Patrick Sheltra Nets Top-15 In Daytona Debut "Roller Coaster Day Ends With Solid Start To '08 Season" DAYTONA BEACH, Florida (February 12, 2008) - - It wasn't exactly the finish that Patrick Sheltra and his Sheltra Motorsports team was ...
Patrick Sheltra Nets Top-15 In Daytona Debut
"Roller Coaster Day Ends With Solid Start To '08 Season"
DAYTONA BEACH, Florida (February 12, 2008) - - It wasn't exactly the finish that Patrick Sheltra and his Sheltra Motorsports team was looking for but under all the circumstances the team faced during the ARCA 200 at Daytona last Saturday at Daytona International Speedway, a 15th place finish was satisfying.
Sheltra, a sophomore ARCA RE/MAX Series driving and growing up just two and a half hours from Daytona International Speedway in the small town of Indiantown, Florida, Sheltra's dream of competing at Daytona International Speedway was becoming a reality.
Driving a Chevrolet Monte Carlo SS that was fielded by Richard Childress Racing last year in NASCAR Sprint Cup Series competition and with the hard work of his Sheltra Motorsports team led by crew chief John Hayden and team manager Keith Strunk, Sheltra was feeling pretty confident heading into the first practice.
During the session, Sheltra would spend the first half of the event in single-car runs which produced the fastest lap of 50.700 seconds, Sheltra would begin a heavy drafting session in the second-half of the five hour session which would leap Sheltra's No. 60 to 13th on the rundown after turning in a time of 49.691 seconds at 181.119 MPH.
"The car is very neutral," said Sheltra, who finished seventh in ARCA championship points in 2007. "The entire Sheltra Motorsports team deserves a pat on the back because they have done a great job with this car since the Daytona test. This car is even drafting a little better than it did in December. That's an important element. I'm not sure where we will land in qualifying, because I feel our car is stronger in the draft, but if we can qualify on-time I will be fired up."
Drawing the 52nd position for ARCA SIM Factory pole qualifying on Friday would mean that Sheltra would have to wait a couple hours before taking his chance at tackling the "World Center of Speed." During his two-lap hustle around the speed plant, Sheltra posted a time of 50.482 seconds at 178.281 MPH positioning him 26th on the starting lineup. Sheltra picked up a couple tenths of a second from practice the day before.
"That's all I had," said the 21-year old driver. "We found some more speed from practice and that's great. We're mid-pack and honestly felt that's where we were going to land, so I have no room to complain about anything."
Following qualifying, the Sheltra Motorsports bunch consulted and decided to participate in Happy Hour; the final practice session before the race but with limited activity. "We're not going to run the full hour and five minutes, but we're going to run for about 10 laps and see what we have."
During Happy Hour; Sheltra immediately threw his No. 60 into the top-10, climbing to as high as seventh before settling for 10th overall. Sheltra eclipsed a time of 49.407 seconds or 182.160 MPH. "I'm happy, but enough of this practice, let's go racing!"
Sheltra was one of a record 43 drivers to take the green flag in the ARCA 200 at Daytona. Early on, Sheltra remained tucked in the lead draft flirting inside the top-25.
A lap six incident happened next to Sheltra when the two cars of Alli Owens and J.R. Heffner made contact which brought out the first caution on lap six. Sheltra didn't report much on the radio, just remained cool and collective with his thoughts on getting to the front.
On the restart, Sheltra slowly worked his way through the scoring pylon. Moving into the top-20 when the next caution flag waived on lap nine, Sheltra reported that the fielded needed to calm down, because it's too early to have all these cautions.
Returning to green flag racing, Sheltra tucked in behind the No. 11 of Bryan Silas and the group headed towards the front. In the lead draft and side-by-side, Sheltra would remain locked on the rear bumper of Silas's Ford Fusion.
Sheltra would become unglued when another caution waived on lap 24 for an incident on the front-stretch. During the caution, crew chief John Hayden brought his NASCAR bound driver to pit road for two right side tires and fuel.
Sheltra returned to the track hovering in the top-25 and ready to return to action. On the restart, Sheltra would find himself back in the lead draft, but what happened next is a scenario that Sheltra will continue to talk about for the rest of the year.
Contact between the second and third place cars triggered a massive pileup with cars slamming into each other all around Sheltra. Spotter Kevin Huffines informed his driver to stop. The quick-thinking paid off as Sheltra somehow emerged untouched.
Taking the caution, Sheltra keyed the radio, "Boys, that was fun. I don't know how we made it through that! I am no idea, we were lucky, really lucky."
After all the carnage was cleared, Sheltra found himself comfortably in the top-10. When racing resumed, Sheltra continue to march towards the front and would continue to find himself there racing with the leaders before going for a spin on the backstretch while running second on lap 53.
Contact during the spin with pole sitter Justin Marks would see some heavy right side door damage to the No. 60 Chevrolet Monte Carlo SS, but not enough to erase the team from competition. However, the team's day would change from a controversial call from pit road.
As the team exited pit road approaching the one-to-go signal, Sheltra was ahead of the pace car, but ARCA officials stopped Sheltra at the end of pit road, taking him off the lead circuit. The call was protested to ARCA officials by members of the Sheltra Motorsports team but to no avail.
With a car that was able to draft, Sheltra found himself in the top-10 bunch but trapped a lap down. Over the next 20 laps, Sheltra would climb in the running order overtaking other lap-down machines.
When the checkered flag was thrown, Sheltra was eighth overall on the track, but 15th on the final running order, the second-car one lap down.
"I'm frustrated, because we had a car that would finish in the top-10 even after the lap 54 accident," noted Sheltra. "We don't agree with the call by ARCA officials, but we'll respect it. I know the team is still analyzing the call, but we'll look at the bright side, the day could have been a lot worse."
Sheltra continued, "I don't know how we made it through the first wreck; a lot of luck. We finished 15th, but should have finished eighth, what are you going to do? We're take this finish with a little more determination and look for a top-10 finish at Salem."
"I just want to thank everyone from the Sheltra Motorsports team for their exhaustive efforts on our Daytona program. Everyone knew we were here and we'll go to Talladega with this same car looking to close out our restrictor plate program with a top-10 run."