INDY IS "HOME SWEET HOME" FOR COZZOLINO by Jeremy Troiano
Series Veteran Wins First Race After Amazing Day Of Emotions
Cozzolino, the 1998 ASA Rookie of the Year runner-up to Jimmie Johnson, wrecked his primary car only 13 laps into the first practice session on Saturday at Indianapolis Raceway Park after turning the fourth fastest lap. The car was junk, so the team loaded up between practice sessions and head back to the Cozzolino shop.
The team returned just minutes before the cars fired up and took off on the pace laps for the night's main event. Using a points provisional, Cozzolino took the green on the tail
Indianapolis' own Peter Cozzolino wasn't in attendance on Saturday for the driver's autograph session. Nor was he inline for his qualifying run. He didn't even clock a time in the second practice session.
Instead, he was about 15 miles from the race track for most of the day, working in his southern Indianapolis race shop.
end of the field. Two hundred laps later, Cozzolino took the checkers of his first American Speed Association race, winning the Club 200 at IRP.
"Unbelievable," Cozzolino shouted as he climbed out of his #44 McDonald's Chevrolet. "I've always wanted to win one of these races. I've been trying to ever since 1998. It makes it even better that I win my first one right here in my hometown. I've been on the pole here before. I've ran well here in other series, but I've never won anything here, so that makes it pretty special
Peter Cozzolino slammed into the wall just laps into the first practice session.
"I knew after the first few laps (of the race) that we were going to have a good car. I figured that we could get a podium finish, but I never thought we would have got the win."
Cozzolino got the win by implying pit strategy to good use. He used his off sequence pit stops to beat the two fastest cars on the race track, Mike Garvey and Butch Miller. Cozzolino, who has been the recipient of several rough driving complaints this season, pitted for his first of two mandated stops on lap 44. Only seven other of the lead laps cars pitted during the early caution.
Garvey led from lap 18 and proceeded to pull away and put many good cars at least one lap down. After 75 laps of consecutive green flag action, the ASA competition caution came out, giving the leaders, including Garvey, Miller, Reed Sorenson and Kevin Cyiwnski, the chance to pit for the first time. Cozzolino, along with Rick Beebe, used it to pit for a second time and were both good to go for the finish.
Another quick caution gave the rest of the lead lap cars a chance to come in for their second mandated stop, but put Cozzolino, Beebe and Boris Jurkovic out in front when they stayed out.
The rest of the race was a "cat chase mouse" game between Garvey, Miller and Cozzolino. The veterans were making their way through the field trying to catch the #44, but it appeared that the laps would just wind down. A bad pit stop put Garvey even farther behind.
Then a dreaded caution with just five to go bunched the field and put life back into the eyes of the Jani-King #17 team.
"I was wishing that that caution didn't come out, but then again I didn't care as much because I was running the car
Peter Cozzolino is the second first-time winner in ASA this season.
very conservatively," added Cozzolino. "I was just making sure I didn't miss my entry point into the corners or anything. I still had a little more to push that car if I had to."
It was a five-lap sprint with several cars in between Cozzolino and Garvey. Garvey made a run, got right to Cozzolino's bumper, but couldn't make the final pass, holding off Miller's Timber Wolf ride near the end for the runner up spot.
"(My guys) had an awesome stop when we came in for the second time to get tires," said Garvey. "They nailed it and I stalled the car. That cost us six spots. That was six fast cars that I had to pass and I used the car up trying to get around them.
"It took me a while to get around the #66 (Jurkovic) car. I was running where I didn't want to run to get around him, so I used up the right rear a little bit. He ran a good race. I was going to get around him, whether I would have to knock him out of the way or what.
"One more lap? I don't know what it would have taken. If frogs have guns, they would shoot snakes. So who knows. I want to congratulate Peter though. He did a good job. We knew at some point someone pitting out of sequence would pay off and it did for Peter Cozzolino tonight. Hey. He won the race. They beat us at the game tonight."
It was that early pit stop that won the race for Cozzolino. That, and some hard nose, "to the grind work" from his entire crew for an entire afternoon
Miller made up big ground on Cywinski in the point standings.
"Then, to be able to do it coming from the tail of the field with a car we didn't practice is just like icing on the cake."
Cozzolino's car slid up and slammed the outside turn two wall just minutes into the first practice session. The damage was so extensive that the team had to us a roll back just to get it off of the track. But after an entire days work, the team returned with a race-ready machine.
"It was a crazy day. I don't know if we got in someone else's oil or in the marbles or what, but I just got it loose and lost it. I junked the primary car. So we loaded up and hauled everything down to the shop just south of the airport here in Indy. We pulled the driveline and engine out of the car, put it in the car we used last week (at Mansfield Motorsports Speedway) and got here just in time to start on the tail end of the field.
Garvey's new Jani-King #17 was the fastest car again, but he came up just a few laps short in the end.
"We knew starting at the tail that we would have to pit as soon as we could and get our two stops out of the way," said Cozzolino. "We knew we could pass them in the pits that way. That is what we did and it worked out well."
With the win, Cozzolino moved up into seventh in the ASA point standings. Miller, who was involved in an early race accident with pole sitter and race leader Robbie Pyle, just shook his had in amazement at Cozzolino's fortune.
"Peter is an engineer and I think he took his car home, made some changes and out engineered us tonight. Good for him!"