Brian Hoppe Wins NASCAR Autozone Elite Division, Midwest Series Cellular One 300 at Brainerd Road Course Brainerd, Minnesota (August 22, 2004) -- Brian Hoppe won the NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division, Midwest Series Cellular One 300 presented by...
Brian Hoppe Wins NASCAR Autozone Elite Division, Midwest Series Cellular One 300 at Brainerd Road Course
Brainerd, Minnesota (August 22, 2004) -- Brian Hoppe won the NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division, Midwest Series Cellular One 300 presented by Home Depot, Sunday afternoon at the Brainerd (Minn) International Raceway road course.
"We had fresher tires at the end and I was really able to get a good run off of turn 10," said Hoppe. "Everything worked out just great except for qualifying yesterday; I let my team down."
Hoppe started 17th on the grid but quickly moved to the front. He pitted for four fresh tires on lap 38. After a competition yellow for pitting on lap 40, Hoppe restarted second behind Joey Miller.
Over the final 20 laps, Hoppe and Miller thrilled the fans, swapping the lead five times.
"I could get down into turn one so much better than Brian," said Miller. "But he was able to get me on the back part of the course and off of turn 10.
Miller settled for runner-up honors with Stan Silva, Jr completing the top three.
"Our second set of tires was so much better than the first," said Silva. "We got a run on Joey a couple of times and on the last lap he shut the door on me and I just decided to back off and take my third place."
Midwest Series championship point leader, Justin Diercks, and Ryan Hanson rounded out the top five.
Miller was the Bud Pole fast qualifier and jumped ahead of the field at the drop of the green with Silva, Erik Darnell, Eddie Hoffman, Steve Carlson and Tim Schendel giving chase.
Most of the front runners were content to let Miller and Silva set the pace as attrition figured to play a huge role in the outcome. Hoppe, however, had no choice by to make a charge to the front after two trips off course in Saturday's qualifying relegated him to the 17th starting position.
Schendel was the first of the front runners to experience mechanical gremlins. Transmission troubles sent him to pit lane that cost him two laps. Later, a faulty engine would put an end to his race.
Each team had just four Hoosier tires in their pit, and Miller was the first of the leaders to head down pit lane and take his full allotment; doing so on lap 19.
"We were trying to short pit for tires so we could get track position later on in the race after everyone else pitted," said Miller. "It worked, but Brian had more grip at the end of the race."
Darnell put on an amazing showing in his first ever road course race. Silva assumed the lead when Miller pitted and Darnell hung right on the California driver's rear bumper. A late race shunt caused damage to the right front of Darnell's machine, however, and brought an early end to his race.
After the second, and final, round of caution flagged pit stops, Miller led the field back to the green with Hoppe, Justin Hirt, Carlson, Hoffman and Todd Souza in tow. Miller and Hoppe pulled away from the field and started to thrill the crowd by swapping the lead every couple of laps.
"We were lacking for track position all day, starting as far back as we did," said Hoppe. "But once we got up to Joey and then finally got our fresh tires, I felt real good about the race. He could drive it down into turn one way better than I could, but my fresh tires helped me in the back and off of turn ten."
Hoffman finished sixth in the event that didn't see nearly as much attrition as many observers had anticipated. Road racing ace, and Minnesota native, Bobby Archer hopped in A.J. Rhoads back-up machine late Saturday afternoon and drove to an impressive seventh place finish. Archer, making his first Midwest Series start ran as high as second in the car that had very little road course adjustments made to it.
Auto Meter Rookie of the Year contender Brent Kirchner notched a career best eighth place finish. The run was his second consecutive top ten finish. Carlson recovered from a late race spin in turn ten to come home ninth while Hirt rounded out the top ten.
Souza saw a sure top five finish go up in smoke as his engine expired just six laps from the finish.
The Cellular One 300 presented by Home Depot marked the first road course race for the Midwest Series since 2001. The Midwest Series normally competes on ovals ranging from .25-miles in length to 1-mile.
The Midwest Series next travels to Kalamazoo (Mich) Speedway for a 150-lap feature race, Saturday night, September 4.