has visited the venue in Iowa. This will be the next to last race of the season for the ASA Late Model Series Challenge Division in 2009. There will also be a 200 lap USAR race on Saturday evening's lineup along with a concert featuring country music superstar, Billy Currington.
To find out more information about this weekend's event at Iowa Speedway, be sure to check out www.iowaspeedway.com. You can also check out www.asalatemodels.com to find out all of the latest information about the ASA Late Model Series, 'America's Premier Short Track Series'.
The ASA Late Model Series is its own entity and not affiliated in any way with ASA Racing, American Speed Association or the ASA Member Track Program. The ASA Late Model Series is owned and operated by Ron and Sandy Varney as it has been for the past six years and will be for years to come.