Etheridge did not pit for tires in the final segment and was
in the front pack of cars. Lia had newer tires and was
charging through the field. When they got to the same place
at the same time, it did not work out very well.
“We came back strong at the end of the second segment,” said
Etheridge. “We had decided to stay out and we were going to
wait until about 50 to go to take tires, but with all of the
cautions we thought we’d go to the end. We were still
pretty good, but we got run over. He ran me over on the
straightaway and finished me off in the corner.”
After the wreck, Etheridge and Lia were facing each other
against the wall in turn three. Etheridge pulled ahead to
bump the front of Lia’s #18 car before being led away by
NASCAR’s Don Hawk.
Needless to say, Lia saw how things unfolded a little bit
differently than Etheridge.
what happened in the heat race. In the first race, we had to adjust the car because we didn’t know what we had there. The second one, we got jammed up in the front and knocked the wheel back. We had to fix that again. We used strategy to get new tires on for the third race.”
The bad news for Hirschman was that his chief rival for the championship, Eddie Flemke, won the race and now sits only ten points behind him with two races remaining in the season.
ETHERIDGE AND LIA COLLIDE, SEE THINGS DIFFERENTLY
There were plenty of cautions in the last 100-lap segment and when Dave Etheridge and Donny Lia got together late in the event a little bit of fur flew.
The scuffing was considered a good solution to the problem and eventually, NASCAR scheduled an additional practice session on Sunday for that purpose.
“We had a little bit of a blister on our tires,” said Todd Szegedy. “I still think that the tires would be OK if they were scuffed first.”
LOW CAR COUNT ELIMINATES CONSI
One of the major format changes to the Sunoco 300 was the addition of heat races. Since it was one of the largest races of the season and because car counts have been high all season long, it was expected that there would be plenty of extra cars in the pits.
However, for the first time this season in the NASCAR Modified Series, there were no cars that failed to qualify for the race. There ended up being exactly 40 cars in the pits battling for 40 starting spots.
Therefore, a consolation race scheduled for High Noon on Sunday was scrapped.
BOLLES TAKES FIRST HEAT RACE WIN
The first heat race in the new format 300 was won by Tom Bolles. It was not an easy victory though. He had to come back through the pack after wrecking with Tony Hirschman early on.
“That will be something for the record book,” said Bolles. “I hate when stuff like that happens. The #48 was down then up and I thought that he was going to stay down. I worked the outside and I was already committed. I couldn’t do anything.”
Bolles’ #76 team saved the day by making a quick fix to the car and getting it back on track.
“We banged up the right front of our car in that,” said Bolles. “I came in and the guys fixed the toe. I went back out and won. The car was really good.”
HAWK WATCHES AT THOMPSON
NASCAR executive Don Hawk was at Thompson and could be seen talking to various drivers and car owners one on one throughout the weekend. With the expected announcement of Whelen Engineering as a new Modified Series title sponsor later this week, it looks like NASCAR is devoting more resources to the growth of the tour.
THOMPSON 300 LEFTOVERS by Mike Twist
Tires Cause Problems, Cars Wreck in the Pits and On The Track
TIRE WOES FIRE UP PIT ON SATURDAY
For the first part of the racing weekend at Thompson, the biggest story by far involved tires. During the heat races on Saturday, several teams experienced blistering rubber after only 20 laps of racing.
“I don’t know,” said John Blewett, III. “We weren’t going that hard and that fast to do that. This is a big problem and I don’t know that anyone has a solution for it. I knew that there was going to be a problem when they said what tires that they were bringing here. There’s a lot more rubber on these over what we’ve used in the past. The more rubber on the tire, the hotter it runs. The hotter it runs, the more it
blisters. We’ve had some issues with these tires on short
tracks, never mind a track that’s almost a ¾ mile long.”
After examining the tires and seeing the blisters, NASCAR
and Hoosier got together with drivers and team owners and
John Blewett's tires didn't look too good after 20 laps of heat racing. (51 Photo)
changed their plans for the weekend. A different compound of tires was brought in on Sunday morning and the teams had the option of running either tire in the 300-lap race. However, they were limited to the four tires that they started on and only eight other tires for the distance. There would be no mixing and matching of sets during the race. NASCAR figured it to be hard enough to police 12 tires per car and trying to look after potentially double that amount was not an option.
However, the fact that the tires changed at all irked some drivers who viewed the blisters as either a condition of the heat races or a sign of a set-up problem.
The damage looked pretty bad, but Hirschman team does not have a back-up car, so they went to work to repair the
damage. Sheet metal was ripped away and the welders came out. By feature time on Sunday, you would never have known that the #48 had been hurt.
Because of the wreck, Hirschman started deep in the pack and had two so-so segments. The third segment was a good one for the point leader. He won the 100 lapper and collected a high enough finish to be scored as 11th overall on the day.
“We got it all together at the end there and that’s how
people know we run here,” said Hirschman. “It’s a shame
Jerry Marquis won his heat race and earned the pole for
the 300. He had no tire problems and was not very happy when NASCAR changed their mind on the rubber for the race.
“I felt good about what we’ve got, but I feel like crap now
because they are changing the tires,” said Marquis. “They’re not taking a look at the scenario of what we just did. We ran 20 laps on green tires that nobody scuffed in. The situation is that everyone was going fast to win the heat race. Everyone is trying to get their car as fast as you can. When we do time trials, a loose car is a fast car. Everybody tried to keep the car as loose as they could and run 20 laps. You’re going to hurt the tires that way.”
This wasn't the driver's meeting at Thompson. It was the line to talk with the Hoosier rep after Saturday's heat races. Note the poor guy in the purple to the left of the photo. (51 Photo)
It was more dangerous for the #28 in the pits than on the track at Thompson. (Amie Campbell / DougCoby.com Photo)
PIT AREA NOT SAFE FOR COBY’S CAR
Doug Coby tore up his car on Saturday, but it wasn’t in a
high-speed wreck. The damage occurred when Jan Leaty backed out of his pit stall as Coby was coming in to the pits.
Coby’s right front corner rode up over #6 car.
Leaty suffered sheet metal damage, while Coby’s #28 was
worse off. His team needed to change spindles, A-Frames and several other chassis parts to get back on track.
“I got wrecked in the pits during practice,” said Coby. “That’s probably a first for Speed 51 to report on. That’s the worst that I ever wrecked this car in two years of driving it. The guys did a great job of putting it back together. We got a lot of help from a lot of people to put it back together.”
HIRSCHMAN OVERCOMES PROBLEMS IN HEAT RACE
Tony Hirschman had plenty of damage on Saturday as well. The difference was that his problems actually occurred on the racetrack after contact with Tom Bolles during the heat race.
“I got a run on him off of turn two and pulled down just like I had been doing all day long,” said Lia. “I got my right front into his left rear early in the corner. At that point, there was nothing that I could do and I was just along for the ride. He needs to think about driving that deep into the corner with someone else there.”
Lia thought that maybe he should have seen the wreck coming.
“He was holding up five cars before I even got to him,” said Lia. “It took Jan Leaty ten laps to get around him. When you’re in the way, eventually you are going to get run into and that’s what happened to him. Shame on me for letting it happen.”
MARQUIS FIGHTS HARD TO FINISH SECOND
Jerry Marquis had two strong runs to start out the Thompson 300. He finished second and third and was Eddie Flemke’s chief rival for the overall win. To beat Flemke, he needed to finish two spots ahead of him in the final segment. He ended up finishing fifth, with Flemke on his bumper.
Marquis didn’t fail due to lack of effort.
“I knew with me just in front of him, he would have it,” said Marquis. “I didn’t know if I need one or two cars between us. I was racing Mike (Stefanik) and I was banging him and doing whatever I could do. I was trying to gently, but roughly, get by him. I didn’t want to wreck him.”
Marquis had a good car throughout the 300 laps, but his competition kept getting better.
“We were able to be pretty much the same through each segment of the race,” said Marquis. “The other guys were able to improve.”
LACK OF CAUTIONS CATCHES TC IN THE END
Ted Christopher had a strong run in the final segment as well and finished the day as third overall. He tried a little bit of pit strategy in the second 100 laps that did not work out.
“We needed cautions in that second race and they never materialized,” said Christopher. “The cautions hurt us more than anything. We didn’t get them when we wanted, but they were all right in the beginning. It helped all of the guys who pitted on lap one. They didn’t use up their tires.
When we wanted to pit, the caution never came out. That’s the way that it falls sometimes.”
FULLER LOOKING FOR A LITTLE PAYBACK
One of the maddest drivers after 300 laps (and there were plenty of them) was Rick Fuller. Entering the final segment, Fuller was in contention to win the overall race but got spun out in turn four. He ended up fifth overall and was happy with that result considering the last 100 laps that he endured.
“That is certainly coming out of here better than it looks,” said Fuller. “The car was good. I got spun out. I know who did it and don’t you worry, he’ll get it back ten-fold. I’m about sick of it.”
Speed 51 asked Fuller who specifically he was mad at, but he remained tight-lipped.
“You’ll figure it out,” Fuller said.
The #48 went from sitting in pieces on Saturday to visiting victory lane on Sunday. (51 Photo)
Etheridge wasn't too happy after the race was over (51 Photo)