Ryan Unzicker Ready To End Frustrating Season on High Note in Atlanta Hampton, Georgia - - American Speed Association Rookie-of-the-Year candidate Ryan Unzicker rolls his Hendren Motorsports team into Atlanta Motor Speedway looking to shake off...
Ryan Unzicker Ready To End Frustrating Season on High Note in Atlanta
Hampton, Georgia - - American Speed Association Rookie-of-the-Year candidate Ryan Unzicker rolls his Hendren Motorsports team into Atlanta Motor Speedway looking to shake off an incident at Lowes Motor Speedway and close what has been a frustrating 2004 season on a high note.
Heading into the 2004 season, Unzicker was one of the favorites for the American Speed Association Rookie-of-the-Year crown, but a mixture of bad luck, and ill-faded runs have left the driver out of that chase, and now gathering seat time with hopes of thrusting into victory lane.
Just two weeks ago, Unzicker was considered a sleeper in the ASA's debut at Lowes Motor Speedway. After punching out fast lap times in practice, many had turned to the No. 66 for everyone to keep their eyes on. After a disappointing outing in qualifying, the team knew they had a car capable of drafting to the front and attract their second top-ten finish of the season.
At the start of the event, Ryan began his march towards the front. Showing rookie patience, the El Paso, Illinois native radioed to the crew that the car was handling good, and had planned to save the best for the end.
On lap 21 of the 66-marker event, rookie Ben Collins in the No. 42 Texaco Havoline machine took a gutsy move trying to pass the No. 66 Chevrolet Monte Carlo, but the move would backfire as the No. 42 climbed over Unzicker's machine sending both into the wall and done for the night.
"I'm really not sure what Ben was thinking," said Unzicker who was credited with a 36th place finish. "We both had good cars, but I guess he was a little too aggressive early and it cost us both a good finish. I hate it for my Hendren Motorsports team. They have worked very hard this entire season and we just can't seem to have any luck."
With Lowes now over, the team has no choice but to pick up the pieces and head into the American Speed Association season finale and look towards the coveted victory lane.
"You have no idea what it would mean to me if we won this weekend. Our team has battled more lows than highs this season. A good finish on Friday night would give the team some much needed confidence."
In nine starts this season, Unzicker has been fast, but only one top-ten to his resume. In the second Kentucky event, he blasted the No. 66 from the 29th place starting position. The driver played a smart game all night and was able to improve twenty positions to claim a ninth place finish, the first top-ten finish of his ASA career.
"Kentucky was a great race for our team. In the first event, we led the event and had a great car before being taken out, but to run from the back to the front like we did, proved that this team despite being underfunded has what it takes to compete with the big boys."
Superspeedways have been Hendren Motorsports strength this season. Heading to the 1.54 mile quad-oval of AMS, Unzicker believes this is time to shine, especially in front of NASCAR's best.
"Atlanta is probably one of the most crucial races for young talent. There are a lot of young guns in this series, including myself. With the NASCAR Busch Series, and NASCAR Nextel Cup Series both competing at the track this weekend, and the owners present, it's an extra incentive to go out there and run good."
"Atlanta is fast. Fast and bad to the bone. I've watched several events from Atlanta Motor Speedway, and I really think I'm going to like it," added the former ARCA RE/MAX Series driver. "You have to be patient on a track like this, and even though we don't have a lot of laps in Friday's night event, we have to keep focused for the first few laps and then make our charge."
Sponsorship has plagued the No. 66 team this season, and once again the Chevrolet Monte Carlo will adore no sponsor logos for the season finale.
"Sponsorship has been our biggest problem this season," explained Ryan. "We were able to attract several one-race deals, but most of the events this season, we haven't had a solid sponsor on the car. This is a good team. We all work hard, we all have what it takes to get the job done, if we could just get some financial backing, I know we could take this team to the front in a hurry."
Ending the season with a good finish would propel that sponsorship hunt, and Unzicker knows it. "This is a performing sport. There's no doubt about that. If we can go out there and run better than some of the other teams that have funding, it only aids our chances of landing a sponsor."
Unzicker currently sits 27th in the American Speed Association National Points standings. With a good finish in the World Financial Group 150, a gain in the standings would mean a lot to the rookie driver.
"If we can close our season in the top-25 in points, I would be happy. The Hendren Motorsports team has been able to pull together through some rough outings this season, but a good finish this weekend and a climb in the standings would give us a chance to start the 2005 season on the right foot."
The Hendren Motorsports team looks to return to the American Speed Association in 2005 eyeing a full season. "The American Speed Association is a great series. We run everything from short tracks to superspeedways. It's a very competitive series, and we look forward to a very productive 2005 season."
The World Financial Group 150 is the 14th and final event on the 2004 American Speed Association season. Practice, and qualifying are on tap Thursday, October 28th, 2004 with the 60 lap/92.40 miles feature set for Friday, October 29th, 2004 shortly after 9:00 PM EST.
For further information on the event, please visit the American Speed Association website - - www.asaracing.com
For more input on driver Ryan Unzicker, and Team Hendren Motorsports, please logon to their website www.teamhendrenmotorsports.com