Knock on Wood: Volume 14, #14
by Matt Prieur
OVID, Mich. -- You hear it all the time, the armchair quarterbacks on Monday morning stating what you "should've" and "could've" done last weekend to run towards a better finish week in and week out all season long. Rarely however does a race fan or a columnist for that matter take matters into their own hands though.
Last Friday night at the Spartan (MI) Speedway for their end of the season "run what ya brung" special, yours truly spent his first off weekend for the ASA Late Model Series since God knows when, behind the wheel and racing a Pony Stock at the 1/4 mile semi-banked paved oval.
Nope, couldn't be a race fan this night! After traveling all over the country with the ASA Late Model Series since March, my wife Elaine Prieur and I spend our first totally off weekend at a race track and racing! I got the chance to jump behind the wheel of Keith Holden's Orange and White #17 Pony Stock for the last night of the season at the "Track the stars call home."
This really wasn't planned, my brother in law, Butch Morence, came over to the house earlier in the week and was talking about getting his car out to Spartan again after finally making his 2006 debut during the Harvest 250 over the Labor Day Weekend.
Jokingly of course, I mentioned to Morence that Keith Holden, who keeps his car in Morence's race shop, should step out of the drivers seat and let me drive for one night. Little did I know that on Friday afternoon after Elaine and I got to Spartan, that Holden took me up on the offer.
Keith Holden's Pony Stock
With Qualifying about to start, Holden states that "You're driving tonight!" so after borrowing his drivers suit, helmet, and all the needed safety features, gloves, neck collar, shoes, I jumped in at the back of the Pony Stock field to qualify. No hot laps mind you!
We got a couple of laps to scuff in the tires before pulling into the "X" in the center of the track to await our turn to qualify. With 19 cars on hand, I was assured of making the show. So I go out to qualify and surprisingly enough, with no hot laps (Did I mention that?) I went out and turned a 17.625! Good for 13th quick. Not bad eh?
I figured back of the slow heat right? WRONG! They split us up into three heat races and that placed me on the pole of the second heat race! Great!!! I'm not a race car driver by any stretch of the imagination, I want to make that VERY clear.
Sure I've raced several officials races, media races, even did a couple of "Writer's Perspectives behind the wheel" segments back in the mid 90s at Auto City (In a Factory Stock and later a Thunder Truck), Dixie (In a Factory Stock), and Owosso (Got my a$$ handed to me by eventual Powder Puffs Champion LaVonne Hall in a match race! (We won't EVER talk about that again!)
My career stats are great to me! (And me only) Two Officials race wins; Dixie in 1996 and Owosso in 2004. Won a media race at Tri-City also in 2004. My most fun racing I'd ever done up to this point however was finishing ninth in a Factory Stock feature at Dixie.
I guess I'd have to add winning the Officials Race at Owosso back in 2004 over Fabian Frary, who by the way clinched the 2006 Pure Stocks Track Championship at Owosso with a week to go over this past weekend as two of my highlights of my "racing" career!
Back to last Friday night, I would start on the pole of the second heat race. I had Terry Winstad next to me with Missy Bishop, Jacob Newman, Brian Beckner, and Russ Potter in his Pure Stock (Remember "Run what ya brung") all behind me for an eight lap heat race.
I swear I never felt so nervous in my life! I had butterflies the size of Pterodactyls in my stomach, not only for me, but I wanted to do well (remind you I'm not a driver) for my wife, Elaine, who despite what she says now, was REAL nervous when this idea was brought up and now here I am leading the pack to the white flag signaling one lap to go to begin this heat race.
I could only imagine what she was doing up in turn four with our friends Russ, Kim, and Kendra Lauderdale up in the stands cheering me on. (Hey at least I had four fans right?...........RIGHT?) I'm sure "Big" Ed Inloes was having the time of his life ripping on me for even racing in the first place and now here I am on the pole of this heat race getting ready to take the green.
Well we head into turn three and I've announced more than my share of races to know that when you hit the apex of turns three and four, unless there is a cone set in a certain place where you can start, you mat the gas and pray to God!
That's exactly what I did, I matted the gas as hard as I could and didn't let up until I hit turn one. I'm waiting for the cars behind me to give me a "love tap" to let me know they're there. But nothing happened!
I come around to complete lap one thinking; "Damn, I jumped the start and the caution will come out and I have to do this again!", but nope the flagman is doing nothing and I in turn did something that quite a few drivers in the history of Spartan Speedway have never done;
I LED A LAP AT SPARTAN SPEEDWAY IN A REAL RACE!
So I come out of turn two, still no one in sight, they've GOT to be right behind me. So I throw the car into three and four and as the racing cliche goes; I kind of fell out of the seat! I was all kinds of sideways coming out of four, later I learned I had about a two second lead on the field!
I still had the lead despite it all and then it happened, I head into one and two and here comes Potter to my inside. He gets by me coming out of two in the third lap, I figured, "Ok I'll just tuck in behind him and ride it out." Nope that wasn't happening, because here comes the rest of the field to my inside AND outside and I end up the sandwich in a three wide banzai into turn three!
Once I regain my composure and re-swallow my hot dog I ate before racing (Bad move, don't eat before racing, EVER!) I find myself last in the six car field. But I hung in there and finished sixth but I was right behind the field. Potter won by the way.
Then it was feature time, with a total invert, I would start outside the third row with all the heavy hitters behind me, Jimmy Scavarda, Mark Garland, and the rest. For the first time ever, I was on the giving end of the wave lap.
As a driver, there is nothing like it in the world to see a packed house of fans standing and waving at you as you go by. It gave me goose bumps the side of basketballs! Then it was time to race. My goal for the feature was finish on the lead lap and if my luck was good, get a Top 10 finish! Pretty simple I thought!
We get the green and so far so good, then as it did in the heat race, here I am three wide again going into turn three as the field behind me blows by. I felt like a pinball out there those first couple of laps. But then a cautions came out and I settled in somewhere in the middle, more towards the end of the pack.
We went the rest of the race caution free and I'm riding towards the back of the pack, with just a couple of laps to go, I'm thinking, "I might finish on the lead lap!" No sooner than I thought that, Garland and Scavarda pass me like I'm standing still to put me a lap down just as the white flag comes out!
Third through fifth also get by me and I finish 14th one lap down! I have to say that despite my finish, that was the most fun I've had at a race track in a long time! I have to thank Keith Holden and Butch Morence for a great car, the Spartan Speedway for allowing me to compete, and finally my wife Elaine Prieur, for letting me do this!
Hard to believe but the end of the season (at least in Michigan) is here. 2006 Track Champions are being crowned all over and the end of the year specials are upon us.
The big three day Season Championships show at Owosso is this weekend. All six track champions will be crowned over the three day weekend. Camping is allowed, although it's not the Owosso Nationals that we all know and love, it should still be a great weekend of racing at the Big "O".
The Glass City 200 weekend with Outlaw bodied Super Late Models and USA Modifieds is at the Toledo (OH) Speedway on September 22-23 while the big Open Invitational Weekend is up North at the Whittemore (MI) Speedway to end the month of September. Support the local tracks as the season draws near the end!
As always, any and all information about the ASA Late Model Series can be found by going to one of the three websites; For the televised Challenge Division, go to; www.asalatemodels.com For the companion Northern and Southern Divisions go to; www.asalatemodelsnorth.com and www.asalatemodelssouth.com.