RIDGEWAY, Va. – Report by Race Chaser Online Managing Editor Jacob Seelman – JDR Graphics photo –
In a split second on Sunday night’s final restart for the ASCORS ProGeek Consulting Cup Series at Martinsville Speedway, Logan Clampitt went from Superman to a bed full of Kryptonite and Matt Bussa stole a victory in round six of the series’ 12-race opening segment.
Bussa was ahead of Clampitt by a nose when a caution flew in turn two on lap 198 of the 200 lap affair, freezing the field and sending the No. 34 Gale Force Racing Toyota on to Gatorade Victory Lane and leaving the latter heartbroken after a bitter defeat.
Bussa explained after the race that he had a plan knowing that a caution would freeze the field, but didn’t quite expect it to work out as perfectly as it did.
“I knew everyone would be driving their well over their head on that restart to try and gain an extra spot in the final laps,” the Darien, Illinois native explained. “I hoped that because of that mentality it might lead to a quick turn one yellow, so my game plan was to use Clampitt as my braking point. I made sure that I hit the brakes just after he did, so I would have a nose in front of him at least until the exit of turn two and sure enough, the yellow flew just before we exited the corner. Had we gone an extra 20 feet, I would have been in second.”
“Based off many past situations like that at Martinsville where a yellow would end the race on a late restart, I knew that it was likely to work out in my favor. Had it gone green, I basically would have given up any chance of the win with how aggressive I dove it into turn one, so it was really an all-or-nothing strategy. Luckily it worked out in my favor – this is a huge win as far as momentum and in the points as well, and a great night for us.”
Clampitt started from the pole position and led the field to the green flag, jumping out front early ahead of Bussa and leading the first nine laps before caution broke out for a three-car melee that crunched in the No. 69 Boomtown Sim Chevrolet of Corbin Himstreet among the casualties.
The early caution sent much of the field down pit road, but allowed Justin Fuller and four-time season winner Ray Alfalla to stay out and lead the field back to the first restart of the night at lap 15. While Fuller would jump out to the advantage off the gun, it was Clampitt’s slightly fresher tires that proved to be the difference-maker, allowing the No. 44 High Performance Motorsports Chevrolet to reclaim the top spot on the pylon at the 24th round.
From there, the shuffle was on among the top five players, as Alfalla fell back to fifth just before a frontstretch parking lot at lap 31 drew the second yellow of the night and saw a premature end for Justin Weaver and Josh Parker. Following another round of pit service, a two-tire call for Trey Eidson would mean that the No. 1 Cessna Chevrolet was the control car as the field returned to green flag action at the 37th circuit.
Eidson’s lead would not last, however.
Clampitt proved again that four tires were the way to go as he shot out like a cannon from the outside lane, beating Eidson to the start-finish line and clearing him off turn two to reestablish his control ahead of the snarling pack. By quarter-distance at the 50 lap mark, Clampitt carried a one second margin over Eidson as the best battle on-track was between Fuller and Michael Conti for third.
Conti would finally clear Fuller with a bump on the 55th round, and dispatched Eidson for second two laps later as beating and banging became the order of the night around the 0.526-mile paper-clip. Fuller would be caught in the middle of a furious scrum for fifth before Alfalla interrupted the party and moved by just before the race’s one-third mark. All the while, however, Clampitt was continuing to stretch his legs out front – taking a two second lead over Conti at the lap 75 benchmark and holding the gap until Austin Jones was sent around on the backstretch, drawing a caution 10 laps on and reshuffling the strategies and the running order.
Though John Gorlinsky would stay out to lead a lap under the slowdown, Clampitt would quickly resume at the head of the train on the next green flag at lap 91 but a looped Bryan Blackford would mean that the race run would not last long. His troubles would draw the fourth caution of the evening and allow Eidson to stay out of the pits, leading through the halfway point and bringing the field back to green with 97 circuits remaining to be run.
Eidson would jump on point for seven laps after the restart, but just as he began to get comfortable, Conti came roaring to life — taking the lead and running out to a two second advantage before the caution flew with 68 to go, a skirmish between Byron Daley and Fuller that sent the No. 51 NOS Energy Drink Toyota around on the top of turn two the cause.
A subsequent incident for Fuller added a sixth yellow flag on lap 145 and meant that Conti would not be able to run the lead out as he had the run before. In fact, he would lose the lead under caution as Alfalla stayed out to throw a “Hail Mary” maneuver in front – hoping for any way to hang on and steal a win at the “Paper Clip”.
The effort didn’t pay. Though Alfalla held the point for three laps after the green rag dropped, Conti would not be denied another chance to lead laps. The No. 5 PEAK Chevrolet charged to the inside in turns three and four with 47 laps left and left into the Martinsville sunset, running away from Clampitt before Fuller’s third strike drew the yellow on lap 168 – opening the door for a speeding penalty that dropped Conti back and allowed the polesitter to return to the head of the field in a big way.
Ultimately though, it was not to be. The caution on lap 176 would bunch the field up and the penultimate incident – when Alex Monteferrante turned Tyler Dalton with nine laps to go, collecting Conti in the process – opened the door for the restart that allowed Bussa to steal the win away from Clampitt in the end.
The race-ending incident came when Dalton and E.J. O’Rourke made contact on the three-lap dash to the finish and sparked a melee on the frontstretch, and Clampitt was left lamenting what might have (and in his eyes should have) been after leading a race-high 108 laps.
“Pretty much, I guess people don’t know how to restart a race, so I got the win stolen from me as a result of that,” the 15-year-old hotshoe said in frustration. “He (Bussa) barely got it – it was close to a tie – but he was ahead when the yellow ended it. I was going to get clear off turn four, probably, and be good from there … but it’s definitely a disappointment.”
“There’s really nothing I could have done to keep him from doing what he did, either – I guess if I was in his shoes I’d have probably tried the same thing. You know, maybe if I get a little bit better restart or drive it in a little bit harder, it turns out differently, but you can’t predict when the cautions are going to fly. It is what it is – it sucks, but we’ll just try and get them next time.”
Mitchell Hunt, Eidson and Adam Gilliland rounded out the top five. Points leader Alfalla ended up quietly coming home in sixth, ahead of Byron Daley, Chase Cabre, Adam Benefiel and Blackford – who rebounded from his first half spin to collect a top 10.
Conti was on pace to break back into the top 10, but was relegated to 23rd in the final rundown after his involvement in the incident with nine laps to go.
The ASCORS ProGeek Consulting Cup Series returns to action on April 10, with the running of the Lone Star Showdown from Texas Motor Speedway.
For more information on the ASCORS Racing League, visit www.ascorsracing.com.
RESULTS: ASCORS ProGeek Consulting Cup Series; Virginia-Dogwood 200; Martinsville Speedway; April 3, 2016
- Matt Bussa
- Logan Clampitt
- Mitchell Hunt
- Trey Eidson
- Adam Gilliland
- Ray Alfalla
- Byron Daley
- Chase Cabre
- Adam Benefiel
- Bryan Blackford
- Matthew Moose
- Alex Monteferrante
- Austin Jones
- Justin Fuller
- Joseph Gulotta
- Doy Woods
- Greg Spears
- E.J. O’Rourke
- John Wilcko
- Jesse Kovacs
- Scott Mitton
- Tyler Dalton
- Michael Conti
- Brad Patton
- Matthew Quick
- Justin Weaver
- John Gorlinsky
- Chad Coleman
- Mathew Chafe
- Parker Kligerman
- Bentley Glaser
- Allen Lewis
- Jordy Lopez Jr.
- R.J. Williams
- Josh Parker
- Corbin Himstreet
- Brad Newman
Cautions: 10 for 47 laps.
Lead Changes: 15 between eight drivers.
Lap Leaders: Clampitt (1-11, 24-32, 36-86, 88-98, 170-172, 174-196); Fuller (12-23); Gilliland (33); Eidson (34-35, 99-110); Gorlinsky (87); Conti (111-145, 154-169); Alfalla (146-153); Bussa (173, 197-200).
Laps Led: Clampitt (108); Conti (51); Eidson (14); Fuller (12); Alfalla (8); Bussa (5); Gilliland (1); Gorlinsky (1).
About the Writer
Jacob Seelman is the Managing Editor of Race Chaser Online and creator of the Motorsports Madness radio show, airing at 7 p.m. Eastern every Monday on the Performance Motorsports Network. Seelman grew up in the sport, watching his grandparents co-own the RaDiUs Motorsports NASCAR Cup Series team in the 1990s.
The 22-year-old is currently studying Broadcast Journalism at Winthrop University in Rock Hill, S.C., and is also serving as the full-time tour announcer for the Must See Racing Sprint Car Series.
Email Jacob at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Email Race Chaser Online: email@example.com
Follow RCO on Twitter: @RaceChaserNews