"Salem Carnage" Hurts Ryan Mathews' Bid for Top-Five After Strong Qualifying Effort, Young Driver Is Victim of Short Track Mayhem DENVER, NC (SEPTEMBER 18, 2006) -- This season, Ryan Mathews has been one of the breakout stars of the ARCA ...
"Salem Carnage" Hurts Ryan Mathews' Bid for Top-Five
After Strong Qualifying Effort, Young Driver Is Victim of Short Track Mayhem
DENVER, NC (SEPTEMBER 18, 2006) -- This season, Ryan Mathews has been one of the breakout stars of the ARCA RE/MAX Series. He has run in the top-five and top-10 in most of his starts in his rookie season. In fact, he even competed for wins at tracks such as Kansas Speedway and The Milwaukee Mile. While he has become a strong competitor on the speedways of ARCA, Mathews' background prior to 2006 was on the short tracks of the Upper Midwest. Mathews knew that action is never too far away on the bullrings, and wherever there is action, there is potential for disaster.
So when Mathews and the number-22 Dodge team for Eddie Sharp Racing rolled into the half-mile Salem Speedway (IN) last weekend for the Eddie Gilstrap Motors ARCA Fall Classic, they had hopes for a strong finish, but they also knew that the key to success was to stay out of harm's way. Mathews ran second in the early part of Saturday night's race, but found himself a victim of the short track mayhem, and that ruined his bid for a top-five finish. Instead, Mathews brought the ESR Dodge home in 12th.
"We had a good run going at Salem, running up front for early on," said Mathews. "My car started getting looser and I started falling back. We got a caution and the guys tightened the car up. We had a pretty good car after that, but we weren't at the front of the field anymore when all the Salem carnage began. I missed quite a bit of it, but I did get involved in two melees. We stayed on the lead lap, but got a little body damage. It was nothing that caused any problems, but it cost us some track position."
Since he had raced his Super Late Model on tracks similar to Salem for years before his first season in ARCA, the 26-year-old Mathews knew there was still a job to do to get back to the front. It wasn't going to be easy, but he started his charge back to the front of the field after earlier incidents forced him near the rear. With determination, Mathews almost got back to where he was running before the incidents, but more misfortune was ahead.
"We finally got back up there to seventh at the very end. They started crashing and checking up coming off two, and I went low to clear it. I was shooting by on the low side and an out-of-control car came down in the middle and somehow tagged me in the right-rear. I was spinning into someone else. That banged up the car and killed our track position with just a few laps to go. The car couldn't turn after that, so I just hung on to finish the race.
"It's pretty hard to pass there (Salem). About the only way to advance at that place is to avoid the cautions. If I could've made it through that carnage at the end, we would've wound up fourth, but that didn't happen. That was about my only shot to get back into the top-five at the end, so I had to go for it."
Perhaps the highlight of the weekend was the young driver's qualifying effort. After using the practice session on Friday to get himself and the number-22 car used to the racetrack, Mathews went out for Pork Pole Qualifying hoping for a solid starting spot, but wound up with a lap that placed him on the outside of the front row.
"I had never been there, so I was just trying to get acclimated to the track in practice. I was pretty comfortable with what I had for qualifying. I thought I could get in the top-10 and maybe the top-five in qualifying, but I was actually a little surprised that I ended up with the outside pole. The frustrating part was that we were so close to getting the pole, but we didn't get it. It would've been nice to get one of those before the year was out."