By Patrick Jennings - Motorsport.com Richmond, VA - Eighteen-year-old Aaron Fike used a combination of patience and skill to out duel Dave Steele and Tyler Walker to capture his first career victory in the USAC Coors Silver Bullet Racing ...
By Patrick Jennings - Motorsport.com
Richmond, VA - Eighteen-year-old Aaron Fike used a combination of patience and skill to out duel Dave Steele and Tyler Walker to capture his first career victory in the USAC Coors Silver Bullet Racing Series Dominic's of New York 100 at Richmond International Raceway on an oppressively hot Saturday afternoon.
Fike, who started eighth, used the first 50 laps of the race to patiently work his way into the top-five while simultaneously making a concerted effort to conserve his tires for a late-race dash to the front. "I got a good start," Fike explained. "I got up to about fifth or sixth on the start and we started eighth. So I was just playing it safe for the first 50 laps."
"I think you had to really conserve your tires today," Fike stated. "It was pretty hot outside and you are constantly turning on the front straight away, so the first 60 laps I was just kind of cruising around."
By lap 60, Fike's patience began to pay off after he passed pole-sitter Tracy Hines for third place. Over the course of the next 30 laps, Fike engaged in a spirited duel with Walker as the two drivers struggled to negotiate lapped traffic and maintain contact with the leader, Steele. On lap 66, Fike worked his way past Walker for second, but Walker refused to concede his position - re-passing Fike just one lap later.
Seven laps later, Walker brought out the third yellow flag of the event after his car started smoking as it crossed the start-finish line. After a brief stop on the pit road to check his right-rear tire, Walker quickly rejoined the battle in second.
On the subsequent re-start, it seemed as if Walker was poised to claim his first win. But Walker spun out four laps after passing Steele for the lead. Walker's spin represented the sole threat to Fike's eventual win. "I think he just went in there a little too hard and a little too high. But I ended up taking the lead there."
"Everybody had tire problems [today]," Fike stated. "My car was good up until the last 10 laps; I got really loose there. I think everybody was loose there when it gets down to the last about 20 laps, especially in the heat."
With Walker out and Steele's tires fading fast, Fike led the last five laps of the race to record his first career Silver Bullet win. Although Steele led 89 laps of the 100-lap race, Fike led the most important lap, the last one. "I thought we could run in the top-three, but I never really thought that we would win," Fike admitted.
"I was running as hard as I could without sliding it and I thought was taking care of the tires and they started shaking a little bit, then they started shaking real bad," revealed a decidedly disappointed Steele. "That's part of the game. You have to save your tires. I thought I was saving them, but apparently not. We didn't play our cards quite right and Aaron Fike did, and he won."
Series point leader Russ Gamester finished second, while Dave Steele managed to salvage a third-place finish. Jason McCord and Paul White rounded out the top-five.