Wallace OK... Carter Solid... Ritch Excited... Davis Bummed & More
WALLACE OK AFTER HARD HIT
Steve Wallace, the 17-year old son of NASCAR Nextel Cup driver Rusty Wallace, made his first career USAR ProCup Series start on Wednesday night and picked Bristol his place to do so.
Driving the #8 for Premier Motorsports (who fields a car in the Northern Division for Brian Ross), Wallace qualified 10th and was running in the top-five before he slammed head on into the turn three wall at Bristol in what most people described as one of the hardest hits they've seen at the track.
Wallace emerged from the car under his own power, but once he exited the car, fell to the ground and had to be attended to be paramedics. After getting checked out in the infield care center, Wallace was taken to Bristol Regional Medical Center where he stayed on Wednesday night and was released on Thursday morning. Extensive testing on Stephen revealed only minor injuries.
“That was for sure the worst hit I’ve ever taken,” said Wallace in a statement released from Rusty Wallace Inc. “I’m ok, just really, really sore. It’s so frustrating because we had an awesome run going in the first 100 laps; we were right there in the top-five. Unfortunately, the car got so loose in the last 50 laps that I could barely even drive it. It was all I could do to hang on and finally it got the best of me. I thought I had it saved, but then the car hit oil dry and that was it. This won’t keep me down; I’ll be back at it really soon.”
Wallace plans on returning to action next Saturday, September 4, with the UARA series at Friendship Motor Speedway (NC).
GILL LAYED BACK ABOUT HIS ACCIDENT WITH CLAY
During the early part of the race on Wednesday night, it looked as if no one could touch Bobby Gill or Clay Rogers. Gill jumped out to the lead off the green flag and never looked back, opening up a couple second lead at one point in the event.
However, it was not meant to be.
Just as in Cup or Busch races at the track, when the leaders started encountering lapped traffic, it got very interesting.
Gill was trying to lap the No. 13 car of Bud Kenny when... all hell broke loose.
“The 13 car wasn’t a lap down yet, but we were underneath him a few times and he just came down on us,” said Gill. “I got him sideway and we were alright at that point but Clay came in there, got in the back of us and we spun out. After that, everything went to hell.
“I was having a ball out there. We had the car to win the race. We were just taking our time. I got caught up with the lapped traffic and I was taking my time. I thought Clayton was going to take his time with me.
Shane Huffman's car slides through turn one at Concord during practice. (51 Photos)
Bobby Gill's #06 sits beaten and battered after he got into Bud Kenny (#13) while trying to lap him and then got hit from behind.
“It just wasn’t meant to be. Stuff just happens here. We can’t blame it on anyone. It's just Bristol.”
Despite the extensive damage, Gill and the team worked to get the car repaired and brought it back out on the track before the race was finished, minus the front end and looking more like a modified, but completed only 80 of the 150 laps. Gill, despite leading 55 laps (more than any other driver), finished 27th.
UNDER THE RADAR, RITCH FINISHES THIRD
Michael Ritch thought he might have shocked everyone Wednesday night with his third-place finish at Bristol. But he says he didn't shock himself.
“I'll tell you what, we were the best car out there besides the 84 (Shane Huffman) and the 44 (Clay Rogers),” said Ritch, who started 15th. “A lot of people didn't expect it, it but we showed it. We didn't just luck out and finish third. We had a good, solid car.
“We had a good race car in practice but we qualified pretty bad. We couldn't win here and we knew we couldn't beat the 84 and 44. Everyone here knew that you weren't going to outrun them unless they wrecked or broke.
“If you pay attention to a Nextel Cup race here, you know that track position is the key. That is what it is about. You get back to 15th and 16th and you can't get anything done. We had a pit strategy to come in pretty early and take our time to come back up through the field. Everyone pitted and before you knew it, we were sixth and passing more cars to get up to the top-three.”
Right before the final restart, Ritch was brought down pit road to check for leaking fluid after another car radioed in that Ritch was dropping rear end fluid.
“This is the first race at Bristol and everyone wanted to finish in the top three. The 22 car (Matt Carter) wanted to finish in the top-three. He called a bogus call on us just trying to get something to happen. I looked at my bumper and rear end and there ain't a bit of oil anywhere.”
BFGs HOLD UP GOOD DESPITE EARLY ACCIDENTS
BFGoodrich Tires first test on the highbanks of Bristol Motor Speedway came back a month or so ago when USAR held an open practice session and “the World's Fastest Half-Mile.” That day, there were some tire problems resulting in a few cars getting into the wall.
BFG went back and made a few changes and it showed on Wednesday night.
The BFG tires held up good during the entire afternoon minus a few problems in the morning practice session. Clay Rogers and Shane Huffman both experienced problems and both hit the wall in varying degrees, with Rogers getting into it much worse.
After BFG examined the tires, air pressure problems on both cars seemed to be the problems and not the tires themselves. The BFG engineers made a revised pressure outlook for the teams and encouraged them to start with pressures just a bit higher. Most did and it paid off with very few problems during the event.
LONG DAY FOR POINT LEADER ROGERS
When points leader Clay Rogers smacked the wall early in the day, it looked like it was going to be a long, tumultuous afternoon for the No. 44 team. And it was. But Clay and his guys worked their butts off, got the car fixed, qualified third and finished runner up on Wednesday night.
“The front clip is bent on it. All the ball joints were shot. The track bar needed replaced. And that is just the start of it,” said Rogers. “All that stuff needed to be replaced. We couldn't afford to unload the backup car with Lakeland (FL) about a week away and take a chance with getting it tore up too. That is the car we dominated with at the open of the year down there.”
With the car not looking quite as pretty as always, Rogers and the team obviously got the car fixed just about right. But the earlier day damage, caused when a tire went down and he “about knocked the wall over,” might have cost him in the end.
“I don't know what happened to the car real late in the race because it just got very ill-handling. “We might have had a shock go bad or something. Everything on the front end is bent so hard telling is something worked its way loose or what. That is ok though. I think we had the best car, but I'll take second tonight.
“In the end, this second place is a thanks to my guys and their hard work.”
SPEAKING OF LONG DAYS... ASK FOGLEMAN
Jay Fogleman loves Bristol Motor Speedway. Unfortunately, Wednesday night, Bristol didn't express the same feelings for him.
“It started downhill and, when it does that, this is a tough place to recover,” said Fogleman.
“It really started at the beginning of the race when the 29 (Brad Rogers) missed a shift and we got into the back of him. That knocked the duct work out and that car started running really hot.
“We cycled back through ok and were on the way to the front when the radios went dead. I guess Clay (Rogers) was coming up on me and I ran right across the front of his nose as he was getting under me becsue I had no idea he was there. So we spun out there.
“The car was overheating pretty bad and we were back in the pack. When you are back there, things are going to happen, and we got caught up in someone else's mess again.
“Pretty much everything that could go wrong went wrong tonight.”
Fogleman finished a disappointing 24th-place.
SEVERAL NORTHERN DRIVERS ABSENT
Before the season started, most people expected a possible 50-plus cars to show up and attempt to make the Bristol race. However, that wasn't the case as a season's worth of wear and tear on cars resulted in just 37 cars showing up and 36 starting the race. Only Jon Kerly was sent home early.
The BFGoodrich Tires held up good and made for some impressive racing on Wednesday night.
Being a Southern Division points race, several of the Northern stars that were expected to compete didn't show up on Wednesday night. Jeff Agnew and Mardy Lindley both did, but Northern points leader Benny Gordon, Johnny Rumley, Gary St. Amant, Joel Kauffman and Danny Sammons were all absent.
Agnew finished the best of any Northern driver, coming home 10th.
Gordon was spotted walking around the pit area at Bristol and more than one person said “you can tell he's wishing his car was here right now.” But with two-straight weekends of races leading up to the Bristol event for the Northern Division and only one more on the schedule, most Northern drivers decided to save their equipment and just watch in the stands or on SPEED Channel.
DESPITE EARLY ACCIDENT, CARTER STRONG
Matt Carter, son of Cup Series car owner Travis Carter, has been around Bristol Motor Speedway all of his life. But Wednesday night, he got his first shot at the high banks and found out what it is really like.
Carter came home with a solid fourth-place finish on Wednesday, but it wasn't without it's close calls.
He was an “innocent” victim in the Gill-Rogers-Kenny incident early in the race.
Jay Fogleman had a long day.
Jeff Agnew (Hooters car) led the Northern boys at Bristol.
Rescue workers tend to Steve Wallace (right) after a very hard hit at Bristol. (51 Photos)
“I don't know what happened,” said Carter after the race. “I saw (Bobby) go spinning and I got woahed up. I thought I had a hole to go through and Bobby let go of the brake and came right down in front of me and I hopped his nose.
“I didn't do too much damage to the car. We came in and was going to pit the next caution anyway, so it kinda worked out for us. The damage didn't really have a lot of effect on the handling. It knocked the exhaust off and I was breathing in a lot of fumes, but that is about it.”
DAVIS, WIMMER ARMCHAIR RACERS FOR THIS EVENT
Sitting up in the turn three stands was two interested parties in the ProCup race on Wednesday night... former series driver and current Nextel Cup rookie Scott Wimmer; and former Northern Division standout Kertus Davis.
Wimmer, who was surprisingly sitting in the stands with very few people around noticing who he was, said he was enjoying the race and was having fun watching some of the guys he raced against back in his days of ProCup action take to the Bristol highbanks.
Davis, on the otherhand, had the racer in him come out while watching the event. Davis parted ways earlier this year with Premier Motorsports and owner Steve Husketh in the Northern Division.
“I'm a racer and if you are a racer, it is tough to come watch someone else race and just sit,” said Davis. “I'm the type of person that'll race every day of the week if I could. But unfortunately, me and Steve parted ways. We are still on good terms and we are still friends.
“I really wanted to be out here in the ProCup race tonight. I think I would have had a shot at running good.”
Davis is going to continue to try and run some Busch Series races for the remainder of the season.
ROOKIE BATTLE STILL ALIVE
Brad Rogers had a shot to wrap up the Southern Division Rookie of the Year title on Wednesday night, but finishing fifth, one spot behind his main competitor Matt Carter, means the rookie battle will come down to the last race of the year at Lakeland (FL) in just over a week.
But outside of the rookie battle, Rogers had another battle to deal with and that was just finishing at Bristol.
“Without question, I feel like we had the best car out here,” said Rogers. “But being only 150 laps cut us short. Michael Ritch dumping oil all over the place cut us short. A bunch of caution laps cut us short. Oh well, what are you going to do?
Matt Carter's car didn't look quite this nice at the end of the night.
“It is great racing. It wears you out, that is for damn sure. It is good to come out here with nothing torn up. We got a good, solid top four finish again. We just need a little bit of luck on our side. I had a great time.”
SEVERAL BIG NAMES HAVE PROBLEMS
While the usual cast of characters finished in the top five spots, there were several other “big named” drivers that ran into various problems and the night wore one.
Jason Sarvis, making another sporadic start for Jimmy Spencer's team this season, got involved in an early spin in Greg Marlow. Even though he didn't hit anything, mechanical problems from that spin forced him out of the race in 34th spot.
Mardy Lindly retired in 33rd after just 21 laps with an overheating engine. It was obvious all day long that Lindley's car was not handling right and not up to par. The brand new car only managed to qualify 25th
David Pletcher, who has had several great runs this season, came with a new paint job on his No. 51, but his bad luck stayed the same. He got tangled up with Calvin Redwine in an early accident and retired in 30th spot.
Mike Laughlin Jr and George Brunnhoelzl III both qualified well (14th
This accident took out both Greg Marlow (#07) and Jason Sarvis (#36)
and 8th respectively), but both fell out early with mechanical problems and finished 28th and 29th.
Jeremy Bowser was one of the fastest cars in practice and was making his way back through the field before getting a tap from Stephen Wallace and exiting the race with extensive crash damage in 25th place.
Mart Nesbitt was running at the end of the race, but numerous trips to pit road for a faulty battery and other various problems knocked him down to 20th.