Ritch overcomes poor qualifying to capture third win of season Asheboro, NC -- Just as the AutoLock secures your vehicle from theft, Michael Ritch proved to the 32-car starting field at the Caraway Speedway that he is still a threat to be...
Ritch overcomes poor qualifying to capture third win of season
Asheboro, NC -- Just as the AutoLock secures your vehicle from theft, Michael Ritch proved to the 32-car starting field at the Caraway Speedway that he is still a threat to be reckoned with when he claimed his third victory this year in the USAR Hooters ProCup Series at the AutoLock 250 presented by Aloe Lu-Ya.
Ritch, a resident of High Point, NC, was one of the local favorites at the .455-mile oval in Asheboro, NC, and had his work cut out for him. Starting from the middle of the pack at 15th, Ritch then had to battle his way to the front during the 250-lap caution-plagued event.
Ritch took the lead from Steven Christian with eight laps remaining in the event. Ritch went on to take the checkered flag just .8-seconds in front of Series Points Leader Bobby Gill, who was followed by reigning Hooters ProCup Champion Jeff Agnew, Andy Thurman and Christian chomping at his rear bumper.
"The Competition Motorsports/Jackaroo Sauces team had to put up with a pretty mean driver," said Ritch. "I was really ill. I knew that we had a dominant car but I was pretty ill with myself for qualifying poorly. I really wanted to set this thing on the pole. Being so close to home, I wanted to give the fans my best. The team kept telling me to be patient. Patience paid our way and kept us out of trouble. It feels great to have the Jackaroo Sauces Chevrolet back in victory lane."
The intensity rose with every lap as the 250-lap dogfight raged on in the close confines of Caraway Speedway, treating fans to seven lead changes among six drivers. There were also 15 caution flags for 94 laps with one red flag for seven minutes while safety crews cleaned up the debris and fluids from a crash involving local favorite Justin Labonte, Johnny Rumley, Mart Nesbitt, Chad Beahr and Trent Owens. Accidents claimed the front running cars of Mario Gosselin, Johnny Rumley, David Hyder, Justin Labonte and Tim Clayton.
With only 25 laps to go, the last of the caution flags flew when Gosselin was fighting to keep Ritch behind him while he tried to pass Christian for position. The left-front quarter panel of the No. 0 Lucas Oil Products Chevrolet and the right-rear of the No. 10 W. J. Plemons Investments Chevrolet came together and sent Gosselin spinning like a top, slamming into the backstretch wall just before the entrance to turn three. Ritch dove under the spinning Gosselin and Christian but Christian maintained position.
At the restart it was Gill, Christian, and Ritch on the outside and with the lapped cars of Derrick Kelley and Jay Fogleman lined up on the inside.
"On the last restart, I knew that Fogleman was going to be really tough to get around," said Ritch. "He had a tough car all night. With all the oil dry on the track, you were going to have to get on the bottom and keep it there. We were able to get under Bobby (Gill) because Fogleman and Kelley were keeping him on the high side.
"We were faster than the zero car was on fresher tires," Ritch continued. We got around him and just tried to keep it out front. We did and its great to be back in victory lane."
Bobby Gill continued to show why he is Mr. Consistency with a second place finish in the AutoLock 250 and was able to stretch his lead over Fogleman to 110 points. Gill did get the Naturally Fresh Foods Ford Taurus into the lead for 49 laps.
"We just didn't have the strongest car," said Gill. "Our engine was a little down this race but we'll come back strong next time. We finished second and that will help us in the points race."
Jay Fogleman, who led 60 laps, appeared to have the car to beat when he collected the $1000 Lucas Oil Products Halfway Leader Bonus. Fogleman run was spoiled when he had a tire go flat just before a restart of the race and consequently lost two laps.
Labonte collected his first Discount Auto Parts Pole in USAR Hooters ProCup competition. Labonte, from nearby Trinity, NC, who led the most laps by leading the first 77 circuits of the event also looked as if he too had the car to beat, but was caught up in an accident shortly after the mid-way point in the race.
Wisconsin native Scott Wimmer piloted the No. 25 Jackaroo Gold Meat Sauce Chevrolet from deep in the field to finish sixth. Wimmer's improvement of 15 positions during the AutoLock 250 earned him the W.J. Plemons Hard Charger Award.
Christian's strong run and fifth place finish earned him the $1,000 Miller Lite Rookie of the Race Award and also put him 20 points ahead of Mardy Lindley in the $10,000 Miller Lite Rookie of the Year Award.
"We had a shot to win this race," said Christian. "We just got hung up on the outside and Michael was able to get underneath us. I hate it for the team. But we had a great run and great car. I felt like a pinball out there trying to keep the Lucas Oil Products Chevrolet up front. We finally got into the lead and came home with a top five.
"I hate we got into that deal with Mario," Christian continued. "He's running for the points and all, but I was just trying to protect my line and not lose another position."
"I'm having a lot of fun racing Mardy for the Miller Lite Rookie of the Year. It adds a different level of action and excitement to what he and I are doing every race. I like racing him. He's a super racer."
Andy Thurman turned in his third top-five and fifth top-10 in six races. The No. 47 Naturally Fresh Mountain Spring Water Ford Thunderbird finished a battle-scarred fourth.
"What a crazy race," said Thurman. "The Naturally Fresh crew did a great job at getting us out of the pits after that first lap crash without losing a lap. I didn't think that we had much of a chance after that but the damage was cosmetic and the car was really good. I wore out my first set of tires trying to make up lost ground but the second set were really good.
"What a crazy finish. I was sitting there with 10 laps to go thinking we have a chance to win this thing with half the car torn off," Thurman continued. "It was a good race for us and we are really looking forward to Greenville-Pickens next week. Hopefully, we'll get the Naturally Fresh Spring Water car in victory lane soon."
The AutoLock 250 presented by Aloe Lu-Ya will be aired on Speedvision Friday, September 24 at both 9 p.m. and midnight and then again on Monday, September 27 at noon.
The next stop on the $1.5-million USAR Hooters ProCup Series schedule will be at Greenville-Pickens Speedway for the Dan Duncan Memorial Hooters 250 on Saturday, September 25. Be on hand to watch Mario Gosselin and Derrick Kelley duel it out for $25,000 bonus if they can win their second of the Four Champions Challenge races or will one of the other stars of the Hooters ProCup Series hold them off.
Other drivers that have entered the Dan Duncan Memorial Hooters 250 are Eddie Pearson, Tim Clayton, Jabe Jones, Mardy Lindley, Mike Cope, Don Sprouse, Marty Ward, Toby Porter, Jerry Rector, Jimbo Mann, Don Satterfield, Chris Everett as well as the regular stars and cars of the USAR Hooters ProCup Series.
The gates will open at 3 p.m., qualifying at 5 p.m. and an autograph session at trackside at 7 p.m. The green flag will wave at 8.pm. for the Dan Duncan Memorial Hooters 250. Followed by the Allison Legacy Series cars.
AutoLock 250 Caraway Speedway-September 18, 1999 Fin Start Car Driver Hometown Sponsor Car Run Led 1 15 23 Michael Ritch High Point,NC Jackaroo Sauces Chev 250 9 2 6 5 Bobby Gill Dalton, GA Naturally Fresh Ford 250 49 Dressings & Dips 3 5 73 Jeff Agnew Floyd, VA Twin City Motor Chev 250 0 Exchange 4 12 47 Andy Thurman Concord, NC Naturally Fresh Ford 250 0 Mountain Spring Water 5 7 0 Steve Christian Sugar Hill, GA Lucas Oil Chev 250 37 Products 6 21 25 Scott Wimmer Wausau, WI Jackaroo Gold Chev 250 0 Sauces 7 20 14 Charlie Ford Charles City,VA Sun Graphics Chev 250 0 8 17 05 Mardy Lindley Taylors, SC Aloe Lu-Ya Pont 250 0 9 13 89 Karen Schulz Statesville, NC Pro Image/ Chev 249 0 10 2 4 Jay Fogleman Durham, NC Kentucky Fried Ford 249 60 Chicken 11 25 36 Trent Owens Harrisburg, NC Richard Petty Pont 248 0 Driving Experience 12 22 21 Derrick Kelley Auburndale, FL Discount Auto Chev 248 0 Parts 13 32 31 Mark Whitaker Greensboro, NC Glaze Toothpaste Chev 246 0 14 27 39 Chad Beahr Mechanicsville,VA Fidelity Ford 245 0 Printing,Inc. 15 18 07 Tim Clayton Inman, SC Budweiser Chev 244 0 16 30 08 Ronnie Davidson Lenoir, NC Ekamant Chev 241 0 17 24 57 Joe Harrison Jr. Renick, WV Harrison's Chev 241 0 Automotive 18 9 22 Bill Plemons Jr. Locust Grove,GA Hooters Chev 236 0 Restaurants 19 11 09 Jabe Jones Martin, GA Coors Light Chev 229 0 20 4 10 Mario Gosselin Lake Wales, FL W.J. Plemons Chev 225 18 Investments 21 8 76 David Hyder Trinity, NC Northgate Ford 199 0 Muffler Dist., Inc. 22 1 44 Justin Labonte Trinity, NC Penrose Hot Chev 143 77 Sausages 23 3 27 Johnny Rumley Winston Salem,NC Sikken Chev 141 0 24 19 30 Mart Nesbitt Asheville, NC State Fair Brand Chev 141 0 Corn Dogs 25 10 34 Mike Herman, Jr. Kannapolis, NC Today's Chev 136 0 Fireplaces 26 23 19 Doug Van Den Brink Harrisburg, NC Unsponsored Ford 99 0 27 14 88 Doug Godsey Richmond, VA Godsey & Son,Inc Chev 88 0 28 26 37 Don Sprouse Greenville, SC Laughlin Racing Ford 62 0 Products 29 28 3 Jimmy McClain Iron Station, NC J & J Motor Chev 33 0 Ventures 30 16 95 Stacy Vicars St. Paul, VA Robert Sidney Chev 30 0 Racing 31 29 67 Daryl Gwynn Eden, NC Miller Lite Ford 27 0 32 31 41 Rick Boga Concord, NC Mothers Polish Ford 12 0 Car Products # of cautions - 15 total Laps under caution - 94 Total time of race - 2:17:44 Margin of victory - .8 seconds Lap Leaders - 1-77 Justin Labonte, 78-137 Jay Fogleman, 138-155 Mario Gosselin, 156-190 Steve Christian, 191-239 Bobby Gill, 240-241 Steve Christian, 242-250 Michael Ritch Discount Auto Parts Pole - $1,000 - Justin Labonte Lucas Oil Products Halfway Leader - $1,000 - Jay Fogleman W.J. Plemons Hard Charger - $500 - Scott Wimmer. Miller Lite Rookie of the Race - $1,000 - Steven Christian