APOLLO, PA (October 18, 2000) - St. Louis, Missouri, has long been hailed as the "Gateway to the West". The Gateway Arch symbolically recognizes that. Gateway International Raceway, just across the river in Madison, IL, might have served as a ...
APOLLO, PA (October 18, 2000) - St. Louis, Missouri, has long been hailed as the "Gateway to the West". The Gateway Arch symbolically recognizes that. Gateway International Raceway, just across the river in Madison, IL, might have served as a gateway to a new career path for young Ryan Hemphill this past weekend. That career path could be the American Speed Association full-time in 2001.
Hemphill arrived at the 1.25-mile oval on Thursday evening. After looking at the track and studying its characteristics, Hemphill was anxious to set foot on the track in his racecar. When Friday morning's first practice session ended, Hemphill was in the high twenties on the speed chart. By the time the practice sessions concluded, Hemphill and team were confident that they had a car capable of qualifying in the top 20.
An unexpected push in the first and second corners on the qualifying lap negated the No. 02 team to the 23rd spot. After provisionals were given, Hemphill began the 50-lap qualifying race from the pole position. Outside pole-sitter Shane Hall (subbing for an ill Ken Alexander) led the first few laps. Later in the event, Mike Cope and Re/Max Challenge Series star Steve Carlson led the event. Hemphill, finding a new groove that fit his car's handling characteristics, came home third.
"I learned a couple grooves and where on the track I could better myself and my car for the way my car was handling. It was more seat time," said Hemphill. "It's always good to run behind someone like that (Cope, Carlson) and see how they attack the track and so on. It helped me a lot racing with them and learning their grooves and how hard they were running. It gave us a feeling of security that we could go out and run with these guys."
Hemphill began the BFGoodrich Tires 200 from the 27th spot and rode around slowly gaining spots as the first segment of the race progressed. A first pit stop miscue nearly cost the team a lap as Hemphill became blocked in by both Kevin Cywinski and Joey Clanton in a bit of pit stall confusion. Beginning the second segment of the race from the end of the lead lap, Hemphill again climbed the scoreboard.
A two-tire stop to begin the third and final segment of the race again found Hemphill in a familiar spot. Much like the team's previous race at IRP, Hemphill was in the top twenty and capable of finishing well and with an intact racecar. By the end of the event, Hemphill had climbed to 12th, gaining on 10th and 11th place drivers Glenn Allen, Jr. and Tim Taylor when the checkered flag fell.
"The car actually kind came to us a little bit and that helped a lot," stated the driver of the No. 02 Argo Packing Chevrolet. "At the beginning of the race, it wasn't handling that well and I had to be patient and hope that the car would come to us. The changes that we made the night before after the qualifying race didn't really help us that much. We did the best we could do with what we had."
After finishing the race in 12th for two events in a row, on the lead lap, and with an intact race car, the team is highly motivated for 2001. They are aware that they are capable of competing at the ASA ACDelco Series level and contending for solid finishes and possibly an occasional win.
"It's a really big confidence booster. We all know we can do it and that we have the car to do it with," said Hemphill "I need more and more experience to better myself. We're gradually progressing which is good for us. Everything we've gone through, we've gradually progressed and bettered ourselves each time out. That seems to be the case so far.
"If we can keep doing that each and every race, I'll be happy. That's what every team, every driver, everyone needs to do throughout their career. They need to gradually progress each time so that when you're running up front, you have the experience and maybe the car to win. That's what we're doing, and that's what our main focus is. It's not to win races, it's to gradually progress as a driver and a team. If we can do that each week, I'll be happy."