Cozzolino surprise winner at IRP

Peter Cozzolino won the first ASA victory of his career in impressive fashion tonight at Indianapolis Raceway Park, holding off a strong challenge from early leader Mike Garvey after a lap 195 restart. Cozzolino, runner-up for ASA rookie of year...

Peter Cozzolino won the first ASA victory of his career in impressive fashion tonight at Indianapolis Raceway Park, holding off a strong challenge from early leader Mike Garvey after a lap 195 restart.

Cozzolino, runner-up for ASA rookie of year in 1998 to NASCAR star Jimmie Johnson, started The Club 200 at the back of the field after a practice crash that made him switch to his spare car. His backup Monte Carlo was fast, however. By the restart from the first caution on lap 10 (for a crash when a tap from Butch Miller sent polesitter Robbie Pyle spinning into the inside wall on the back straight), Cozzolino had moved up from 36th starting spot to 24th.

While Garvey was setting a fast early lead pace, Cozzolino was working his way up through the field. On lap 30, he was up to 14th place, and when Joey Miller spun a few laps later to put the field under the yellow for the second time, Cozzolino went into the pits for his first pit stop.

Restarting on lap 50 in 17th place, Cozzolino had a long stretch of green flag running to continue his march through the field By lap 75, he was up to 13th and when the halfway crossed flags were shown to the field at lap 100, he had gotten into the top 10 and was catching up to the ferocious four-car battle for fifth place among Scott Lagasse Jr., Danny Edwards, Jr., Travis Kittleson, and Todd Kleuver.

On lap 125, the ASA rules called for a "competition yellow flag" after 75 laps of continuous green flag running. All of the lead lap cars made pit stops, and Cozzolino retained 9th place for the lap 133 restart.

After only three more laps, the pace car was called out again for a Turn 1 crash between Zach Niessner and Bill Plemons. Many of the leaders hadn't made their second pit stops or changed tires, so they ducked into the pits freshen their right-side BFGoodrich spec rubber. Three drivers, Rick Beebe, Cozzolino, and Boris Jurkovic, had taken care of those pit duties on previous caution periods, so they moved up to the head of the pack for the lap 146 restart.

Cozzolino passed Beebe when the green waved and pulled out to a substantial lead. Meanwhile, Reed Sorensen, Garvey, Miller, and Kevin Cywinski had to work their way through several lapped cars before they could set out after Cozzolino, who was then able to settle into a stable three-second lead. A quick caution was waved on lap 152 when Sorensen tapped one of the slower cars, that of Dave Mader, who spun in turn 1.

The battle for second place became a fierce one after the next restart, but Garvey got the spot on lap 170 and a lap later Miller also got around Jurkovic into 3rd place. Cozzolino's Chevy was still running strong though, and the two American Speed Association veterans couldn't make much of an impression on his lead.

Just when it looked like Cozzolino would breeze off to an easy victory, Travis Kittleson spun in turn 2 to bring the rest of the fast guys on Cozzolino's rear bumper with just five laps to go. Cozzolino got a good restart, and pulled away to a lead of several car lengths. Garvey put the hammer down, though and got to just a car length behind Cozzolino at the finish.

Miller finished third, and Jurkovic held off fellow ASA rookie Reed Sorensen for fourth place. Cywinski and Lagasse finished sixth and seventh, while Beebe, Kris Stump, and Chris Wood completed the top ten.

Cywinski held on to the ASA points lead over Miller. Pyle's early exit cost him, as he fell from third to fifth in points behind Garvey and Sorensen. Glenn Allen Jr. had the biggest fall. He had qualified 4th for tonight's race, but spun into the turn 3 wall before he finished his second qualifying lap and had to withdraw his damaged car. The non-start dropped him from 7th in the points standings out of the top ten. Cozzolino, who was ninth coming in, took his place in 7th.

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Series Stock car
Drivers Scott Lagasse Jr. , Butch Miller , Mike Garvey , Joey Miller , Travis Kittleson