USAR: Salem: Gary St. Amant preview

Points leader St. Amant sails into Salem with new pipe SALEM, Ind. (July 28) -- Former short track world champion Gary St. Amant arrives at Salem Speedway for this Saturday's Lucas Oil 200 presented by Kmart with the USAR Hooters Pro Cup...

Points leader St. Amant sails into Salem with new pipe

SALEM, Ind. (July 28) -- Former short track world champion Gary St. Amant arrives at Salem Speedway for this Saturday's Lucas Oil 200 presented by Kmart with the USAR Hooters Pro Cup Northern Division points lead and a brand-new racecar that he says is even quicker than the one that's carried him to the top of the world rankings.

After an exhaustive test session at Columbus Motor Speedway, a small one-third-mile track near his hometown of Powell, Ohio, St. Amant finally sorted out a new Laughlin chassis that will now carry his No. 7 JEGS.com/Speedco Chevrolet Monte Carlo body work. The car is lighter, quicker, and custom-made for St. Amant's driving style -- a combination he hopes will only improve his position in the current standings.

"It's time to put this new car into service," St. Amant said. "We've had it with us all year but the old car has been working so well that it's allowed us to bring the new one along at our own pace. After testing in Columbus, we finally got it set up the way we wanted it and it ended up being a tenth and a half quicker than the old one. That has us excited."

That could be bad news for the racers chasing St. Amant, who won the now-defunct American Speed Association title in 1998 and 2000. In four races with his old chassis, St. Amant has posted finishes of fifth, third, third, and 12th, a steady resume that put him in the points lead after just two events. He's held the No. 1 designation ever since.

"I believe it was Johnny Benson that said before you can win a championship, you have to lose one," St. Amant said. "Having won a couple of titles in ASA, I know exactly what he means. Basically, when you're chasing, you have to take chances. Some times it pays off and some times it doesn't. When you're running at the front, you tend to protect your car more and make sure you finish every race. Then the points just add up.

"We started this year hoping for top 10 finishes and maybe getting a top five every once in awhile. Now we're expecting top threes and the occasional win. It's a different mindset."

St. Amant says success at Salem Speedway's .555-mile high-banked oval requires the same sort of thinking.

"When you're on a track like this you have to think survival," St. Amant said. "If you can make it through the accidents that are bound to happen and keep your car in good shape, and you're there at the end, you can make that charge for a race win. It's a different strategy than you have at the flatter tracks.

"It's been so much fun to be competitive week-in and week-out. I've got a great team behind me from the guys at the shop to the boys jumping over the wall at the races. Plus, having JEGS.com and Speedco there for me has been huge. I'm having a ball."

-credit: team jegs

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Series Stock car
Drivers Johnny Benson