“ROOKIE” GARY ST. AMANT NEEDED A CHANGE by Jeremy Troiano
Two-Time ASA Champion Already A Championship Favorite
We knew something was up here at Speed51.com when we called Gary St. Amant several weeks ago to see what his 2004 plans were and he was as unsure as we were.
I’ve always paid attention to the Pro Cup Series,” said St. Amant. “Back in 1995, I was a part of the very first race they ran. It was at Lakeland (USA International Speedway). Dick Anderson won the race I do believe. So I’ve know the organization since the beginning. And the people within the series are super. I’m really excited that this is the direction that my career is taking me now.”
St. Amant says he was ready for a change of pace. He needed things to change. ASA just wasn’t the same to him in 2003, where he suffered through one of his worst seasons as a Short Track driver.
“It kind of all started at the Snowball Derby last year. Some people that are involved in the Pro Cup Series that I’ve known through racing for some time said how cool it would be if I could ever get to come race with the Pro Cup Series someday. I told them it wasn’t out of the question. That it could very well happen.
“I have not seen this nice of a race facility anywhere in the state of Ohio. Everything is top notch, first class. It didn’t much more for them to get me into their cars than me coming up here (to Cleveland from St. Amant’s home base of Columbus) to see this. Everyone told me they are always one of the best teams to show up at the race track.”
The new scenery will be a welcome change for Gary, but it will be that… a change.
“The Pro Cup Series has grown to be a lot better series then
“I talked to Bobby Gill down in Pensacola about it and he flat out told me Pro Cup was a place to go. He even thought of it in a higher light than ASA. So I started really thinking of it and before you knew it, teams were calling me.”
Gary started out the 2003 season with the Frankie Grill-led Grand American race team in ASA after years spent with Bud Gebben’s Automotive Promotions team. St. Amant struggled with crashes and mechanical problems with Grill’s team, leaving them part of the way through the year. St. Amant quickly resurfaced with Appalachian Motorsports, but good luck continued to elude him.
“There are some things in the works, but nothing solid,” Gary told us then. We knew that a guy like Gary St. Amant, a two-time ASA Champion, the all-time money winner in ASA competition and a two-time Snowball Derby champ, would have a ride come spring. We, like Gary, just didn’t know with who… or better yet where.
Well, all of that came to light recently, when Gary made the surprising announcement that he was leaving his familiar American Speed Association to drive for Cleveland, Ohio-based Bullet Racing with the USAR Pro Cup Series. St. Amant, who has raced with ASA for more than 17 seasons and who has become one of the leaders and most looked upon people in the Short Track community, will now find himself a rookie in the Pro Cup Series Northern Division.
St. Amant has reason to be smiling now... he's got a damn good Pro Cup Series ride.
Gary was even involved in a scary wreck in the middle part of the season that injured him and knocked him out of the next race.
After the season’s final race at Nashville, St. Amant started feeling that it was time for a change.
“I was just becoming disconnected with the series. I really started feeling it with the banquet. My not going to the banquet really opened my eyes. That was the first time since 1985 that I’ve missed an ASA banquet. I’ve just noticed how things have changed over the years. It is a far different place from when I ran my first race.
“So I finally realized after having a year like last year, it was time for a change. But I’m just as excited heading into this year than I have been any year in racing that I can remember. I’m not leaving a good series and just going somewhere else. I’m going to another quality series.
Bullet Racing, who race last year with driver Scott Baker, is one of the top notch teams in the Northern Division if not all of the Pro Cup Series.
St. Amant's #7 was always a threat to win in ASA. Will the #11 be that way in 2004? (Horne Photo)
what it was a few years ago. It is going to be an interesting change for me. I haven’t worked on too many types of cars like this. I’m going to have to get familiar with the race cars. They’ve got three race cars in the shop, so over the next few months, we’ll be learning the race cars. They won’t be totally new to me though. I can take what I’ve learned driving in the Truck Series over to the bigger, heavier cars the Pro Cup Series runs.
“In the end, it’s still a race car that goes around in circles.
There will be a few familiar things to St. Amant, number one being the presence of his father, who is already working with the team to prepare their cars for the opening race at South Boston in April. St. Amant will also come into the series as they make the switch from a Goodyear bias-ply tire to the BFGoodrich radial, something St. Amant has driven on for the last several years and even tested in its infant stages.
“I think there will be an advantage there with my experience with the tires. But the top teams in the series have good enough setups down that it won’t throw them off too much.”
St. Amant’s first shot at his new Pro Cup ride (#11) will be at a tire test at Mansfield Motorsports Park in March. After that, St. Amant says the team will head to South Boston to race in the opener and the first several races after that. However, plans if team will run the full schedule or not have not been finalized as they are still looking for sponsors.
If Gary does run the full schedule, he is already being picked as the favorite for the series Rookie of the Year title (yes, Gary will be considered a rookie contender in the Pro Cup Series) and is even a favorite for the series’ title. However, Gary will have some tough competition, as Benny Gordon and Jeff Agnew will be some of the favorites for the Northern title as well.
We are pretty sure though, wherever Gary St. Amant races, success will soon follow. Best of luck to Gary and the Bullet Racing team in 2004. If anyone is interested in sponsoring St. Amant during his rookie year, contact Gary at 614-337-1672 or Deborah Meek at 216-514-3375.