Memphis, TN. ( Sept. 10 ) When Van Camp's Beans driver Ricky Bryant came to in the infield care center Sunday, after the ASA AC Delco Memphis 200, one of crewmen asked Ricky if he saw Elvis. Ricky had the presence of mind to say no, but that he...
Memphis, TN. ( Sept. 10 ) When Van Camp's Beans driver Ricky Bryant came to in the infield care center Sunday, after the ASA AC Delco Memphis 200, one of crewmen asked Ricky if he saw Elvis. Ricky had the presence of mind to say no, but that he did not remember much of the last 20 laps in Sunday's race at the ¾ mile Memphis Motorsports Park. A combination of extreme humidity and a oil temperature of 280 degrees in the Van Camp's - Piggly Wiggly Pontiac forced the crew to put ice down Ricky's suit on every pit stop. Ricky explained " In these ASA cars the drivers seat is right in front of the oil cooler so that heat comes right through the back of the seat, and literally can burn the drivers back. I fought the overheating problem after about the first 75 laps. I thought I was going to have to come out of the car a couple times during the race. I barely made it to the end. Those last 2 cautions with 5 laps left about killed me!" Once the checked flag fell Bryant brought the Van Camps Beans machine into the pits , and had to be lifted from the car. He based out shortly after, and was taken to the infield care center by one of the track emergency vehicles. The infield care center resembled a M.A.S.H. unfit hospital with no fewer that 7 ASA drivers in there being treated for heat exhaustion. Drivers were being iced down and receiving intravenous. One driver, Craig Smith, was taken to a local hospital. After about an hour Bryant was well enough to leave the care center.
The weekend started out very well for Bryant, and the Van Camp's team. A strong field of 47 cars was on hand for 36 spots. In qualifying an amazing 38 cars were only 8/10th's of a second apart. Bryant stated, " This is no easier than in Winston Cup or Busch Grand National . All these drivers were champions somewhere. These are the best short track racers in the country." Bryant was able to get the # 35 Van Camps - Piggly Wiggly in the race in 31st starting position. Once the race began Bryant, feeling racy, moved up 6 positions , and better yet his car was handling much better than last week in Minnesota."It's not near where I need the car to be, but it's imporoving." Bryant explained with the close competition in ASA being right on the money is very important. Experience is what is needed, and the Bean team, while qualifying for every ASA race they've attempted is just not where they need to be yet. Bryant figured a Top 15 finish was certain, " This was a fast race track, but one I liked. The car was running good, and I just wanted to do some racing, and be careful so we would be there at the end". Bryant was up 10 positions, to 21st, when the combination of the heat, and oil temperature began to get to him. From then on it was a struggle for Bryant to overcome the heat, and stay in the car for the entire race. In the last 50 laps Bryant came over the radio several times to say he could not stay in the car any longer. Bryant toughed it out and stayed on the track till the checkers fell. While he did not make it to victory lane, like Ricky Rudd at Martinsville a couple years ago, Bryant was just thankful to have finished 24th, and survived till the end. Ricky said, " Our whole team is trying very hard. The effort is their in our entire program. We are just trying to learn as much as we can in each race, and be ready to run for points, and the Rookie of the Year award in 2001. I have not been as competitive as I would like these first 6 races, but we owe a lot to our sponsor Van Camp's. We are trying to give them as much return for their support.We belong here in ASA, we are ready to come here next year. We will improve, and do better". Bryant, and the Van Camp's Beans team have qualified for all 6 ASA races they have entered. Something that no part time rookie team, in ASA, can claim. Bryant's final thoughts were, " Our goal is to make all 10 races we enter, and then get our best finish, while learning as much as we can. We have the qualifying down, now we need to get the good finishes!"
Bryant, and the Van Camp's Beans team will have 3 more chances in 2000. Next up is Indianapolis Raceway Park, in 2 weeks, on September 23rd. After that Winchester, Indiana on Oct. 1, and the ASA finale on October 14th, at Gateway International Park in St. Louis.