(Middletown, IN) - Throughout a frustrating first part of the 2001 season where being forced into crashes and mechanical difficulties have been the norm, driver Aaron Pierce and the Sam Pierce Chevrolet Racing Team have persevered and are still in...
(Middletown, IN) - Throughout a frustrating first part of the 2001 season where being forced into crashes and mechanical difficulties have been the norm, driver Aaron Pierce and the Sam Pierce Chevrolet Racing Team have persevered and are still in heavy contention for the NAMARS Championship Midget Car Series title, holding on to second place in that fight.
Finished: 34th (more drivers were credited with starting than original 33 due to crash before first green flag and cars not starting at all)
Reason Out: Aaron was involved in a crash when the driver on the inside of his row (he started on the outside of a 3-wide row) clipped a tire en route to the initial green flag to start the race. That driver subsequently sandwiched Aaron between him and the wall, ending Aaron's night with a severely damaged car before he even started the race. Aaron was uninjured
"NAMARS 500" FEATURE RESULTS (relief driver in parenthesis, if used):
1) Travis Miniea; 2) Michael Lang; 3) Matt Westfall; 4) Teddy Beach (Cole Carter); 5) John Heydenreich; 6) Gregg Cory; 7) Scott Thoman; 8) Brad Paris; 9) Kris Deckard (Travis Young); 10) Billy Wease; 11) Brad Kuhn; 12) Charles Buschor; 13) Rex Norris; 14) Brice Kenyon; 15) Matt Maners; 16) Rick Treadway; 17) Courtney Kirts (Shane Hollingsworth); 18) Mike Nigh; 19) Tony Elliott; 20) Dusty Reed; 21) John Mount; 22) Jeff Leonard; 23) Andy Anderson; 24) Jason Burgess; 25) Thomas Briggs; 26) Bobby Smith; 27) Travis Welpott' 28) David Fuhrman; 29) Daryl Campbell; 30) Tony Reed; 31) Adam Nuetzel; 32) AJ Felker; 33) Jerry Frickman; 34) Aaron Pierce (forced into accident before green flag); 35) Mel Kenyon; 36) Kyle Burch
NAMARS CHAMPIONSHIP MIDGET SERIES POINT STANDING: 2nd (-81)
NAMARS REGIONAL MIDGET SERIES POINT STANDING: 5th (-102)
Talk about your day leading up to and including the NAMARS 500?
"The whole day was a pretty stressful one for my team and me. We planned to get to the track about an hour before the driver's meeting, but while picking up our car from our engine builders, we found a problem that needed to be fixed before we could race. The problem ended up being much bigger than we anticipated, and before we knew it, we were there all afternoon and were in jeopardy of missing the start of the NAMARS 500. I was in contact with NAMARS at the Speedrome, and they knew what was going on, but no one knew exactly when we would get done with our repairs. We ended up pulling into the pit area at the Speedrome less than a half hour before the start of the race, and had to really hustle to get the trailer parked, unload, get the fuel in and tires on, and get the car and me out to the grid on time - but we did it. After I was parked in the infield for the opening ceremonies, I felt fine. It was just like another race day for me. We got in our cars, did the pace laps, and I was ready to race for 500 laps. Then the green flew as we came out of turn four, and before I knew it, I was into the wall just before the start/finish line - we didn't even get to make one lap in the race. I guess Daryl Campbell (who started on the inside of Aaron's row - row 3 - with Bobby Smith in the middle and Aaron on the outside) just clipped the tire barrier coming out of four down to the green flag, and he got into the middle guy, who got tossed around, then Daryl ended up eventually getting into me pretty hard, sandwiching me against the wall. The car was really damaged, and I was pretty hot at the time - lots of adrenalin along with a frustrating day made me hop out of the car pretty quick and go to the pits. Well, you're supposed to stay in your car if you pull into the infield or have an accident, so I had to go back out and stay with my car until they brought it into the pits on a forklift. It was just a shame, because I think that car was a winner, and I sure was ready to race - I think we would have had a chance to do really well in that race. I left pretty quickly from the track, but I hear it was a good race - I just wish I could have been a part of it. Our team took a few days off to regroup, and I think we should be back on track for this weekend's dirt race in Lawrenceburg. I know I'm really looking forward to it after not being able to race last week."
You have experienced many frustrating race days this year - how have you handled that frustration?
"Yeah, it sure has been a frustrating start to the year. It seems like it's a different problem each time we race, so it's hard to correct. Mainly, I think we've just hit on a really big streak of bad luck, and boy, am I ready for it to end. It's gotta end sometime soon - no one can have this much bad luck! The way I try to handle things when they don't go quite like I had hoped is to try and forget about it as quickly as possible - unless there's something I can do about it right there on the spot, there's no use getting mad at my crew or the sanctioning body or anyone else. I try to analyze what happened, figure out a way to avoid having it happen again, and go on to the next race. That's about all I can do. And, of course, hope that the bad luck finds someone else to bother next week. Thankfully, though, the crashes - none of which have been our fault - and the mechanical problems, have not hurt us as much as I had thought they would. We are still second in the NAMARS National point standings, so if we can get back on track in the next race or two, we should be fine."
Your team elected to take this past weekend off to regroup and focus on some NAMARS National events coming up. What are your thoughts leading up to the NAMARS Pavement Triple Crown next week (races at the Indianapolis (IN) Speedrome, Shadybowl Speedway in Degraff, Ohio, and Columbus (OH) Motor Speedway)? How will you prepare for those three consecutive events?
"I'm really looking forward to the races next week. The tracks that make up the Pavement Triple Crown are some of the strongest tracks I run on, and I really feel confident on all of them. I've won at the Speedrome twice, won at Shadybowl, one of my all-time favorite tracks, and I came in second in Columbus earlier this year. I might have been able to win that one, too, if we could have had a stretch of 10 green flag laps - my car was really good there. We're second in points to (Travis) Miniea, and he's pretty good on both pavement and dirt, but we just might have him covered with those three races coming up. I'm hoping to be able to come out of those races with the points lead, or at least be fairly close to it. If the bad luck that's been plaguing me all year stays away, we should be fine."
After the Pavement Triple Crown, you originally had on your schedule to travel with the USAC National Midget tour to Lincoln, NE, then onto the treacherous Belleville Highbanks for the legendary "Midget Nationals" event. Are those events still on your schedule?
"We have to go through some pretty strenuous race weekends before that, and a couple of really big NAMARS shows. I'd love to run both Lincoln and Belleville, and still hope I can, but I think I want to wait to see how we do in the next few weeks before I make a commitment to go to such a big race as Belleville. That's one of the biggest Midget shows of the year, and I really want to win it one day, so if I can get there this year and feel that I can be competitive, I'll sure try to go. But at this point, because I'm kind of in a battle for NAMARS points, those races have to take precedence."
After Belleville, the NAMARS group heads into a heavy concentration of dirt races on their national schedule. Three tough races in Wisconsin await you the second week into August. You just traveled to Wisconsin for a couple of co-sanctioned events on those same tracks with the BMARA last weekend - how did your weekend go there at Hales Corners Speedway and Angell Park Speedway?
"That was a fun weekend, although we didn't make either of the shows at Hales Corners or Angell Park (in Sun Prairie, WI). I had never been to Hales Corners at all, and I had only been to Sun Prairie once, so they were both basically new tracks for me. And I don't have a whole lot of experience on dirt, anyway. We only got a couple of hot laps at Hales Corners, so I had little time to figure out not only the dirt part, but the dry/slick part, which happened even in our hot lap session. I didn't qualify well at all, and had to run basically a C Main, but never even got past that point because we broke a brake rotor hat, so I was out for the night. We fixed the part before the night was done, but it wasn't in time to race any more. Oh well, I learned a lot there. My daughter, Paige, turned one year old the next day, so I made arrangements to get back to my house in Muncie (Indiana) for Saturday, then I had to return to Wisconsin for Sunday's Sun Prairie show. It was hectic, but I wasn't going to miss my baby's first birthday - I was really glad to be there with all of my family and friends. It really helped put into perspective what is turning out to be a very frustrating year for me. When I got back to Angell Park Speedway (in Sun Prairie, WI), my crew had prepared the car for the night, so we only had to make a few small adjustments and we were ready to race. Angell Park is one of the toughest dirt tracks around, but it's a really fun track, too. I was really looking forward to my second time there. Our hot lap session didn't go to well, and neither did qualifying. But I was just getting a handle on the track and my car setup, and ended up winning the C Main from the pole - I actually ran really well in that race and was never challenged the whole time. A C Main win is usually not a big deal, but at that place, any checkered flag is special. By winning the C Main, I started in14th spot for the B Main, and they transferred seven out of that race to the A Main. I had gotten used to the track by then, and had a really fast car, and I worked my way up into seventh when I just barely clipped the backstretch wall and turned myself around, putting me out of the race for the night. That was frustrating, but I actually felt pretty good after it was all over with because I had really learned a lot from the night. I think when we go back there in August I'll be fine, and should be able to race with the best of them by then. I may try to sneak up there a time or two before that and have a bit more fun, though. I really like that track, and the fans are some of the best in the country. What a great place to race!"
Then after that stint northward to the Badger state comes one of the biggest weeks of the year for you running for points in the NAMARS series - the Indiana Five Crown Nationals (five points-paying dirt races on consecutive nights in Indiana, held in North Vernon, Lawrenceburg, Gas City, Bloomington and Putnamville). What is your strategy heading into that series? What is your confidence level going into those races knowing you do not have a whole lot of experience on dirt yet? What are your expectations for this event? Who will be your biggest competition? What would it mean to emerge from that series with the NAMARS point lead again?
"Both my confidence level and expectations for the dirt portion of my schedule are going up. A lot of that has to do with what I learned during our last Wisconsin trip. I know I still have a whole lot to learn, but I feel I'm getting the hang of running on dirt finally. I've only competed in about 10 dirt shows during my entire career, so overall I feel like I'm making good progress. Obviously, on dirt or pavement, I've got to keep an eye on current points leader Travis Miniea, as well as Teddy Beach - he's really coming on strong this summer. A.J. Davis, who led the points for a while, is really good, but he's only got a pavement program, so during this dirt portion of the schedule, he's going to kind of fall off a bit. I'd love to lead the point standings again. That was a really good feeling at the beginning of this year knowing that I was the guy to beat every week. I'd sure like to be in that position again, and believe me, our whole team is working toward that goal."
How would you assess your year so far?
"Looking at it from the outside, it doesn't look very good. But there's still a whole lot we can take from what has happened and look at it from a positive angle. Number one, I've won a race already. Two, I led the points for a while and I've only dropped to second recently, so we're sure not out of the championship picture yet. Three, the things that have been happening have been more based on bad luck than anything we've caused, which means we should pull out of this slump soon - at least I hope. Four, I've learned a lot, and have improved my knowledge and, hopefully, my skill in every race or test I've competed in. If I don't learn, then I'm going backwards, so by taking the things that have gone wrong and learn from them, I still feel like I'm going forward. And, I don't want to forget that I've also got an awesome group of guys around me on my crew who have really supported me all year. They are some of the hardest working guys I've been around, and I really appreciate all of the dedication they've shown me and the team throughout the first part of the season. So overall, I'd say that this year has been a bit frustrating as far as our finishes, but the picture is still a good one and I know that the last half of the year will be really great once we can get away from some of this bad luck we've been having."