(Delaware, Ontario) -- The CASCAR Super Series kicked off Victoria Day weekend at Delaware Speedway, with the MOPAR 300 race weekend. Brad Graham and his Challenger Motor Freight Pontiac Grand Prix were ready to begin their assault on the championship at the ½-mile track where Brad cut his stock car teeth.
Time trials, and twin 100-lap qualifying races were scheduled to Friday night, but rain throughout the day, and no signs of clearing led officials to scrub Friday nights' program. This shifted the Challenger Racing Team's focus to Saturday and an afternoon qualifying session.
Practice was first on Saturday, and the car came off the trailer fast. The true test came in the heat of the day as Graham took to the track for his timed laps. When the dust settled, Brad had turned the fourth-quickest time of the day, giving him an row two starting position. "This is a perfect day for us. I'd rather be on the inside for the start tomorrow, but we'll take the bonus championship points we get for it."
The green dropped at 2:15 on Sunday, with Don Thomson Jr. on the pole and Steve Robblee alongside him. Over 10,000 spectators packing the hill at Delaware Speedway for the MOPAR 300, and Graham was looking for a good start. But, Brad was shuffled back when the green dropped, and wound up about 10th in line early in the race.
Graham and his crew had a unique pit strategy planned for the race, taking track position during every caution early in the race and moving to third by the 100-lap mark. Graham continued on the hunt, closing in on John Fitzpatrick, and finally taking second-place from him on lap 134, and chasing only Robblee. Robblee pitted under a lap 143 yellow flag, handing control of the event over to Graham. "Everything was going as planned. I figured it might get a little rough today, and the safest place to be is out front, so we took the track position every time early." Graham was also trying to save the tires on his Pontiac, and seemed to be in cruise control while he paced the field.
On a lap 164 Graham was challenged on the restart by a lapped car. Brad was caught on the high side again, and got back into line, staying in the top-five. Graham finally made his way to pit road on lap 197 under the events eighth caution, and returned 10th. With less than 100 laps to go, Graham started his charge. He moved to eighth with 75 laps, and was up to fourth with 50 to go. Graham was following David Whitlock through traffic, and chased Whitlock up to leader's bumper. Whitlock muscled by Thomson on lap 288 to take the point, while Brad slipped through to second as well. With Brad looking down the barrel of his best career CASCAR Super Series victory, and a trip to the podium looming less than five laps away, the unthinkable happened. "It just died on me coming out of turn two. I think we burnt a coil. It was something in the ignition."
Graham finished 13th. "I don't know what to feel right now," said Brad after the race. "I'm thrilled we ran so well all day, but frustrated at the way it ended." As far as any shot at Whitlock for the win, Graham explained, "I don't think I would've got Whit. We were about the same speed, and I needed him to make a mistake, and he doesn't make too many of them."
1. Whitlock, 2. Thomson, 3. Fair, 4. Micks, 5. Vanderwyst, 13. Brad Graham.
The Challenger Motor Freight Racing Team will return to action in a few weeks at Peterborough Speedway. The second event of the 12-race CASCAR Super Series season at 'Canada's Fastest 1/3rd-mile Speedway' will take place under the lights on Saturday June seventh. Graham is very excited about heading East following a solid performance at Delaware, "We've run well there in the past, and I really like the track. It's a tough little speedway, and usually exciting for the fans."