Racing is as much about tradition as anything else. The CRA Super Series has its legendary events, the Winchester 400, SpeedFest and the All American 400, but during the past couple of years, another event, tucked into the Northeast part of Indiana, has become quite a tradition in its own right.
The CRA Tour makes its annual voyage into that area each 4th of July weekend. Out of the Land of Lakes and Cornfields burst 600-horsepower Super Late Models. When the sun finally set over Angola Motor Speedway on Saturday night, it was traded for the glow of red-hot brake rotors around the tight 3/8’s of a mile oval.
In your standard race report it will most likely read that Tommy St. John led green-to-checker to capture a dominating win. But, if you were in the packed grandstands on this beautiful night, you would know a lot more went into this win.
St. John had to hold off 3-time CRA SS champ Scott Hantz, then last year’s titlist Johnny Van Doorn and finally Hantz again to take home the hardware. But more importantly, St. John did it with a brand new racecar. In fact, his car builder added some pressure to St. John before the race.
“Robbie and Robert (Hamke – chassis builders) told me the seven out of the last eight cars they’ve built turn-key went to victory lane on their first race out,” said St. John in victory lane. “To be able to keep the streak going, that makes eight-out-of-nine; I didn’t let them down.”
“We just picked this car up on Monday. They build incredible racecars! This track is basically a two-corner racetrack and this car has so much bite off the corners. I’ve never driven a racecar like this.”
Van Doorn… Everything but the Storybook Ending
The defending series champ and current point leader Johnny Van Doorn put on a show from the rear of the field that had fans on the edge of their seat. Van Doorn’s rotors were glowing as he charged from 14th to challenge St. John for the victory. Several cautions hampered Van Doorn’s assault and then a slow-leaking flat tire deflated his chances in the closing laps.
“This was pretty rewarding until the end,” said Van Doorn, who fell to third at the conclusion of the race. “There was oil-dry on the track for qualifying, but that’s one of those racing deals. Unfortunately we got a slow leak in the right-rear with about ten to go; it came in with about 12-pounds in it.
“Good points night; car is in one-piece, I guess I can’t complain. I won the championship last year so there’s a big monkey on my back. It’s been tough this year, but I gotta stay strong.”
Manufacturer War Just Outside the Motor City
Angola Motor Speedway is just two-hours from Detroit, MI and the area is littered with either current plants to accommodate the “Big 3” automakers, or now defunct plants in a struggling economy. And while the big car-makes’ names are adorned to the nose-pieces on these Super Late Models; it’s the independent chassis makers who construct the cars.
Instead of Ford vs. Chevy vs. Dodge vs. Toyota, on Saturday, we had Hamke Racecars vs. Port City Racecars vs. Finishline (Hantz) and the drivers got into it as well.
“We definitely had a better car than the 14 (St. John), but that’s just Port City over Hamke,” said Van Doorn.
“They told me he (Van Doorn) was coming, but I was saving a little bit. I liked that the cautions kept coming and that helped me pull it off. This Hamke car made the difference.”
Hantz Just a Tick Off In His Sponsors Race
Scott Hantz has won many times at the Angola Motor Speedway. After all, it’s his hometrack and his team owner, Richard Poe owns the facility. He definitely received the biggest ovation in driver intros, but at the end of the evening, he was only second-best in his infamous EMF Corp. #72 in the EMF 125.
“The dusk till dark really messed me up I think,” explained Hantz. “The car was really good at the beginning of the race, but once the sun went down it got bad. The last ten laps it seemed like it came back a little better once it cooled down, but I still didn’t have the car to win today.”
- During pre-race ceremonies, the Angola Racers little league baseball team, which is sponsored by the speedway, were honored for a great season. All the racers autographed the number on the driver’s side of Scott Hantz’s racecar.
- St. John had two CRA SS victories before this race, but this was his first at a track other than Winchester Speedway (IN).
- Steve Dorer, from Racecar Engineering out of Florida, set fast time in qualifying. The question was, ‘what was Dorer doing racing in the middle of the Midwest?’ The answer was simple. According to CRA Race Director Glenn Luckett, Dorer has a house on one of the 101-named lakes in Stueben County of Indiana. So instead of just enjoying some fun in the sun on the water, Dorer decided to go racing as well. Dorer pulled off the track on lap 78 and finished 22nd.
- “I’ve never seen this place before today and it’s a tough little track,” is how Brian Campbell described his first trip to the Angola Motor Speedway. Campbell started 15th and battled through a tight condition with his racecar to finish 8th.
- Rookie Nick Gullatta started on the pole by virtue of the top-5 invert, but he didn’t last there long. St. John took the lead on lap number-one and Gullatta continued to fall through the grasps of his competition. Something in the front suspension appeared to be off with the #31 car as it bottomed out in the corner at speed and made a “clanging” nose during the caution periods. Fellow rookie John Long (9th) finished just in front of Gullatta (10th). Long still leads the Rookie of the Year chase in the CRA SS.
- In the battle of father vs. son at Angola, youth certainly won. Tyler Roahrig (5th) out-muscled his father, JR (8th).
- In the battle of “Big Winners and Losers” for the CRA Super Series, Terry Fisher Jr. was the big winner. He came into the race sixth in points and was a strong fourth place finisher. With Campbell, Jason Dietsch (7th), Jason Shively (11th) and Rick Turner (27th) finishing behind him, it should narrow up the points gap to second place in the standings. Turner, second in points coming into the race, was the big loser; he was out with brake problems at lap 32.
- 28 Super Late Models were on hand on Saturday night at Angola Motor Speedway, which had Legends Cars and Pony Stocks as support divisions for the CRA Super Series.
- The CRA Super Series will now travel a little further west in Indiana as the tour visits Plymouth Speedway this Sunday, July 11th for a 200-lap race.