NGK Spark Plugs 100, USRA Super Late Models @ Texas Motor Speedway, 6/11/05 Fort Worth, Tx. The USRA Super Late Models made their fifth trip back to 1.5 mile Texas Motor Speedway for the NGK Spark Plugs 100. The series has also competed once on...
NGK Spark Plugs 100, USRA Super Late Models @ Texas Motor Speedway, 6/11/05
Fort Worth, Tx. The USRA Super Late Models made their fifth trip back to 1.5 mile Texas Motor Speedway for the NGK Spark Plugs 100. The series has also competed once on the 1.2 mile road course in 2001, for the Golden Corral 160, the first road course race in the history of the USRA(ROMCO) series. Three former TMS race champions returned to the high-banked facility in search of their second TMS trophy, Michael Crofford(June 2004), Robert Richardson(April 2004) and Greg Davidson(June 2003).
During the only practice on Friday, Michael Crofford posted the fastest lap, touring the circuit at 37.566 seconds at 143.747 MPH. Kent Baltzell and Thad Felton turned the only other laps in the 37 second range. USRA officials and drivers, held a meeting to discuss some minor rules adjustments in hopes of increasing speeds and closing the gap in times for closer competition. A new aero-package was put in effect, changing the grill opening and spoiler angle.
"We are making these adjustments to help improve the racing," said series owner, Terry Dickerson. "This race is a chance for our drivers to shine. We want the race to be as competitive and exciting as possible. We are looking for the cars to reach a top speed of around 150 MPH."
Crofford, again, was the fastest in the first practice on Saturday morning, bettering his time and speed to 37.317 @ 144.706 MPH. T. Wade Welch, defending series champion, Bradley Riethmeyer, Jason Young and Tuffy Hudson added their names to list of drivers to break the 37 second barrier. Robert Richardson, who flew back from an NASCAR Elite Southeast Series event, but did not make practice, due to the changes being made on his car.
Saturday's final practice saw Welch, who crashed hard in the June 2004 while leading, set the best time putting up a lap of 37.454 @ 144.177 MPH. Crofford, Riethmeyer, Felton and Richardson were the remainder of the five fastest
Welch, would then set the standard during qualifying with a top lap of 37.632 @ 143.514. Welch drives the Dish Network/School of Automotive Machinists/DB Motorsports/Magnolia Paint & Body/Hamke Chassis/Chevy Monte Carlo. Engines are built and provided by Judson Massengale, Northwest Engines and the School of Automotive Machinists in Houston, a vocational school for kids that want to learn how to build high performance engines.
On his fast lap Welch said, "I've got to thank my engine builder, Judson Massengale, who got us a strong motor. Denny Burton and the rest of the crew, thrashed on it after getting here late last night. We won't change anything for the race, just run it the way it qualified."
"We led the first 46 laps last year and got taken out by a lap car. So we're basically back with the same set up, a stronger motor and a lot of hard work. The only thing I'm worried about is looking for lap cars. When I come up on them, I'll look for different ways to get around them. Last year I should have lifted, but I thought the guys spotter would tell him I was there. He just didn't realize the closure rate was that fast here."
During post qualifying tech, three cars in the top five would be forced to make alterations and start at the tail of the 19 car field. Robert Richardson and JC Umscheid both had issues with rear deck lid template, while Thad Felton's car had a track width that was too wide.
Welch Sweeps Weekend at TMS
With the field starting straight up, Welch and Ralph Burris would lead the group to green in the 67 lap/100 mile event. Welch was first into turn 1, while Felton and Umscheid hooked up to charge forward through the pack, moving into sixth and seventh by the end of lap 1. Welch and Crofford got away from Kent Baltzell, as Burris was hung out on the high side getting passed by Felton, Umscheid and Tuffy Hudson.
The Felton, Umscheid, Hudson train then derailed defending USRA(ROMCO) champion Bradley Riethmeyer blasting by him on lap 2. Richardson moved into the top ten getting past current points leader Tommy Grimes for tenth on lap 3. Baltzell reeled the lead duet back in, pulling Felton, Umscheid, Hudson and Riethmeyer along to make a seven car lead draft.. As the top seven broke away, a good four way battle was going between Burris, Richardson, Heath Stewart and Jason Young.
Richardson got by Burris on the backstretch to grab eighth on lap 8, while the top five began to creep ahead of Hudson and Riethmeyer. Once clear of his battle with Burris, Richardson quickly started to chase down the lead group. Baltzell got inside Crofford on lap 12 to take over second bringing Felton and Umscheid along for the ride. Richardson then caught the Hudson, Riethmeyer pair and made quick work getting by Hudson for seventh.
As the lead group rolled into traffic, Crofford, Felton and Travis Wieden were three wide in the battle for third. Richardson took sixth away from Riethmeyer on lap 15, while Todd McLemore, Sonny Hunt, Jason Smith and Kirby Caldwell had their own scrap going on for twelfth. Baltzell ducked low coming through the dogleg, looking for the lead, as the top four put some space on Umscheid, who was being run down by Richardson.
Back in the field, the fight for twelfth was still going on with Hunt and Caldwell running door to door for two laps. Richardson took fifth away from Umscheid on lap 22, as the lead quartet caught a second four car pack in their own little war. The leaders were again forced to run three abreast through traffic going into turn 3. Riethmeyer retired from the race on lap 21 with problems in the rear gear.
Welch cleared traffic first and had a five car edge over Baltzell and Crofford, but that duo quickly tracked the leader back down. Richardson, continued his march to the front, catching and passing Felton, on the high side, for fourth on lap 28. In the meantime, two separate multi-car fights were going on between Burris, Hudson and Stewart for 6th, while McLemore, Smith, Hunt and Caldwell were still swapping spots 12-15.
At the crossed flags it was Welch, Baltzell, Crofford, Richardson and Felton, with Richardson inching ever closer to the lead trio. Crofford was inside Baltzell for second in turn 4 and through the dogleg, finally clearing for Baltzell for second. Richardson took advantage of the open door and snagged third from Baltzell. Richardson then set his sights on Crofford for second looking low in turn 3. Richardson then moved to the high side as he looked for a way around Welch for the lead.
Crofford then dove back inside Richardson, while Baltzell waited for a mistake close behind in fourth. Richardson fought back in the upper groove getting along side, than by Welch for the top spot on lap 39 to complete his run from the back to the front. Crofford also picked up a spot taking second from Welch, who now found himself trying to hold off Baltzell for third.
Baltzell charged by Welch and moved in on Crofford with that duo running side by side on laps 41 & 42, before Baltzell secured the spot. Baltzell then tried his shot at the lead getting next to Richardson in turns 3-4, with Richardson holding serve at the line. Richardson and Baltzell then began to ease away from Welch, with Crofford falling off the pace and losing ground fast.
Burris, Hudson and Stewart were still at it in their own little world running nose to tail for seventh on lap 45. Crofford was then forced to pit on lap 47, to change right side tires, losing a couple laps in the process. On lap 50, Richardson had a car length on Baltzell who held a full straight-away advantage over Felton. Baltzell took a peek inside Richardson coming to complete lap 51 but was unable to get around.
The race then took a series of odd twists beginning after ten laps to go. Coming through traffic, Richardson appeared to slow for a lapped car and got rear-ended by Baltzell who didn't get whoaed up in time. Richardson got sideways, but hung on as Baltzell backed off to give him the chance to straighten out. But Richardson apparently did damage to the tires as he slowed. This gave Baltzell the chance to grab the lead in turns 3-4.
Before a lap was complete, Richardson spun in turn 4 and slammed the wall hard to bring out the races only yellow. With Baltzell out front, the top three would start nose to tail on the restart with five to go. Welch, Felton and Umscheid all got the best of Baltzell as the green waved again, with Baltzell never officially leading a lap since caution laps weren't counting, and Richardson was shown out front, though not even in the race.
The top five were nose to tail with four laps remaining, but Burris tried to get inside Baltzell, with the two making minor contact, and both losing ground. As the white flag was shown, the top three were separated by a car length, as Baltzell tried to fight back into the top three, but no one was able to make a full scale challenge for position as the Welch snagged the checkers by a car length.
"This was a big win," said the 40 year old regarding his third ever Super Late Model victory. "I used the same set up I did last year and it was. I'm happy to win here. This is definitely a race I've wanted to win. I have a great crew, they brought the car in late last night and worked on it all day today."
USRA Super Late Models
1 13 T Wade Welch (1) Houston
2 29 Thad Felton (18) Channelview
3 52 JC Umscheid (19) Fort Worth
4 19 Kent Baltzell (5) Spring
5 4 Ralph Burris (2) Pearland
6 14 Heath Stewart (10) Del Valle
7 27 Jason Young (8) Magnolia
8 7 Tuffy Hudson (7) Portland
9 51 Michael Crofford (3) Houston
10 70 Sonny Hunt (13) Houston
11 67 Kirby Caldwell (11) Beaumont
12 28 Jason Smith (9) San Antonio
13 22 Tommy Grimes (12) San Antonio
14 03 Travis Wieden (15) Arnett, Okla.
15 04 Cory Roper (14) Vernon
16 33 Robert Richardson (17) McKinney
17 54 Todd McLemore (6) Austin
18 16 Danny Pike (16) Red Oak
19 6 Bradley Riethmeyer (4) Hutto
96 Greg Davidson---DNS(Transmission)
98 Harry Keane---DNS