Salem, IN (Wednesday, September 17th, 2003) - - ARCA RE/MAX Series rookie Ryan Unzicker (Un-zick-er) headed to the fast and furious track of Salem Speedway this past weekend hoping to make an impression on the tour, in his first asphalt ...
Salem, IN (Wednesday, September 17th, 2003) - - ARCA RE/MAX Series rookie Ryan Unzicker (Un-zick-er) headed to the fast and furious track of Salem Speedway this past weekend hoping to make an impression on the tour, in his first asphalt start.
Ryan, a native of El Paso Illinois was attempting to make his third ARCA RE/MAX Series start, as he raced earlier this year from the dirt tracks of Springfield and DuQuoin.
At Springfield after starting 20th, the current street stock driver finished a career best sixth in the No. 56 Jan Gibson-Bill Hendren Racing Chevrolet.
Starting 16th at DuQuoin a few events back engine problems caused Ryan from once again finishing in the top ten, however the rookie was able to round up a solid finish of 17th
Needless to say, heading into the weekend Ryan knew it was a whole new ball game.
"I've never raced on the asphalt, and I knew I had a lot to learn in a short period of time, but I had great people like the Hendrens, Bob Strait and Mark Gibson who were giving me pointers throughout the day."
In the first practice session that started shortly after 1:00 PM with Ryan making his first laps around the . 555 mile speedway. Ryan was able to whip his No. 66 Emlen Transport/Race Logistics Chevrolet around the track in 19.060 seconds equaling a speed of 104.827 MPH, which was 26th fastest on the board.
"The car is fast, but I think the driver is a little off right now," said the driver after practice. "This entire team has put a spectacular car together and it will just take a matter of me becoming comfortable and I think we'll be ready to go," he continued.
Time Trials looked better for the rookie. He posted the 25th quickest lap after driving around Salem in 18.862 seconds or 105.927 MPH. "We picked up that's the main thing, we picked up some time which is good and I am getting more comfortable with the track, everything is working into our favor, we now just need some luck on our side," said Ryan.
The 35 drivers took the green flag shortly after 8:15pm EST, with Unzicker making his march towards the front. Racing was intense and fierce right from the start, with beating and banging between other drivers, certainly giving the fans their money's worth.
The first caution waved around lap thirty with a spin by the No. 50 of Brad Payne. Ryan reported to the crew he was using patience and battling a little bit of a loose condition on his Chevrolet Monte Carlo.
Racing resumed a few laps later giving the driver another opportunity to head to the front. The competition once again became intense, keeping the fans on their feet instead of in their seats.
Another caution a few laps later brought the opportunity to put new tires and fuel on the Hendren Motorsports Chevrolet. The teams reminded their driver that he was doing a good job, but continue to be patience and gain as many positions as possible.
While Unzicker was never a factor for the lead, the driver was solid, using patience, avoiding wrecks, and using good judgment the driver would cross the line 12th for his second best finish of his young ARCA RE/MAX Series race career.
"It was a great race, I know I learned a lot tonight and I think I'll be more prepared for our next race on asphalt," he said climbing for his machine.
"Racing here at Salem Speedway, is a lot different compared to racing on the dirt, you have to keep your eyes open and keep your concentration all the time, one mistake and you could be in the garage," he added.
Unzicker, 22 knew that he would not have been able to compete in the race if he did not have the entire Hendren Motorsports team behind him. "I cannot say enough about this team, they are great, they believed in me and we brought the car home in one piece, hopefully we'll be able to do some more ARCA racing soon."
At this point, Ryan is keeping his options open for next season. "I would like to compete in ARCA, or ASA, but it all depends on sponsorship at this point," he spoke.
Hendren Motorsports will return to the ARCA RE/MAX Series at Talladega Superspeedway as the will be pitting the machine of Tony Ave.