Rookie Travis Kittleson collects career best ASA finish in season. "20-something" youngster earns top-five finish while racing for the win. CONCORD, NC (March 27, 2003) -- It was the perfect way to start the 2003 season for 23-year-old Travis...
Rookie Travis Kittleson collects career best ASA finish in season.
"20-something" youngster earns top-five finish while racing for the win.
CONCORD, NC (March 27, 2003) -- It was the perfect way to start the 2003 season for 23-year-old Travis Kittleson in his quest for the $50,000 ASA Rookie of the Year award. Kittleson and his S/T Racing team came from a 32nd-place starting spot at USA International Speedway in Lakeland (FL), their home-track on the ASA schedule, to finish fifth in the Jani-King 200.
Kittleson's first career top-five finish nearly came as a win. Late in the race, Kittleson and three other drivers battled side-by-side with just eight laps remaining for the top spot.
"Those last laps were amazing," said Kittleson. "I was really thinking that we had a shot to finish in the top-two or maybe even win the thing. I saw Reed (Sorenson) and Kevin (Cywinski) drop down low and I jumped up behind Butch Miller (eventual race winner) in hopes that the two of us would break away. Unfortunately, Reed and I just bumped a little and I got shuffled back. But to still come out of there with a fifth place run, especially with as bad as the day started out, it was a real testament to this team."
The number-30 team fought back and forth with a tight condition during the day's practice sessions and then qualified 32nd. That left the team pondering of what to do to the Bob Steele Chevrolet / Easy Care / Pepsi Monte Carlo.
"The entire team was really down after qualifying. We thought we had a car to start up front, but I just drove it a little too easy; it was actually kind of embarrassing because this was our home-track, but I learned from it. My crew chief, Gary Crooks, decided to make some changes during our regular pit stops in the race and he made the right calls. I'm glad we did what we did because the car was a rocket ship.
"I am really proud of all my guys. They got me in and out of the pits extremely fast. We were beating some really veteran teams. Even when we had what in our eyes was a bad pit-stop; we were beating people out of the pits. That really gave us the chance to be up there in that lead battle near the end of the race. Their performance and the performance of this car, really makes me excited about the rest of the season. I can't wait to get to the next race now."
Kittleson will next tackle the 3/8-mile Houston Motor Speedway in Houston (TX). It's a track that Kittleson is looking forward to race at since people have told him it is similar to several tracks he has competed on in Florida.
"People have said it's a lot like Orlando (Speedworld) and Bronson (Motor Speedway) and we have always run well on those tracks. We are going to go test at Orlando and work on some qualifying stuff. It is tough with these one day shows because your qualifying setup is your race setup. We need come up with something that is going to give us an advantage on qualifying so we can be near the front to start races."