Rodenbeck Rules The Roost in Concord UARA Show
Borrowed Cars, Raw Emotions and More Notes From the Race
By Tony Stevens
Although the weather in Concord, NC, was picturesque on Saturday, a storm was brewing at Concord Speedway and more than one driver would be needing an umbrella. A total of 26 UARA-STARS teams unloaded looking for solid runs at one of the fastest half mile short tracks in the country. In the end, many ended up frustrated and only one was victorious.

Brandon McReynolds paced final practice by over a tenth and a half of a second with Coleman Pressley in second. Hoping to capitalize on last season's second place finish at Concord, McReynolds took to the track for a pole run but a blown motor in qualifying relegated him to 15th fastest in the field. Shawn Mangum set fast time with Matt McCall second quickest on the outside of the front row.

A botched start by polesitter Mangum stacked up the field and allowed McCall to jump out to an early lead. Paddy Rodenbeck took advantage of his fourth place starting spot to move into second with Matthew Godley and Richard Boswell II following suit.

Early race favorite Brandon McReynolds broke on lap 26 and brought out one of many early yellows. Soon after the lap 32 restart, Paddy Rodenbeck muscled his way to the inside of Matt McCall exiting turn two and cleared the No. 51 exiting turn three.

The first of two red flags came out on lap 43 for an accident involving Owen Kelly, Logan Ruffin, Kyle Moon and Kyle Grissom. Ruffin came across the right front fender of Kelly's No. 73 and spun in turn one. Moon and Grissom made hard contact with each other while trying to avoid the spinning car of Ruffin. Grissom's car ended up nose first in the turn one wall. Ruffin, Moon and Kelly all continued with Moon losing laps in the pits through penalties and damage repair.

Ruffin and Moon met again on lap 106 when the No. 2 of Ruffin made contact with Moon's lapped machine exiting turn three. The ensuing carnage swept up UARA 2008 Rookie of the Year Darrell Wallace, Jr., and brought out the second red flag of the night. All three drivers were ok but done for the evening.

Rodenbeck felt heavy pressure from Matt McCall immediately after the lap 111 restart, the final one of the evening. The second-year driver held off the former series champion and cruised to his first career UARA victory by nearly a straightaway (1.795 seconds).

"I kind of made a mistake, I thought, by passing him early in the race," said Rodenbeck after the event. "I wanted to have Matt pace me for a bit since he's a very veteran driver. We ended up making the pass and I was able to pace myself pretty good. I wasn't trying to push it too hard and I was trying to keep about ten car lengths in between us and no more than that. I ended up saving it all to the end and made a good run with twenty to go."

Rodenbeck finished in the top ten twice last year towards the end of the season and gave most of the credit to his new crew chief, Jeff Caudill, for his success so far in 2009.

"It's been a big change from last year," Rodenbeck said with a big smile on his face. "We struggled a little bit in the beginning last year. We switched teams and got a new crew chief and finished pretty good in the last two races of last year and came into this year with some good momentum. We got a fourth, a second and nearly a win at Rockingham, and now a win here. It's a great way to start the season. Hopefully we'll be a challenge for the UARA point championship and a few more victories. It's all in our sights and something good to hope for. We just have to take it race by race and work hard."

Matt McCall narrowly held onto his points lead with a second place finish. Despite heavy scrutiny in tech, the Denver, NC, driver was satisfied with his run.

"We were really good for about 15-lap runs. It was just too loose. I started off too loose and his pace was more than I could handle, obviously," said McCall. "We came here to win the race. If you win them, the points will come. It's tough. We had to change the right rear tire before the race started because it was going flat. It had a pinhole in it. I don't know if the stagger was different because of it or not but it was extremely loose. My guys did a good job and we brought it home in one piece."

Rodenbeck's win made him the third different winner in three races in 2009. The series heads back to Tri-County Motor Speedway on May 22 to reattempt the rain-postponed event from April 10.

FRIENDS DON'T LET FRIENDS DRIVE WRECKED RACECARS

While Corey LaJoie's win at Rockingham made for a great story, it was accentuated by the fact that the car he drove was borrowed from Eddie Sharp Racing. LaJoie was on the grounds in Concord but did not have a ride for the day.

Richard Boswell II crashed hard at The Rock and essentially destroyed the car he had at the high-banked superspeedway. Much like LaJoie in Rockingham, it was a borrowed machine that Boswell piloted on Saturday night. UARA and Hickory Motor Speedway competitor Rob Fuller loaned the JR Motorsports driver his car for the weekend.

"We do a lot of dealings with Rob in the Nationwide shop," explained the driver of the No. 88 RCCA Elite Chevrolet. "He's probably one of the largest suppliers of Draco Springs around. Our Nationwide team runs a lot of Dracos and we run them on our late models too. He heard we needed a car to use and called us up. We've got a new car we're building right now at Leavitt's. It was just impossible to get it done in a week. We needed to do something for this race so Rob did us a big, big favor.

"I still haven't figured out what happened at the start of the race but we got through it," said Boswell while removing the vinyl graphics off of his machine after the race. "We were just way too tight the whole night. We were tight in practice and got it a little bit better in qualifying but I knew we were going to be way too tight once it cooled down and we were. We just needed to get through this race with a borrowed racecar after wadding one up last week. We'll get our other one together and come back to Tri-County and see if we can't run any better."

Boswell finished fourth.

SHORT LIVED GLORY

Shawn Mangum surprised a lot of people at Concord Speedway on Saturday when he ousted Matt McCall from the top spot in qualifying by mere thousandths of a second. Unfortunately for Mangum, the top starting spot didn't do him any good in the race. As soon as the green flag waved, the No. 5 went nowhere but backwards, stacking up the entire field on the frontstretch. Contact with the turn one wall by Scott Turlington brought out the caution flag and allowed the Mangum crew to discover that their transmission didn't want to shift out of second gear.

"I always start in second gear with the transmission I have in this car. As soon as we went on the initial start I went to third gear and it jammed up. When I went from second to third, it locked it slam down," described the dejected polesitter. "We came in after the caution and unjammed it and began starting off in third. We made our lap up and then we had another restart where they slowed us down so much I had to go to second gear again. I went to third and it jammed again.

"I had a fast racecar and we proved we were here. We just couldn't capitalize on it. I don't think it's in the linkage but in the cluster. We'll get it fixed and try them again in a couple of weeks. It's just sad that we have to finish that far back with a fast racecar, but those are the breaks. I'm thankful that my guys gave me a good car. We'll be back, that's the only thing we can do."

Mangum ended up in 16th position, one lap off the pace.

RUFFIN LANDS DEVELOPMENT DEAL IN UARA WITH VENTURINIS

Seeing Logan Ruffin at a late model race should not surprise a lot of people. Sure, the 14-year old hotshoe is most commonly at ASA Late Model Series, PASS South and other straight-rail late model races, but late model stocks have been seen as a proving ground for many drivers recently including NASCAR Sprint Cup star Denny Hamlin and current NASCAR Camping World Series East star Matt DiBenedetto. While both have contracts with Joe Gibbs Racing, teenager Ruffin is a recent signee of the driver development powerhouse Venturini Motorsports - also a close partner of Joe Gibbs Racing.

After a win in Rockingham in the ARCA Re/MAX Series and a mechanical failure in Talladega, veteran racer and crew chief Billy Venturini turned up at Concord Speedway on Saturday with the No. 2 of Logan Ruffin. Venturini was excited to be on board with what he called the best driver development stable in the industry by far and expressed his excitement to be partnered with Ruffin for years to come. Ruffin, too, was excited about his future.

"I think Billy has a lot of experience. He's run ARCA and has a great teacher since his family has been around it his whole life. They were bound for success. I enjoyed working with my former crew chiefs but we're planning to move up the ladder and I know we'll do well with them," said the Tennessee driver who was featured last season in Sports Illustrated as a rising star in motorsports.

"It seems like Billy knows everything there is to know about the front end. It's just so much different from what I've worked with before. I've learned a lot of little things. Billy wasn't even here for the whole day but having his input before qualifying is big. Alex Yontz and his team has done a great job and has a great racecar. I can't be more happy with the team that we're with. Once you add Billy into the mix we're twice as good because you bring two of the best people in the business together. I know I'll be doing more with Billy and plan to be with the Venturini family for a long time."

Unfortunately for Ruffin, two accidents resulted in his 19th place finish.

"I had been inside the 19 car (of Kyle Moon) probably ten times. He was three laps down and I was on the lead lap," Ruffin explained. "I got inside of him quite a few times and my dad was standing right next to his spotter and asked him to let us go since we had got under him numerous times in three and four. He replied that they were racing for the lucky dog, but he wasn't moving through the field or going anywhere, you know? The last time I was still courteous, but I wasn't as courteous. I don't think he realized that and came right down on top of my nose. I'm sorry for Darrell Wallace and everyone and super sorry for wrecking Alex Yontz's car but we'll go get them next time."

Kyle Moon's team had loaded up and departed the grounds before their side of the incident could be recorded.

ANYONE CATCH THAT ON TAPE?

An incident on lap 58 involved Darrell Wallace, Jr., and Davin Scites. Wallace, who started in the fifth spot, was involved in two more cautions (not of his own doing) before the night was finished. Scites rolled off the grid in ninth and was attempting to pass Wallace for sixth when the two drivers made contact. Wallace spun without wall contact and stayed on the lead lap, losing all of his track position while Scites continued in the sixth position.

"We started off tight and they would get us in the dogleg going into three. The 50 (Caudill) got by us after I let him by and the 06 came up behind him and we were side by side going through the dogleg," Wallace recalled after the event. "I drove it into the corner and he just overdrove it and drove right into me. They always say that the person who gets taken out doesn't give enough room, and that's what he said, that I didn't give him enough room. But he had a lane-he had two lanes actually, the apron and the lane that I gave him. If you're scared to use the apron here then you shouldn't even be here. I guess it's just racing, but taking out someone and saying it's my fault, just man up to it. I gave you a lane, two lanes actually. It's racing, it happens, but we'll come back and get them at Tri-County."

As expected, Scites saw the incident differently when asked about it.

"I've raced here a lot," said Scites, a past winner at Concord in late model stock cars and the former ASA National Tour. "He cut me off going down the backstretch and I had to hit the apron in the dogleg. I had too much on him to even try to back out going into the corner. If I was already on the apron, yeah, but that isn't two lanes. Two lanes here is at the line and up another one.

"I've raced here quite a bit and passed a few cars before I got to him. He definitely didn't give me a lane and a half - I guess he gave the guy who ended up putting him in the wall a lane and a half, too. I hate it for him but it wasn't a lane and a half.  As soon as he hit us it killed our racecar. We went from an awesome racecar to killing our chance to win tonight or get into the top five because it went tight. It's not something you want to do. The more he runs, because I know he's a rookie, a fast rookie, you have to take care of the racecar. I gave him all the room I could. Whatever his story is, his story is. I just hope they got it on tape."

Scites finished the race in sixth. Wallace ended the night on the hook in 20th after an incident on the frontstretch.

TWO MOTORS IN THREE HOURS FOR McREYNOLDS

Brandon McReynolds has had a season he would soon like to forget. Motor problems at Bristol, a tire puncture and accident at Rockingham, and motor problems at Concord have left the son of the well-known FOX television analyst Larry McReynolds near the bottom of the points and very down on his luck. The tide appeared to be turning for McReynolds early in the day as his No. 28 Dodge was sixth quick in morning practice and fastest in final practice.

As McReynolds completed his first qualifying lap, smoke began trailing from the car and the motor shut off. The Nick Hutchins led team quickly jumped onto their backup car and began switching motors. Assisted by Corey LaJoie, members from Kyle Moon's team, Alex Yontz's team, Jamie Yelton's team, the track wrecker crew and even a guest from 95.1 KISS-FM who had never worked on a racecar before, the No. 28 team completed the motor change in less than an hour and got McReynolds ready to begin the 150 lap contest at Concord from the rear of the field. Unfortunately, the new powerplant only made 25 laps before it, too, bit the dust.

"We've been going in rounds with [our motor builder] ever since we got this deal together," crew chief Nick Hutchins explained. "They had sixteen races last year. When I was with Jake (Crum) last year we completed the most laps out of anybody on the tour but right behind us was Brandon. [Brandon] had minimal issues with motors and all that it's boiled down to now is the time that [the motor builder] has to work on the motors has significantly been reduced because of his workload now. I think we're suffering the repercussions of that. Larry and I are going to talk on Monday morning. We've already discussed a few things. It's been getting progressively worse and worse. We've had good cars. Bristol was great and Rockingham was great. The motor actually made it the entire Rockingham race and we had tire issues. To have blown two motors in three hours, something simply has to be done. We're going to address it and try to make the best decision for the rest of the season."

While many people speculated on the causes for McReynolds' misfortune, Hutchins put rumors to rest.

"It's simply been motor failure," he firmly stated. "In qualifying it looks like the number two rod, or maybe the number one, came across to the right side of the oil pan and came through the oil pan. Then the motor that we took out of our backup car - the backup car was ready but the primary car was so good that it was going to be more beneficial for us to just change motors  - but when that one let go we were only 25 laps in and it looks like it was the number five or six rod came across the oil pan, it was just a little bit further back. It looks like it was the same problem just different cylinders blowing a hole in the oil pan. We're going to nip it in the bud real quick."

McReynolds finished 26th.

WHERE'D HE COME FROM?!

Last fall, Matthew Godley unloaded at Concord Speedway and couldn't get a grip on the tricky half mile tri-oval. He ended up missing the UARA season finale by a significant margin. On Saturday night, Godley impressed everyone, including himself, with a solid third place effort.

"We didn't quite have the car last year but ever since we unloaded off the trailer on Friday we kept working on the car. It was handling really, really well," Godley said. "We laid down a good qualifying lap that put us sixth and track position is everything in these races. We were able to jump up to third. I got a few runs on Matt McCall but we didn't have enough for him. Hopefully we'll get them at Tri-County because we keep getting better.”

"Two things have made the difference between this year and last," Godley continued. "One is my crew. Glenn Bopp is one of the smartest guys in the country on late model stock cars. I don't have a very big crew. In fact if anyone wants to help us out on Saturdays and a few Fridays let me know! We can definitely have a couple more hands around the racetrack and make life a lot easier. Those guys are one and Greg Marlowe is number two. He builds a great, great racecar. He's not only a great car builder but he's a great driver. He really helped me get around this place good this weekend. I'd say that my finish goes out to him because he really, really helped me fly around this place. I'd say those two factors are why I'm here this year versus last year."

SOLID RUN FOR LODEN... WITH A LITTLE HELP

Andy Loden has proven that he is a versatile driver. Winning two track championships (Hickory, Tri-County) and the NASCAR state championship for North Carolina in 2008 put to rest any doubt that Loden is a threat to win no matter where he goes. Loden was unable to make Friday's open practice at Concord and spent all day Saturday trying to figure out the Concord Speedway.

"We missed all of practice, really, because I was all over the track and couldn't figure out where I needed to be," admitted Loden after the event. "Shane Brafford came over and helped me. So did Chad Mullis and Greg Marlowe and they all came over and told me how to get around this place. I finally figured it out a little bit in qualifying. We ran out of right front tire at the end of the race though. It was ok for our first time here. I'm happy with it. I don't know what happened on the initial start. Mangum missed a shift or something and bottled everyone up. I ran in the side of someone. I have no idea who I even hit. But we'll fix a couple of body panels and be ready to go again."

Loden finished the night in sixth.

SCITES MAKES RARE UARA APPEARANCE

Davin Scites is a name that most weekly racers at Concord Speedway don't want to hear unless it means he will be helping them on their racecar. Scites won numerous Late Model Stock Races at Concord before moving his focus to Motor Mile Speedway in Radford, Va. In fact, the driver of the No. 06 Chevrolet won an ASA National tour race at the facility as well. So what brought Scites to a UARA tour stop?

"We picked up a sponsor for this race, L&M Construction out of Mt. Ulla, NC, and without their help we wouldn't be here. So here we are! No one else was running this weekend so we decided to come out and give it a shot," Scites said. "I like this track and it's fun to race. The cars have changed a lot (since I ran here last). The setups are totally different from what I've ever run here. The track is about the same except it's gotten a little rougher. You have to change the setup there a little bit too."

Scites was pretty close with the setup on his L&M Construction machine despite being removed from Concord for several years. With a sixth place finish coming out of Concord, there may be a chance the No. 06 will show up at a few more UARA tour stops throughout the season.

"Two things have made the difference between this year and last," Godley continued. "One is my crew. Glenn Bopp is one of the smartest guys in the country on late model stock cars. I don't have a very big crew. In fact if anyone wants to help us out on Saturdays and a few Fridays let me know! We can definitely have a couple more hands around the racetrack and make life a lot easier. Those guys are one and Greg Marlowe is number two. He builds a great, great racecar. He's not only a great car builder but he's a great driver. He really helped me get around this place good this weekend. I'd say that my finish goes out to him because he really, really helped me fly around this place. I'd say those two factors are why I'm here this year versus last year."





Paddy Rodenbeck in victory lane at Concord.  (Russ Calabrese Photography Photo)
Darrell Wallace, Jr. (#76) and Davin Scites (#06) do battle. 
Richard Boswell's #88