Ryan Carlson grabbed the lead on the first lap of the ASA Late Model Series All Star 100 and never looked back en route to his second career ASA Late Model Series victory. This was Carlson's first career touring series victory at his home track. The Loves Park, Illinois driver was able to claim the checkered flag in a race that seriously injured him one year ago, breaking his back after going up into a billboard in turn three and being slammed back to the ground. The youngster held off a hard charging Eddie Hoffman, who was able to nudge Carlson on the last few laps, but was unable to get by the hometown hero.
2007 ASA Late Model Series North Division Rookie of the Year, Jesse Saunders picked up the AR Bodies Fast Time Award in qualifying after turning in a 13.356 second lap, just a tick quicker than Josh Nelms time at 13.395 seconds. Saunders drew a ten for the invert, and was forced to take the green flag from the outside of the fourth row after local driver Mike Beyer gave up his inverted starting spot on the outside of the front row to make adjustments to his machine after qualifying.
The start of the race saw an all Illinois front row with Naperville's Brad Plunkett lined up on the inside, and Ryan Carlson on the outside at the start. When the green flag waved, Carlson jumped out at the front of the field while Plunkett slid back through traffic. Jesse Saunders made his way into the top five on lap two as he utilized the high side of Rockford Speedway to his advantage. On lap six, Saunders got past Anthony Danta to move into the fourth position.
Carlson continued to pull away at the front of the field in the early going and Hoffman trailed in second.
Hoffman's pre-race strategy was to ride for 80 laps, and go for the final 20, so he was simply biding his time and clicking off laps during the early going. Jesse Saunders worked his way around Erik Jones into the third position at lap 14, shortly after the first caution of the day flew when Seth Moody spun his machine at the entry of turn three on lap 8.
The hardest crash of the evening came on lap 31 when front row starter, Brad Plunkett, slid up the racetrack in turns three and four. Plunkett's machine hit the wall and climbed up to the billboards before coming back down on all four wheels. When he got back to the racing surface, he continued to slide down the track, directly in the path of Seth Moody. Moody had nowhere to go and made contact with Plunkett at the exit of turn four. The crash ended the night early for both drivers.
On lap 47, another one of the hometown drivers fell out of contention, as 2009 Short Track National Champion, Josh Nelms, broke a shock mount on his Digital Fuel Solutions Chevrolet. Nelms spun at the exit of turn two and hit the wall with his machine, ending what had been a promising night for the 2009 ASA Late Model Series North Division Rookie of the Year. Nelms had been running in the top five much of the night, and qualified second fastest.
When the racing resumed, Carlson again jumped out at the front of the field. As the laps clicked by, it was evident that Eddie Hoffman was catching him for the lead. Hoffman's car appeared to be much stronger than Carlson's on a long run, but just as Hoffman caught Carlson on lap 80, the caution flag flew once again. This time it was for a spin in turn three involving rookie drivers Jared Marks and Trevor Dassow. The two were battling for position and Dassow dove into the corner too deep, forcing contact and causing both drivers to spin. Dassow continued on, however Marks was forced into the pits from the damage, and was not able to finish the race. Under this yellow flag, Mike Beyer also came into the pits and the hood went up on his Pathfinder Machining Chevrolet, ending his night prematurely.
The final twenty laps saw Hoffman and Saunders chase Carlson but it was all for naught, as Carlson was able to keep his Crazy Times Pub/Kar Korner Chevrolet in the preferred racing groove ahead of Hoffman. The fans went wild as Carlson claimed the checkers, as many of them were in attendance last year when Carlson was injured during the All Star 100. The victory was a bit of redemption for Carlson, who was elated to finally score an elusive touring series victory at his home track. It was also an ending to an emotional day, as Carlson had to attend the funeral of his best friend's fiancé before the driver's meeting, who was tragically killed in a traffic accident earlier in the week.
“This is one of the biggest wins of my career,” said an elated Carlson in victory lane. “We have been close to winning so many times in touring series races here at Rockford, but we have always had something happen. Not tonight! I was hearing noises and the car started going away with about 20 to go and I was wondering if I had over drove it and shot myself in the foot, but we are here in victory lane and this is one of the sweetest wins ever!”
Eddie Hoffman will continue to lead the points over Jesse Saunders as the 2008 ASA Late Model Series North Division Champion sets his sights on his second championship. Hoffman had a faster car at the end of the night, but was unable to get around Carlson.
“You have to be quite a bit faster here to pass the guy in front of you,” said Hoffman after the race. “It is barely a one lane track, so two lanes are tough. We would have had to nudge and shove and help Ryan up out of the way, and we needed a little more time to do that nice and gently and not cause any damage. We just ran out of laps and the car was good on longer runs and we did not have a lot of long runs there at the end.”
The ASA Late Model Series will return to action on Saturday August 7th at Owosso Speedway in Ovid, Michigan. To find out more information about the ASA Late Model Series, be sure to visit www.asalatemodelsnorth.com. There you will find race results, point standings, schedule information, and other related items.
The Sunoco National Tour and ASA Late Model Series are their own entity and not endorsed, sponsored, or affiliated in any way with ASA Racing, American Speed Association, or the ASA Member Track Program. The Sunoco National Tour and ASA Late Model Series are operated by Ron Varney.