Winning From The Pole A Gift For Miller As Pyle Breaks
Well, fortunes were reversed on Friday night, as Pyle went from the point with just 14 laps remaining to a 24th-place finish, as his engine expired while leading the field to a late restart. He handed the lead over to the night's pole sitter, Butch Miller, who collected his 49th career ASA victory.
"I feel really bad for Robbie," said Miller. "To see something like that happen is just bad for anyone. But he was starting to slip around a little on those tires and we had fresher tires, so we might have had a chance to get him anyway."
Miller and his Timber Wolf team employed a strategy that only a few others took on the unique Friday night affair.
In racing, it always seems like one's misfortune is another's fortune. Robbie Pyle found this out two years ago when he won his first career ASA race at Madison International Speedway when Mike Eddy and Gary St. Amant wrecked on the white flag lap, handing Pyle his only win to date.
The team pitted twice for tires (lefts and rights) along with their stop for gas, giving them fresher tires than anyone at the end of the race.
"We had to stick to the game plan that we had, and that was to change left-side tires as well. We were hoping some cautions in the mid part of the race would work out how they did, so it played into our advantage."
Butch Miller took win number three of 2003 at Madison on Friday. (Al Fortner Photo)
But Miller's advantage came at the misfortune of Pyle. Pyle, whose team got him out of the pits in front of everyone during an early round of stops, appeared to be the class of the field and on his way to his second career ASA win and second win at Madison, holding off the likes of Miller, Greg Stewart and Kevin Cywinski.
Pyle lead the race from lap 126 until his engine let go on lap 236. At one point, he had built up a four-second lead over the then second-place running car of Travis Kittleson.
"We really had a good car," said a very dejected Pyle, who was not much in the mood to talk after the race. "We were going to pull Butch a little away from us, but she broke. Simple as that."
Pyle nearly stacked up the field behind him when he didn't come up to speed on the late restart. Luckily, everyone was able to get around the slowing CITGO #63 and stay out of trouble.
After Miller assumed the lead, Kevin Cywinski, who had been battling engine problems as well all night long, was able to make a couple of nifty moves and got up to second place when the checkered flag fell. That meant Cywinski lost only 10 points off of his lead to Miller in the chase for the 2003 ASA National Championship.
"I owe it to the crew tonight," said Cywinski. "We had an engine problem that the car wouldn't idle down on the cautions. The crew said to wait and when we pitted, they disconnected a bunch of stuff that helped the situation."
Cywinski's team also pitted with Miller to get left-side tires, which put them at the back of the field. But in the end, it appeared to pay off on the fast, tight half-mile track.
Toby Porter continued to turn the Meijer team around and came home third, the team's first podium finish of the year. Wisconsin driver Todd Kluever finished a career-best fourth and rookie Davin Scites finished fifth.
Miller (#52) had to hold off Greg Sewart (#33) who had one of his best runs of the 2003 season.
The race began with a classic battle between rookie Brett Sontag, whose team owner also owns the Madison track, and veteran Greg Stewart. The two raced side-by-side for 28-plus laps and swapped the lead a total of nine times.
The two later got together in a separate incident, with Stewart coming home 10th and Sontag 13th.