USAR: Lakeland CS: Derek Kale race report

KALE WINS ROOKIE OF THE YEAR From Pole Position to Bruised Ribs, Teamwork and Determination Prevail LAKELAND, FL., November 28, 2006 -- Derek Kale stepped off a wild roller coaster ride Saturday holding the ...

KALE WINS ROOKIE OF THE YEAR
From Pole Position to Bruised Ribs, Teamwork and Determination Prevail

LAKELAND, FL., November 28, 2006 -- Derek Kale stepped off a wild roller coaster ride Saturday holding the Miller Lite Hooters Pro Cup Series Rookie of the Year trophy. Kale won the Advance Auto Parts Pole Award for the last race of the season and led the first 64 laps but hit the wall due to damage from an earlier incident. Kale returned to the race almost 40 laps down but recovered enough ground to hold on to the Rookie Championship by two points.

Kale headed into Lakeland with one goal to get a solid top ten finish. "We were not the fastest car in practice. I think we were around 11th quick," said Kale. "At the end of my first lap of qualifying I saw the timing clock at 22 [seconds] and knew I had to make a bonsai attempt to get us in the top ten. I didn't expect we would get the pole."

The 21-year-old Kale, kept the car out front for the first 64 laps of the race. "I have never led that many laps before and I had to keep myself calm and act like I was out there by myself," commented Kale. "It was early in the race and I didn't want to make any mistakes."

On lap 154, the caution flag came out and Kale began slowing down with the rest of the field when he was tapped from behind and turned sideways by driver J. J. Pack. Kale was able to keep it off the wall but damage still required the attention of the No. 22 Heritage Equipment Inc, Rhino Linings, ALFAB Trailers, Laughlin Performance, Gaerte Engines team. Two quick pit stops were made under the caution so Kale could continue on the lead lap.

Kale knew that a continuing vibration from the incident was likely going to be his demise. On lap 168, Kale's right front tire blew and sent him hard into the wall. Kale at first joined the team, working on the car's damage, but soon found he was physically ill from both the crash and the nerves of racing for the Rookie title. While the track physician's attended to Kale the team feverishly repaired the broken track bar, replaced the front suspension, fixed the alignment and put the exhaust system back in place. Kale was released from care with only bruised ribs and the car was ready to race.

Returning to the race close to forty laps down, Kale focused on making laps. "The team did a great job getting the car to point in the right direction," said Kale. "We were actually getting down the straights as quick as anyone. I kept it on the bottom and tried to stay out of the way. We knew the Rookie points were close and we needed all the positions we could get."

Once the checkered flag fell the day's tension wasn't over for Kale. "The officials had me and the No. 65 car [Dange Hanniford] sit on pit road while they checked the scoring. I didn't figure we had a chance so it was a bit shocking, and at the same time, a relief to hear we won it."

Kale is the first in his family to chase a career in motor sports. His father Gary always wanted to drive but like many, he couldn't afford the costs. Now he helps his son chase after the dream. "Winning Rookie of the Year is a way I can repay my family for all the time and money they have given me to get this far," commented Kale. "They have made a lot of sacrifices."

Kale finished 13th in the overall points standings and has plans to compete again in next years USAR Hooters Pro Cup Series with his Laughlin team. "This year has had so many ups and downs. It has been a real roller coaster ride. We have a great group of people that work well together and deserve this Rookie Championship."

-credit: RaceCorp Sports Management

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