Patrick Sheltra Survives Salem With 11th Place Finish
"Late Race Contact Destroys Top-Five Finish"
SALEM, Indiana (April 14, 2008) - - Most would be happy with an 11th place finish at the brutal short track at Salem Speedway but for sophomore ARCA RE/MAX Series driver Patrick Sheltra and the Sheltra Motorsports team they were disappointed with the outcome after running in the top-five for much of Sunday's Kentuckiana Ford Dealers 200 by Federated Auto Parts.
On a weekend that showed blistering cold conditions the Sheltra Motorsports team guided by crew chief and former ARCA driver John Hayden heading into the weekend confident after a successful test at the Southern Indiana track last week.
During the hour and a half practice session Saturday afternoon, Sheltra maneuvered the 22nd fastest lap after netting a time of 17.879 seconds at 111.751 mph. The Indiantown, Florida native registered a "loose" condition on his No. 60 Ferguson Pipe Enterprises-FloraGanics Chevrolet Monte Carlo SS with Hayden opting to make some minor chassis adjustments hoping to improve the handling of the racecar.
After drawing the 13th position for ARCA SIM Factory pole qualifying, Sheltra delivered a time trials effort of 17.757 seconds or 112.519 mph. The effort positioned Sheltra 20th on the starting grid for his third career start at Salem Speedway. "We really needed three laps," offered Sheltra. "This is a new tire compound and I've taken a little longer to adapt than some of the other drivers. That's no excuse though. We have a good car for Sunday's race."
Mother Nature opted not to cooperate with the teams on Sunday morning as steady rain showers moved in early and lingered through the original starting time of 2:15pm. A break in the weather allowed ARCA officials to dry the facility with the green-flag officially thrown just after 4:45pm local time.
The first 15 laps of the event were under green and yellow flag conditions as ARCA utilized the 35-car starting field to completely dry the .555-mile short track.
On lap 16, the official green flag was thrown with Sheltra immediately slicing his way towards the front. Using patience and guidance from spotter Kevin Huffines, Sheltra picked off one position at a time before the first major caution of the race was triggered on lap 30 causing a major pileup.
Much like Daytona International Speedway, Huffines informed his driver to stop on the track to avoid the carnage. With the track completely blocked, Sheltra waited for a path to open up before proceeding around to take the yellow flag.
Sheltra would inform crew chief Hayden that his car was a little loose but drivable. A call for right side tires would help improve the handling of the Grace Sheltra owned automobile before rejoining the competition for the race.
Restarting 12th, Sheltra would continue to march forward through the field while reporting that the car was still loose off.
The handling characteristics never showed during Sunday's race as Sheltra powered his machine in the top-10 and had moved up to third by lap 79.
Sheltra would pick up an additional spot and move to the runner-up position on lap 85 and remain there until a caution waived just after half-way.
During the yellow flag, Hayden called for four tires and fuel. Sheltra aligned his car with his new "hog" pit board sign where his Whitesville, Kentucky based operation went to work and performed a brilliant pit stop.
Restarting sixth due to several cars staying out, Sheltra would again be on a mission to move his multi-colored bowtie machine to the front. Again, Sheltra settled back into the second position before the team's day would take a turn on lap 137.
Racing hard with nine-time ARCA RE/MAX Series Frank Kimmel, Sheltra would continue to sport the better piece but as the cars came off of turn two, Kimmel hit the rear of the No. 60 which sent the car into a spin before slamming into the wall.
With damage, Sheltra grabbed a gear and pulled up along side Kimmel's No. 44 Ford Fusion and showed his displeasure for the contact. The crew informed their driver to cool off and bring his car to pit road. Remaining on the lead lap, Sheltra would move back into place on track but when the green-flag was thrown, the car developed an even looser condition.
A flat right front tire on lap 172 caused Sheltra to bring his No. 60 to pit road for new Hoosier rubber. In the process, Sheltra lost four laps to the leaders.
Continuing to solider on, Sheltra crossed the line 11th in an overtime race completing 200 of the 204 circuits. Ironically, Sheltra also finished 11th in his Salem debut last April.
"It was a great day gone bad," commented Sheltra, who made his 27th career start Sunday. "I don't really have much to say about the Kimmel incident other than I wished he would have used a little more patience. There was still a long way to go and I raced him hard and clean. We didn't deserve that."
He continued, "The Sheltra Motorsports bunch never gave up and I'm extremely proud of them. The pit stop was flawless and even after the incident; they never missed a beat. The bright side of coming out of Salem is that we had a good point's day and we'll just proceed to Iowa this weekend and look for our first top-10 finish of the season."
Sheltra's 11th place finished leaped him to sixth in the ARCA championship standings just 30 markers from the top-five currently held by SunTrust ARCA RE/MAX Series Rookie-of-the-Year candidate Tom Hessert III. 125 credits separate Sheltra from the points lead now held by Salem winner Justin Allgaier.