CHICAGO, IL (August 30, 2004) - If it wasn't for a little bit of traffic enforcement Sunday afternoon by ASA officials during the running of the ASA National Tour event at the Milwaukee Mile, it might have been a banner day for WalTom Racing.
CHICAGO, IL (August 30, 2004) - If it wasn't for a little bit of traffic enforcement Sunday afternoon by ASA officials during the running of the ASA National Tour event at the Milwaukee Mile, it might have been a banner day for WalTom Racing. Instead, two penalties cost the drivers top-five finishes and they had to settle for finishes in the top-eleven.
The two-car team was led by veteran Robbie Pyle, who was running third, while his rookie teammate, Stephen Leicht, charged from a 10th-place start to make it into the fourth position by lap 30. However, both runs were offset by pit road penalties by ASA officials.
Leicht was caught speeding on pit road, while Pyle was cited for exiting the pits above a painted yellow line. Sentences for both violations were stop-and-go penalties, which cost each driver valuable track position.
"We pitted just past halfway and we had been running in the top-three all afternoon," said Pyle, who entered the day fourth in the point standings. "I came in and pitted, and we had a great stop. When I exited the pit, I drove up above the yellow line that separated the exit of the pits and the track. I heard them talking about that rule during the driver's meeting, but thought that it was only for green flag stops. The crew did a great job and my mistake cost us."
Leicht's speeding penalty was also during a yellow flag stop.
"Usually the pace car maintains pit road speed under caution," said Leicht. "This time, it sped up going into turn two on the second lap of our caution. I thought that it was speeding up to pit road speed and that's how I drove down pit road. It thought that it was the correct pit road speed."
After their penalties, both WalTom teams had an uphill battle to the finish. They were mired deep in the pack with lots of ground to make up.
"Speed-wise, everyone out there was pretty close," said Pyle. "We ran the same lap times as the leaders and had a good enough car to run up front, but not one that was good enough to get back up front from where we were running. I wrestled the car around and got the best finish I could."
Pyle ended up ninth and Leicht ended up 11th at the finish.
For Leicht, the finish meant that he was able to gain ground in the $50,000 Rookie of the Year chase. He finished ahead of both of his nearest competitors - Wade Day and Casey Smith -- and now sits second in the RoY points. He is unofficially 27 behind Day for the lead.
"We're right there now," said Leicht. "We gained on who we needed to gain on."
It was a tough weekend for learning a new track since teams had only 80 minutes of practice before rain washed out qualifying. Leicht adapted to the track quickly, posting the second-quickest time of the session. Qualifying was washed out and the field was set by point standings.
"I think that we would have had a shot at the pole if we had qualifying," said Leicht. "I liked this track and it was fun to get around. You carry a lot of speed here and can pass low or high. The draft was a big deal and I never had to deal with that before on a short track."
Next weekend brings another new track for Leicht. He has not raced at the Elko Speedway (MN) before. Pyle is at the opposite end of the spectrum when it comes to racing at Elko.
"I'm looking forward to going there," Pyle said. "Last year, we won the pole and finished second. It's a lot like my hometrack of Columbus Motor Speedway (OH) and I love going there."
The Minnesota 300 will take place at 2:00pm CDT on Monday, September 6th.
WalTom Racing, with Robbie Pyle and rookie Stephen Leicht, are competing full-time with the American Speed Association in 2004. For more information on the team, please visit www.waltomracing.com.