Grill Takes Another Big Win at South Alabama Speedway
Augie Grill’s list of achievements in the last few years is only getting more and more impressive with each race that he wins. Last December, he won the Snowball Derby for the second-straight year, a feat that hasn’t been matched since the late 1990’s. Now, he has won a pair of Rattler 250s and the list continues to grow with multiple other wins in the Late Model world.
“I feel like we build the best cars out there,” said Grill. “My dad and I do all the work and if we weren’t good at it, we wouldn’t be doing it. We brought a new car here and it was just as good as the ones I have had here in the past. That shows how good our Grand American Racecars are at the track.”
Grill admitted that his magical run hasn’t changed him one bit. However, he does feel odd going to the race track knowing that most people are looking at him as the guy to beat.
“I still don’t feel like that guy. I just happened to be in the car that won the race. I don’t feel like anything special; I like racing and I like winning. I’d like it to happen more.”
Grill’s weekend was full of mixed emotions as he won the Pro Late Model feature on Saturday, but a rule infraction in tech stripped him of the victory. Winning on Sunday was redemption for a sour Saturday night.
“It’s a bit of relief,” said Grill. “I won last night in my eyes. To me, we have won two races this year. It does feel good to officially be the winner today.”
Fultz Proud of His Teams’ Efforts
Jeff Fultz has been racing Late Models for a number of years in the Southeast. 2009 will be a changing of the guard as he focuses his efforts more on driver development and preparing the young drivers for the next level. Don’t think that’s going to keep Fultz out of the seat, however. He was a serious contender in the Rattler 250, but a battery failure ended his day early.
“We had the best car we have ever had here,” said Fultz. “Our car was awesome. We led a bunch of laps and we could run with Augie. We’re proud of our effort despite losing a battery late in the race. We have a car capable of winning each year we have come down here.”
Fultz’s driver in the Pro Late Mode race was former Legend Car champion Bryce Walker. Walker may be a rookie on the Late Model scene, but he’s got years of experience supporting him. With crew chief Jeff Fultz and spotter Tim Sauter in his ear, Walker was sure to bring home an impressive finish, which he did in eighth.
“We wound up ninth (before Grill’s DQ, moving Walker to eighth), but these guys were awesome,” said Walker. “We had a little trouble there close to the end, but I think we still came out with a good run. We’re looking forward to more top-10 finishes and maybe a win for the rest of the season.”
Brian Ickler Has a Long Day at South Alabama Speedway
Brian Ickler had one of those days he would like to forget about. It’s not often that a driver says that about a top-five run, but when you had a day like Ickler did, then you would understand. Ickler nearly tore the nose off his car, overcame tight conditions and multiple tire rubs to post a fifth place finish.
“We tore it up pretty good today and we pretty much struggled since we unloaded,” said Ickler. “We qualified horrible and we had a pretty decent racecar and got towards the front. We were in the top five and we tightened the car up way to much when we came in for tires.”
The Camping World East and West regular said he was surprised that they walked away with a solid run after banging the car up in a few minor scuffles.
“I ran my guts out for the last 50 (laps) and we got fifth. That’s a lot better then I thought we would be after we tore the car up a bit. I really have to thank my guys because this was a tough day for us.”
Ryan Lawler Needed Fewer Cautions
Racers usually say they need more laps in a race, but Ryan Lawler needed less laps in The Rattler 250. Late race cautions played into the hands of the other competitors and left Lawler as a sitting duck for Augie Grill. A late-race spin set him back to fourth, but Lawler was happy with the day.
“It was a great run for us. It was my first with Kyle Busch Motorsports,” said Lawler. “I have to thank Bond Suss; he's an amazing crew chief and it was great to work with him. We got the car really good, and the 112 (Augie Grill) had a little fresher tires than us there at the end. I tried to hold him as long as I could, but new tires are always going to be stronger.”
Sieg Runs Well For Podium Finish
Ryan Sieg is no stranger to getting around South Alabama Speedway. Last year, he scored a victory in a Super Late Model event at the track and looked to back it up in the Rattler 250. After a solid day in the 250 he ended up on the podium.
“We had an excellent car,” said Sieg. “When you get stuck in the back it really slows down your advancement to the front. I just didn’t have hardly anything there at the end. We needed a bit more motor.”
Pollard Takes Second In Rattler 250
Bubba Pollard had a great weekend at South Alabama Speedway, as he won the Pro Late Model race and he finished second in the Super Late Model show. 375 feature laps after his weekend began, Pollard climbed from his car Sunday and sat against the pit wall, trying to catch his breath.
“I am worn out,” said Pollard. “That’s going to happen during the first race of the season. We just need to get back in the rhythm and we’ll be alright.”
It was a good weekend for Pollard on so many levels, as dodged all the wrecks and he will not have to spend much time in the body shop over the course of the next few weeks.
“We come out here and race hard, but we can’t go all out like some of these teams. We can’t afford to put body panels on and replace parts, we have to race smart and it paid off for us this weekend.”
More Bonus Money for 2010
Track Owner John Dykes told the drivers who came to race at the 2009 Rattler 250 that if they returned to race in 2010, he would give them a bonus if they went to victory lane. A $5,000 incentive would be paid to the winner if 50 cars showed up for next year’s Rattler. If the car count is lower then 50, the winner will receive $2,500.
The finish of the 2009 Rattler 250 looked a bit like the 2007 version when Hunter Robbins and Augie Grill came across the line wrecking. A few cars toward the back of the pack spun as the leaders came to the checkered flag. Ryan Lawler spun out of second and ended up fourth as the cars blazed left and right past the mess. Most of the drivers were shocked that a yellow did not come out.
“I was starting to wonder what was going to happen,” joked Grill. “I actually thought they were going to throw the caution and have a green-white-checkered. I saw the flag and though I have to go, and I saw Lawler spin in my mirror behind me.”
Third-place finisher Ryan Sieg had to check up as the Lawler almost darted up the track into the path of oncoming traffic.
“I didn’t know what the 51 (Lawler) was going to do,” said Sieg. “I had to check up a little bit coming to the line.”
Ryan Lawler said after the race that he got too low on to the apron in turn four, thus causing the spin that sent the field scrambling.
“On the last lap we had two cars checked up over here in turn four,” said Lawler. “Augie went high and I went low, and I looped the car after I went through the dirt on the apron. I went low because it was a shot at the victory and it didn't work out for us, but still it was a great day.”
Bubba Pollard was happy the race ended.
“I was praying and hoping that they were not going to make us doing a green-white-checkered finish because my car was not good on restarts at all,” said Pollard.
Bubba Pollard Wins Pro Ratter 125 in the Tech Line
For the second straight year, the Pro Rattler 125 was decided in post race tech. Augie Grill flew under the checkered flag in what would have been his fifth straight Pro Late Model win at South Alabama Speedway. Post race tech determined that Grill had a cambered snouts on both sides of his rear end, which is not allowed by the Rattler officials. After a few minutes of clarifications and double checking the rulebooks, Grill was disqualified.
“They have a rule for the Pro Late Models that there are no cambered axle tubes,” said Grill. “I had no idea about it. We run the same stuff in both cars, I was concerned that we might not be able to run the Super Late Model race, but it’s okay in a Super but not a Pro.”
After rolling into the tech line after a dominating performance, Grill was all smiles until the Ricky Brooks and his team of tech officials started looking the red number 112 over. After several minutes, Grill and Brooks then had a conversation. The smiles quickly disappeared when Grill realized that he was not going to keep his victory, he kept his cool and walked back to his rig to get the trophy. A look of disgust was the only real sign of emotion that Grill showed to the on-lookers who stayed to see the results of tech.
“They tossed us,” added Grill. “If I had had straight axle tubes the car would have been just as good. It’s disheartening. Sometimes it’s stuff that doesn’t make sense. We can run camber in the front end, but not the back end. It’s in the rule book. He was going to look until he found something. The fashion in which I won didn’t sit well with them. We’ll take it and move on.”
The big benefactor was second place finisher Bubba Pollard, who inherited the win. The victory was a great start to the 2009 season for the Senoia, Georgia driver.
“You definitely want to win,” said Pollard. “We would really like to have won on the racetrack, but there have been times where I have been on the other end of these deals and this feels a whole lot better.”
Pollard started in the middle of the field and didn’t get into the second spot until lap 99. There was no chasing down Augie Grill at that point, as Pollard even said before the disqualification that Grill was in another zip code that night.
“Augie had a really good car,” said Pollard. “We really didn’t have a chance of beating him until post-race tech. We put ourselves in a position to win, that’s all you can really ask for. Whatever happens in tech I can’t help it.”
One person who can really attest to how Grill felt was Steven Davis. Last year, Davis won the race, but after the finish his car was found to have too much left side weight. Davis was tossed and lost the victory. With Grill getting thrown out, Davis was on the receiving end and finished second behind Pollard.
“Third ain’t that good, but second is better,” said Davis. “You take them how you can get them. At least we got some money from this. I know how Augie is feeling right now. It’s the same way I felt last year. He’s pissed off.”
Johnson Finishes Seventh After Winning the Pole
Brandon Johnson looked to be the one to beat in the early stages of Saturday night’s Pro Late Model event, unfortunately there was no happy ending in store for him.
“We had a great car there and then a little late in the race we got messed up there with the 67 (Bryce Walker) and spun and we just couldn’t make it back up there. It was just really hard to pass.”
Johnson battled back to a seventh-place finish.
Townley Logs a Top Five
Racing is often referred to as a “fast-paced sport,” and no one knows that better than John Wes Townley. Townley brought home a fourth place finish and was already looking forward to his next race.
“We had a pretty good day,” said Townley. “We struggled a little bit yesterday trying to get the car freed up, but that wasn’t a problem tonight since we were loose up off. We were hoping we could come down here and maybe get a win, but it goes that way sometimes, especially with the strong local guys down here. We’re happy with it and we’re ready to head to Bristol in two weeks with the Nationwide car. We’re going to try and come back down here some with the late model and a couple other places and get in as much racing as we can.”
Granddaddy Let Me Drive
When it comes to South Alabama Speedway, a red number 18 is not what you want to see in your mirror. Even with Ronnie Sanders retiring and grandson Billy Fulson now in the driver’s seat, it was still no surprise to see that familiar car bring home another top-three finish.
“We had a lot of trouble in practice with the motor and we replaced the fuel cell and the carburetor and when that didn’t fix it we tried the fuel lines and luckily that fixed it, otherwise we were planning to load up and go home. So to come back from pretty much deciding to load up to be up here at the front at the end of the night was a great turn around. Now, hopefully, we can keep up the momentum and keep coming down here for these races and maybe we’ll have a run at this championship.”
Enfinger on the Hook
Last year’s Rattler 250 winner did not quite have the day he’d hoped for. After qualifying on the outside pole, Grant Enfinger ran steadily in the top of the field before fading back and meeting the front stretch wall just before lap 200.
“We were up front and once we started falling back things got rough and then we weren’t too far from the end there when we slammed the wall pretty good,” said Enfinger. “It hurts but we’ll get it fixed and keep going.”
Korey Ruble’s Bit Comes Up Short
Before the race Dothan, Alabama’s Korey Ruble was optimistic about his odds at bringing home a good finish, last year the local driver went all 250 laps on one set of tires and finished third. Unfortunately, this year’s event ended when an unexpected circumstance diluted their finish.
“We started really well up there near the front which was a surprise given the car we had in practice, but we were doing pretty good until we lost the battery,” said Ruble. “I guess we ended up mid-pack, quite a few laps down. It’s tough.”
McCurley Ends Up a Lap Down
Stephan McCurley qualified fourth in his first Rattler 250 but wasn’t able to bring it home in the same position.
“We started up front and ended up running around the middle for a good part of the race and then there at the end things started getting a little more intense,” said McCurley. “We gained a few spots, but then on the last lap we ended up going around. But we ended up with 12th, so it could have been worse.”
Long Haul Winner Has Long Ride Home
The award for the most miles traveled will definitely go to California’s Brandon Loverock. After traveling all the way from the West Coast, South Alabama has left a bad taste in his mouth as bad luck seemed to follow him all weekend.
“We broke a rocker arm in practice, so we flew a guy back to get a replacement,” said Loverock. “Well, we got that fixed and qualified 14th which was alright since we’d never even seen this place before. But then we had some mechanical problems and we only got to make like 30 laps. I hate it for these guys, we worked hard but I guess that’s how it happens from time to time.”