Patrick Sheltra Rides Rollercoaster All the Way to Pococo LONG POND PA (6-1-09) - From the penalty box to Pocono Raceway, Patrick Sheltra has gone from the lowest of lows to the highest of highs in 2009, and a few places in between. Sheltra,...
Patrick Sheltra Rides Rollercoaster All the Way to Pococo
LONG POND PA (6-1-09) - From the penalty box to Pocono Raceway, Patrick Sheltra has gone from the lowest of lows to the highest of highs in 2009, and a few places in between.
Sheltra, on disciplinary probation for the remainder of the 2009 season for an on-track incident at Toledo Speedway, is wide open headed to Pocono Raceway for the Pocono ARCA 200 Saturday, June 6.
"We'll just put it behind us; what else can we do?" asked Sheltra, during a break at the Michigan Int'l Speedway open test.
Sheltra is a favorite to win the ARCA RE/MAX Series championship in 2009, but after a rollercoaster of a ride in 2009, the Indiantown, Florida driver finds himself sixth in championship points with six of 21 events in the books.
"Honestly, I'm not even looking at points right now. I'm going out to win races, period. After what happened at Toledo, it just makes me want to drive harder. I'm not here to play."
Sheltra is referring to a last-lap incident at Toledo involving himself, Paul Menard and Craig Goess. While Menard still finished fourth, Goess destroyed his car after he bounced off the fourth turn wall coming to the checkered flag. Sheltra, who was already several laps down, limped back into the pit area.
Two days following the race, ARCA officials handed down the ruling: fined $500 and placed on probation for the remainder of the 2009 season for retaliatory driving.
"Five-hundred dollar fine and probation for the rest of the year. I was not happy about that, and I certainly don't agree with it. As I've said all along, there was nothing intentional up there. My left-front tire was flat; and I was doing all I could to stay with it. The last thing on my mind was wrecking someone."
To be sure, Sheltra, more than likely, had enough already of wrecking for the year. Running third inside of 10 laps to go in the Daytona season opener, Sheltra and series point leader Justin Lofton came together entering turn three. The result was a horrific crash off the fourth turn involving Sheltra, Larry Hollenbeck and Frank Kimmel while Lofton motored on. Sheltra destroyed his car in total and suffered a compression fracture in his vertebrae. His promising season was now in doubt and subject to his doctor's orders.
"I don't remember much of the accident and that's probably a good thing," added the 22-year-old driver. "Thankfully we have great safe racecars and all of the safety equipment did its job and that's why I'm here and able to race again."
Less than one month later, doctors cleared Sheltra to drive; so he wasted no time climbing right back in the car for a Rockingham test in mid-March. That was miraculous enough, but it was what was about to happen at Salem Speedway that shot the 'miraculousomometer' reading through the roof.
Sheltra, in his first race back since the big crash, stunned the audience on the challenging Salem short-track where he manhandled his Buffalo Wings & Rings Dodge through a series of close calls, wall-bangers and top contenders to earn his career-first series victory in convincing fashion. By all accounts, it was an impressive performance.
"It's definitely been a rollercoaster ride; there's really no other way to put it. From the wreck at Daytona to the winner's circle at Salem, it was the perfect deal for our guys. It felt good; I can tell you that."
With a new head of steam, Sheltra blew into Rockingham Speedway with the right attitude and rode out the back gate with a solid second place finish. With that, Sheltra climbed right back to the top in points headed to one of his favorite tracks - Talladega Superspeedway, where he nearly won at the year before.
Then the motor blew up.
"The speedways have not been too good to us, and that's what's so aggravating. We have one of the best speedway programs in this series right now. Love running those tracks, we just don't have the finishes lately to show what we're capable of."
The Sheltra Motorsports team finished a respectable sixth in the next event at Kentucky Speedway just prior to their ordeal at Toledo where they finished a dismal 29th, 69 laps down.
"We got spun by the 98 (Menard) on lap 46, and spent all those laps behind the wall fixing it. But we knew we had to get back out to make some points."
For a guy who finished second at Toledo the year before, the result was disappointing to say the least.
And there you have it - up-to-date with Sheltra, who's headed to one of his favorite tracks on tour next - Pocono Raceway.
"I love Pocono. We've always run really good there; we've just always had bad luck there. Last year, the motor blew up in one, and the transmission got us in the first race. Gonna be different this time not shifting. I'd rather shift personally; it's not as hard on the brakes."
No worries - Sheltra's not one to spend a lot of time leaning on the brake pedal anyway. He's more of a gas pedal man. He's also a man on a mission, and completely revved up for the rest of the season.
In preparation for Pocono, the Sheltra Motorsports team, along with a couple dozen other drivers, tested at Michigan Int'l Speedway Wednesday afternoon. It was also at Michigan where Sheltra tested a Toyota for the first time.
"We just gotta get our car right, then we'll be good to go. Right now, our Dodge is faster than the Toyota, so I don't know. We plan to run the Dodge at Pocono."
On-track activity for the Pocono ARCA 200 starts Friday, June 5 with practice from 10:15 AM to 11:55 AM. Menards Pole Qualifying presented by Ansell follows at 1:45 PM. The Pocono ARCA 200 kicks off Saturday afternoon, June 6 at 1:00 PM and will be televised same-day on SPEED at 8:30 PM.