JEFFERSON, GA - RIS - Pit stops proved to be the key to victory in the ASA ACDelco Challenge Series WYNN's 300 at Peach State Speedway in Jefferson, GA. Gary St. Amant had the fastest car on the track all race long, but a mistake...
JEFFERSON, GA - RIS - Pit stops proved to be the key to victory in the ASA ACDelco Challenge Series WYNN's 300 at Peach State Speedway in Jefferson, GA. Gary St. Amant had the fastest car on the track all race long, but a mistake in communications on a pit stop cost him the victory. By making a quick and timely stop ASA Pat Schauer Memorial Rookie of the Year candidate Steve Carlson was able to take the lead 30 laps from the checkered flag and keep his Baker Enterprises/Clean Burn Pontiac out front the rest of the way for a well deserved trip to victory lane.
"We had a good car, once we worked out the tire set-up," Carlson said. "Then we got a little lead and were able to hold on for the win."
Carlson, who is a many-time Champion of the ARTGO Series, is making his first full-time foray into ASA and was just a little awed at the turn of events. St. Amant, who had fought his way back to the front after misunderstanding the radio communications from his crew and pitting when he was not expected to, finished second in the Wynn's/West Michigan Chevy Dealers Chevrolet and Bob Senneker brought the ill handling LAne Automotive/JR Automation/Mr Gasket Ford home in third.
Despite dire predictions from many sources that the cars would be unable to complete one lap before there was a wreck, the race began calmly with St Amant jumping into the lead from the pole with Kevin Cywinski right behind in the Coleman Racing Products Pontiac. Ted Smokstad was in third in his Aspen Electric/Corporate Auto/AMS Parts Pontiac, Senneker was fourth and Scott Hansen had the Schrader Racing Pontiac in fifth. The early calm was not to last as on lap five Billy Turner hit the outside wall and careened across the front straight into the inside wall to bring out the first caution of the day. Bill Baird's Spee-Dee-Pop Popcorn/Saturn Machine Chevrolet suffered damage in the incident and had to go to the pits to remove some bodywork from the right front.
After the cleanup, it was back to green flag racing, and St Amant showed everyone just how hooked up he was on this day as he opened a big lead of as much as 20 car lengths at times. Behind the flying Wynn's Chevy, Cywinski and Smokstad were holding position, but Senneker began to slip back as Rick Beebe brought his St Louis Gear/Royal Machine Pontiac to the battle and soon was challenging Smokstad for third. The two groove nature of the track was beginning to show as cars were running both the high groove and the low as they diced back and forth for position.
Following a short caution when Peter Cozzolino looped the MacDonalds Ford in turn four the top ten in the running order at the 50 lap mark were St Amant, Cywinski, Beebe, Smokstad, Senneker, Carlson, Mike Garvey, Mike Miller, Joe Nott and Jack Landis.
Over the next 50 laps the front four cars were able to open a gap from the pack, where Tim Sauter was coming through the field following a pit stop under the caution. Passing cars right and left Sauter took the Racing Adventures/Wehr/Leo Motorsports Pontiac up to the rear of Garvey and in the process of trying to make that pass, the two cars touched on a couple of occasions. Both continued with no damage and eventually after 10 laps Sauter was able to make the pass. Carlson and Miller had passed Senneker and were catching Smokstad. Carlson got under Smokstad in turn 3 and took over third spot
The next caution flew at lap 86 when Alec Pinsonneault spun in turn two and all the leaders gratefully headed for the pits and some fresh tires. Cywinski was able to beat St Amant off pit row and lined up in third spot for the restart behind Dave Sensiba, who had kept the Engineered Polymer/Daytona Auto Auctions Pontiac on the track, and Sauter, who had inherited the lead due to the pits stops.
It was not long after the restart before both Cywinski and St Amant were able to get around both Sensiba and Sauter, their fresher rubber making a big difference. Then on lap 107 St Amant proved just how strong he was as he powered inside Cywinski in turn two and retook the lead. Fore the next 30 laps the cars began to slowly move the groove higher and higher on the racetrack, until it began to resemble a dirt track race. The halfway point came and went with St Amant still in the lead followed by Carlson and Beebe who had both used the high side of the track to move past Cywinski, now running in fourth. Senneker was in fifth with Mike Eddy making a strong showing in the GM Goodwrench Service Pontiac in sixth, Brandon Sperling moving up to seventh in the Blizzard Motorsports Chevrolet, Sensiba running in seventh and Buddy Schrock, Nott, and Hansen rounding out the top ten.
By lap 175 Senneker had managed to move around Carlson, while Eddy was now up to fifth. The cars continued to run a very high line around the track and as the green flag period stretched towards the 100 lap mark car were slipping and sliding all around the track. Senneker got around Cywinski on the front straight on lap 186 and Beebe was challenging St Amant for the lead. Despite getting a nose alongside, Beebe was being out powered down the straights and St Amant held on til the officials threw a competition yellow on lap 200 to allow everyone to get some fresh rubber.
The battle now passed to the pit crews and it was St Amant who was able to get out of the pits first with Beebe right on his bumper and Eddy's crew making a super stop to get him out in third. Carlson, Hansen Cywinski and Sensiba were the next out of the pits, and Senneker was still up on the jacks as the crew worked feverishly at the right rear. Nott Holzhausen and Landis rounded out the top ten, with Senneker finally coming out in 12th.
As racing resumed Senneker began to pick his way back to the front and Eddy moved into second place with an outside move on Beebe going down the back straight. When caution flew on lap 221 for a spin by Schrock both Eddy and Beebe ducked into the pits to replace two more tires, but the rest of the leaders stayed on the track to maintain that vital track position. The running order now had St Amant leading Hansen, Cywinski, Brandon Sperling, who had quietly worked the Blizzard Motorsports entry forwards, and Holzhausen.
Hansen lost control and slid high in turn four just two laps after the restart and had to watch the whole field race past before he was able to get back up to speed. Sperling got inside Cywinski for second a few laps later and Carlson was moving back up as he got around Holzhausen bringing Eddy with him. Then on lap 243 as the cars exited turn 4 Eddy spun into the grass and the caution was out again.
St. Amant and Cywinski were two of the cars to head for the pits, but for St Amant it was a matter of mis-communication.
" I was asking the crew if I should come in,and they were telling me to stay out, but I couldn't understand them," St Amant explained afterwards. "Then I got to the end of pit road and saw the number board hanging out, but as you can see now, it always hangs like that. I made a last minute decision to come in, and they were not ready. I have to apologize to my crew. I've never had such an awesome car compared to everyone else's"
St Amant emerged from the ill-fated stop in 11th place and would now have to fight his way through the entire field to get back to the front. With 57 laps to go there was enough time for him to get back up front, but Peach State was proving to be a hard track to pass on and there were a lot of cars in front of him. Sperling had inherited the lead when St Amant went into the pits, Carlson was second, Senneker third, Sensiba fourth, and Beebe back up to fifth.
As the last 50 laps began to unfold all eyes were on St Amant as he charged through the pack picking off cars at a rate of one or two a lap. Then on lap 270 Carlson was able to get inside Sperling and take the lead. While St Amant continued to cut through traffic Carlson was able to open a lead and Sperling began fall back to an eventual 8th place finish.
With ten laps to go St Amant was up to fourth and when lapped traffic balked both Senneker and Sensiba with three laps to go, St Amant took the high road into second and set out after Carlson. There was just not enough laps left, and although he cut into Carlson's lead he was unable to catch him and was forced to settle for second. Senneker and Sensiba finished third and fourth respectively, and Cywinski rounded out the top five at the checkered flag.
Sixth place went to Beebe, while Hansen, Sperling and Schrock took seventh eighth and ninth and Landis brought the Adirondak/Lyndaker/Maisto/Noah Yoder Ford home in the tenth spot.
It was an exciting race and was run under clear and sunny skies. The return of the ASA to Peach State after a twelve year absence was well received by the large crowd on hand. There was plenty of action for everyone and once again the importance of good pit crews and communication was brought to the fore.
The next stop for the ASA ACDelco Challenge Series will in Pensacola, FL at Five Flags Speedway on May 3-4.
John Kaiser, Racing Information Systems