John Salemi Frustrated With South Boston's Last Lap Wreck South Boston, Va. (June 2, 2007) - John Salemi was having a good race at South Boston Speedway, the short track that was the site of the fourth NASCAR Grand National Division, Busch East...
John Salemi Frustrated With South Boston's Last Lap Wreck
South Boston, Va. (June 2, 2007) - John Salemi was having a good race at South Boston Speedway, the short track that was the site of the fourth NASCAR Grand National Division, Busch East Series race of the season. He had overcome a minor mechanical problem in practice to post the 23rd-best qualifying speed, and in the race he stayed on the lead lap and was heading for a top-fifteen finish. But he was spun out coming to take the white flag and stopped at the entrance to the first turn. As the field came around to take the checkers, the caution never waved and the crossed the start/finish line at full speed. The inevitable pileup claimed eight cars and left the family-owned John Salemi Racing team now has a car that needs significant repairs before it can return to the track.
Salemi entered the South Boston race with high hopes as his No. 63 Chevrolet was displaying new sponsorship from Design Engineering's Radiator Relief and EastSeries.com, joining existing sponsors Milwaukee Tools, Express Signs and Daddy's Hot Sauce. Practice found the team struggling with an engine problem that wound up being a broken gasket on the carburetor's float bowl. This was discovered and repaired with just a few minutes to go in practice, which left the team guessing at a qualifying setup. The result was a 23rd place starting spot.
"It's not the first time I've had to go qualify one of these things with no practice," Salemi said before the race.
Salemi, from Nashua, New Hampshire, began the race with the mission of getting his second straight top-fifteen finish after finishing his previous race, at Iowa Speedway, twelfth. His car needed work at South Boston, though, and he pitted for adjustments under a lap 57 caution and that was the last time he would need a pit stop. As the race went on, he continued making progress towards the front of the field. He had made it to fourteenth for the final restart with four laps to go, but it was problems coming to take the white flag with one lap to go that spelled trouble for Salemi.
"I got bounced around in turn three but kept it going and didn't bring out a caution," he said. "I was going down the front straight and out of nowhere comes another car and the next thing you know I'm zig-zagging down the straight and spin to a stop in turn one. I figured I'd be all right, I didn't hit anything. But here come cars heading right for me and I realize they're not going to throw the yellow, and the next thing you know there's a pileup.
"What can you say? They needed to throw the caution," Salemi continued. "I'm just glad that nobody got hurt. You don't want to put the blame on any one person, but the yellow had to come out. This is why they don't race back to the caution. Everyone here tonight was racing to the checkers and this could have been prevented. Now I have a race car to fix and so do a lot of other people because they never threw the yellow. It really hurts to run a good race and have it all taken away with a preventable last-lap wreck. It hurts my sponsors, it hurts my family, and it hurts my crew, but we're not the only ones who are going through this tonight. I just feel for everybody else who was involved.
"There's nothing worse than being stopped on the racetrack and there's no caution while cars are coming at you at full speed," he said.
Salemi moved quickly to get ready for the next race, which is at Stafford (Conn.) Motor Speedway on Friday night. He left from the track to go to Mooresville, North Carolina. He stripped the damaged nose off the car in the driveway of Jeff Spraker's shop while Dale Quarterley found someone to put a new nose on. John will fly home only to return to North Carolina on Wednesday to pick up the repaired car and bring it back to the team's New Hampshire shop.
"I hope I have time to paint it," he said. He also expressed his gratitude to Quarterley and his entire team for their hard work both at the shop and at the track to keep racing.
"We're not going to give up," he said.