The sun rises in the East. Today Bobby East showed that East rises with the sun, dominating this morning's rain-delayed "Showdown at Sundown" USAC National Sprint Car race at Richmond International Raceway. The race was recast from its original...
The sun rises in the East. Today Bobby East showed that East rises with the sun, dominating this morning's rain-delayed "Showdown at Sundown" USAC National Sprint Car race at Richmond International Raceway. The race was recast from its original two-heat, 31/29 lap format to a single 30 lap Sprint run. East started from the pole, and led every inch of those 30 laps.
"Every time we bring the sprint car to Richmond, we just handle really good," East said. "We unloaded good and fine tuned it from there and picked up about a half a second from when we unloaded. We were really happy with it. This car at Richmond gets better as the night goes on - in the nighttime. We tightened it up for the sun, and the slick track.
"Honestly, we didn't tighten it up enough. It was fast, and we won, and we're real happy about that, but we could have gotten - believe it or not - quite a bit better.
"We tried to tighten the car up to get kind of locked down and so we could power hard out of the corners. We were still on top of the track a little bit too much. A lot of that was just due to the sun coming out and the temperatures going up."
The only serious challenge to East's dominance came on a Lap 8 restart, following clean-up from Ron Gregory's blown engine. Darren Hagen got the jump, and pulled almost alongside, but East eventually held his lead.
"That was the first restart after the oil," East said, "and I didn't realize there was that much getting out of two. I didn't get a good exit off of two. I knew I had a better car than Darren because they could hang with me for a couple of laps and then after that we start pulling away.
"So I had to make it real hard for him. You can't just let them go by. Maybe try and heat up his tires earlier in that run. It panned out for us."
Sprint car speeds on the 3/4 mile Richmond tri-oval are amazing. East's qualifying speed was just over 138 mph, and the average race speed for the 30 lap event was just under 120 mph. "We're going really fast around here," East commented, "and my car was kind of on top of the track more than we like. I was hanging on and driving my hardest every single lap."
Mike Murgoitio spent most of the race in third place, behind Darren Hagen. On Lap 22, he finally got past Hagen on the low side in Turns 1 and 2, then assaulted East's long lead. He was able to cut it to three car lengths, but ran out of time and finished less than three tenths of a second back. Hagen held onto third, followed by Bryan Clauson and Billy Wease in fourth and fifth. Two time National Sprint champion Brian Tyler rounded out the top six. Tyler's run to sixth from an 11th place start was impressive.
Another impressive run was put in by Dave Darland, who started 16th and finished 10th. Darland, one of only four USAC "Triple Crown" champions, made most of his gains in the opening laps, where he gave a classic demonstration of how to use the outside line.
Levi Jones, who finished a solid eighth today, remains at the top of the Series standings. Hagen held onto second. Brady Short, whose race ended at mid-point with wall contact, dropped from third to fifth.
The next USAC National Sprint Car Series race will be on July 6, at Toledo (OH) Speedway.