Vanderwyst guides Exide Pontiac to 9th at Kawartha. ST. THOMAS, ON - Pete Vanderwyst and the Exide Pontiac team fought hard for their ninth-place finish at Kawartha Speedway on Sunday afternoon. The St. Thomas, ON racer started 10th and came...
Vanderwyst guides Exide Pontiac to 9th at Kawartha.
ST. THOMAS, ON - Pete Vanderwyst and the Exide Pontiac team fought hard for their ninth-place finish at Kawartha Speedway on Sunday afternoon. The St. Thomas, ON racer started 10th and came home one position better, on the lead lap, in the next-to-last CASCAR Super Series race of the 2002 season.
"I'm pretty happy... for once, we didn't have any flat tires," joked Vanderwyst, after the race. In recent outings, the Exide team has seen several top finishes slip through their fingers, late in race, because of tire troubles.
The one-day event was CASCAR's second-ever trip to the Peterborough, ON-area oval. Like many of the teams, the Exide bunch worked hard throughout the morning practice sessions to find an optimal setup for qualifying, as well as for the 200-lap feature race. Last year's inaugural event at Kawartha was just 150 laps.
"We struggled a bit in practice, just trying to find a good setup. We made quite a few changes to the car prior to qualifying. We were 20th fastest in practice and were still looking for a good line through the corners. We ended up qualifying 10th, which we were pretty happy with. After that, we just tried to set the car up so it would be good for a long run."
Vanderwyst characterized the pre-race handling changes to the Exide Pontiac as being "drastic". After the green flag flew to start the main event, the changes appeared to be a little too drastic, and the team pitted during the first caution, after dropping several positions in the first segment of the race.
"At the beginning of the race, we found ourselves dropping back quite a bit because we'd tightened the car up too much. So on our stop, at the first caution, we came in put a bit more stagger into it." The changes worked immediately, as the #99 Exide Pontiac started to progress through the running order.
"The changes brought us into the top 10, where we ran with the leaders to the halfway point of the race. We were just biding our time, avoiding the accidents." Although running within the top 10, the top three drivers - Scott Steckly, Don Thomson and Peter Gibbons - were measurably quicker than the rest of the field. On a few occasions, Vanderwyst had to push hard to avoid being lapped.
"Gibbons was breathing down my neck a few times, but I was given a reprieve by John Fitzpatrick's scary crash. Fortunately, he ended up being OK. That was a bit of a break for us, but we'd been working pretty hard to keep Pete behind us and on the lead lap. We're usually pretty good at that, for whatever reason."
And then again, with just a few laps to go, Vanderwyst found himself in danger of being lapped by defending Super Series champion and current points leader Don Thomson. "With about two laps to go, Thomson [who won the race, ahead of Al Turner and Ron Beauchamp] was right up behind me, and I was going to make him go around me if he wanted to pass. The outside lane just had so much garbage that it was hard for anyone to get any bite, so he got loose and that put an end to that." Vanderwyst continued, "The guys gave me some great pit stops when we were in, and we came home ninth, on the lead lap. I'm proud of the guys on the crew for their work today and I'm happy to post a good finish for everyone at Exide."
NEXT RACE: The CASCAR Super Series' final race events of the season takes place on the last weekend of September. 'The Great Canadian Race Weekend' will actually feature two full points races; the Twin 100 Qualifying Sprint Races, as well as the 300 lap 'Great Canadian Race' on Sunday, September 29. Looking ahead to the final races of the season, Vanderwyst is planning to be ready for victory. "We've got a bit of time now to regroup and hopefully do a bit of testing to get ready for the last weekend at Delaware. The goal there will be to have a good run and to score a win. Exide deserves a win so badly for their support of us, and so does this team. We're going to try our best to get the engine and chassis where they need to be to do just that."