CITGO ASA LEFTOVERS: LAKELAND by Jeremy Troiano & Matthew Dillner
St. Amant Ticked Off... Sontag Sorry... Surprising Lagasse & More
"He hit me once before, then hit me again and again," said an irate St. Amant. "He drove right into the back of me. I can't believe he sits there and tells me he lost his brakes. I told him, 'Listen, you need to park it when you lose your brakes.'
"We started the weekend behind the eight-ball. The car was halfway decent tonight, but not quite good enough. We shouldn't have been back there racing with a guy like that anyway."
St. Amant was so ticked off at the incident (and his 27th-place finish) that he and several members of the Jani-King team confronted Sontag on pit road. Wisely, St. Amant even put his helmet back on while walking to confront the rookie. Several of the team members apologized later.
NOT THE BEST DEBUT FOR ST. AMANT / GRILL TEAM
Gary St. Amant hoped his debut with the Jani-King team in the race sponsored by Jani-King would have gone a little better. The Frankie Grill-led team will have to replace the rear clip on the #7 after a late race accident with rookie Brett Sontag.
Brett Sontag was very impressive all day long, until the actual St. Amant tagging. He qualified his Chevrolet, a former Joey Clanton car, in ninth position and was running fairly decent.
Then while working on St. Amant with just 25 laps to go, Sontag made contact with the two-time champion and sent him into the wall. Sontag tried to re-fire the car and drive it down pit road, but the car erupted in flames.
Gary St. Amant (left, with blue helmet) is held back by ASA Officials as he tries to confront Brett Sontag after their accident.
"I bumped Gary out of four one time," said Sontag, who finished 28th. "I was working on him and we came into turn three and I hit the brakes and it busted everything off the rear brakes. Both calipers are gone and the rotor is busted. I don't' know what the fire was. I imagine it was all brake fluid. That is the first time I have ever had a fire in a racecar. I am not really safety conscience, but I am sure I will be from now on.
"I hate to come into ASA this way. I am an aggressive driver at my home track (Grundy County Speedway). I don't want to come in here and get a bad name. I want people to respect me. I hate to have something like this happen."
As for the confrontation on pit road, Sontag said, "Gary came over and yelled at me. You know, it was a mechanical deal. I look up to Gary; he is a great driver."
SORENSON RACES WITH SOME OF THE BEST
Rookie Reed Sorenson has impressed a lot of people in ASA, but he may have impressed guys like Kevin Cywinski and race winner Butch Miller even more after Saturday's race.
"They (Butch and Kevin) are maybe the two hardest guys to race with," said Sorenson. "They are class acts. I mean, it is unreal to race against guys like that, especially as well as we were racing. I remember watching them on television. I am so excited now; I love racing with these guys. I can't wait to come to the next race."
GARVEY GOOD UNTIL THE END
Mike Garvey appeared to be the dominate car for most of the night after he qualified on the pole and led the first 63 laps. Unfortunately, late in the race, Garvey's #17 suffered mechanical problems. He finished 18th, the last car on the lead lap.
"The right front wheel bearings were going out," said Garvey. "The only thing holding the wheel on was the brake caliper. It started chattering and the car
wouldn't turn on me there at the end. I just had to slow down so much to even make the car turn. I lost a lot of spots because of it.
"Halfway through the race, it felt like something was dragging. Good thing is the car was awesome and I think we are going to get rid of that curse this year."
WIMMER HAS EXPERIENCED ENGINE
Chris Wimmer surprised even himself with his 12th place qualifying run with an engine that had 43 races on it. In fact, it was the same one his brother Scott used to win his first ASA race in 2000. Wimmer was also pretty surprised when he did a complete 360 on the backstretch after a tap from Mike Garvey.
"That was pretty wild," said Wimmer, who finished 25th. "I just got tapped, we were probably in the way because we were just down on power, and it looped around. I just caught a gear and got it going. Then, something up front broke and we were out."
OLD ENGINE FOR REFFNER
Former series champion Bryan Reffner had a special engine in his car. The engine has a seal number of 001. That means it was the first engine created for ASA's fuel-injected era.
HEMPHILL SURVIVES RACE WITH MONO
Ryan Hemphill had former All Pro and ASA driver Toby Porter standing by in case he needed to get out of his car because he was racing with mono. Luckily, Porter never had to be used, as Hemphill lasted all 200 laps and finished 8th.
"Physically I wasn't in bad shape," said Hemphill. "Being that it was a night race, it saved me big time. It wasn't too bad out there. I had a lot of fluids in me. My adrenaline is flowing pretty high right now. It's keeping me standing, but I am sure I am going to feel it soon."
LITTLE GLENN'S NIGHT GOES FROM GOOD TO TERRIBLE
Glenn Allen Jr. made an impressive return to ASA with Hock Motorsports. He qualified fifth and was in the top-five for much of the night. Allen's night was cut short by clutch problems and then an accident apparently caused by Rick Beebe in the last five laps of the race.
FLORIDA ROOKIE HAS ROUNDY-ROUND NIGHT
To finish good, first you must finish. Isn't that how the ol' saying goes? Well, for rookie Justin Drawdy it may be true. The Lakeland race wasn't how he wanted to start his ASA career, but nevertheless, he did finish. Yet, along the way to his 20th-place finish, Drawdy was involved in three different accidents.
"It was a good experience," said the rookie from Florida. "I guess I really learned today. I really got banged around, but I guess that is what those rookie stripes on the back of that car are there for. I learned a lot. I learned about patience. These are such long races. I learned that you really have to save your brakes. I learned that you have to keep your cool. There is a lot of bumping and beating out there. Pit strategy has a lot to do with it. We were in good shape until we got booted."
STEWART HAS ACCIDENT UNDER CAUTION
Brett Sontag (left) walks away from his car after it burst into flames on pit road.
Ryan Hemphill spent much of Saturday sitting in front of the fan.
Greg Stewart's new paint scheme was certainly bright and shinny too bad his weekend wasn't as bright.
"We had a lot of ups and downs this weekend," said Stewart, who finished 29th. "We broke and axle, went a lap down, made it up, went another lap down, and made it up again and so on. We were as fast as the leaders at the end. Gene then came on the radio and
was all pumped up. He said 'we overcame so much; we are going to win one of these races this year.' As soon as he said that, I looked up and all I saw was a rear bumper and I hit it. I was messing with my water bottle and scrubbing the tires and not paying attention. A car checked up in front of me and I hit him. I just screwed up."
KITTLESON HAS AWESOME RUN
Travis Kittleson was right in the four-car race for the win with just a handful of laps to go, but unfortunately he fell back to fifth. It was still his first-career top-five in ASA and it was much improved over his 32nd-place qualifying attempt.
"The green flag dropped and we took off on the outside," said Kittleson of the race. "I was impressed with how good the car was. I was really worried about it after qualifying because of how bad we were. It was good fun though; we had great pit stops, we were beating veterans out of the pits today. We still need some work to do on the car, be we will take this fifth place finish to start the year and go on with it.
"I have a lot of respect for Reed (Sorenson)," added Kittleson of his battle with the #29 at the end of the race. "For as young as he is, he has a lot of car control. He is just really amazing. We were beating and banging and he didn't flinch at all. He is an incredible guy."
PYLE'S TEAM MAKES SEVERAL PIT MISTAKES
"When we ran long, we were awesome," said Pyle, who finished ??. "I never ran by so many cars on the track. It just wasn't our day though. We made some mistakes in the pits. I came in too far, we had a guy fall down on a stop, and then we had to come back in for an adjustment and left the wrench in the car. There were a lot of mistakes, but I am motivated now, cause if we continue to have a car like that, we are going to win some races."
COPE'S EXPERIMENTAL REAR END
Mike Cope didn't have the return he was hoping for in ASA. He finished one lap down in 19th, but he thinks the rest of the year will be even better.
"We've got a big experimental package at the rear of this thing and I am confident that it will work," said Cope. "When it does, it will haul ass. It just didn't do its job this weekend, but then again, we didn't do our job. We had a motor problem and we lost a lap because of the stupidity on my part in the pits."
Travis Kittleson had a career night.
WHERE DID LAGASSE COME FROM?
Scott Lagasse Jr. surprised us all at Lakeland and impressed a lot of his competitors. Not only did he qualify third, but he led for a good portion of the race. After pit-stops he had fallen back in the field, but he came back near the end to pass several cars in the final 10-laps to go to record a fourth-place finish.
"We are very happy with how things are going," said Lagasse, driving a former Johnny Sauter car. "It was awesome to lead. I was very comfortable in the car, way more than when I ran two years ago (one race at St. Augustine Speedway). I think we will learn from this race and keep learning from these guys that have been doing it for a while. Hopefully, we will come back and do it again.
Lagasse is only planning on running a part-time schedule, but says plans can always change. No word yet on whether or not he will be in Houston.
SHANE SIEG HAS SHORT NIGHT
Former All Pro stand-out Shane Sieg had his ASA debut cut short by a blown transmission and bad clutch.
KLUEVER, LEIGHT NOT HAPPEN AFTER ACCIDENT
Todd Kluever and Stephen Leicht were both "victims" of the same accident.
"I don't know what happened," said Kluever, who finished 31st. "Two cars got together and one was way down low. We were just trying to get around them since they didn't throw the caution and he slid right up into me. As soon as he hit me, something in the left front broke and we just went straight to the wall. Not a good weekend for us, but we've been down before and we will bounce back."
The two cars that got together were Leicht and Doug Stevens Jr. Both drivers spent some time at the front of the field during the night.
"We were really fast all night," commented Leicht, who
Scott Lagasse Jr. impressed a lot of people in Lakeland.
finished 30th. "Going into three, I got a little high. When I came back down, a car was there already. Right as my spotter said low, we hit and it was too late. I feel like we got run into, but I guess it's just racing. What can I say? I feel like we had a top-three car tonight."
Stephen Leight wasn't a happy camper after his accident.