May 8, 2011 01:45 AM EST
J.J. Grasso Scores Abtex Spring Sprint Nationals Win in First Trip to Black Rock
Halfway through his first night at Black Rock Speedway, J.J. Grasso noted that his first impression was positive; by the end of the night he was sure that he liked the Dundee oval.
Grasso, of Pedricktown, N.J., took the lead back on lap 14 of the Abtex Spring Sprint Nationals from Justin Barger and never looked back to score his first win of the year and the $2,500 top prize.
“This is definitely the biggest win of my career,” declared the 2009 URC Champion after climbing the tail tank of the Palladino Motorsports No. 99 in Victory Lane with the Checkered Flag in hand.
Grasso drew the pole position after scoring the win in heat four. He took the early race lead with Josh Weller staying close in tow for the top spot. He was solid but lapped traffic would prove to once again be the equalizer.
On a lap 9 restart, Justin Barger, the winner of the 2010 Fall Sprint Nationals, drove underneath Josh Weller for second and within three laps was reeling in Grasso as the leader had reached the back of the field. When Grasso bobbled behind a lapped car, Barger stole the lead away, but it would not last for long.
“Barger got by me and I really didn’t know what to do,” Grasso recalled after the race. “I just relaxed and try to get the car right and keep my cool and darn if we didn’t catch back up to him and get him in lapped traffic. It’s tough (in lapped traffic), you try to go where they are not but when they are everywhere you have nowhere to go.”
Grasso would find somewhere to go on lap 15 and would dart back in front of Barger while Weller was also within reach of the lead. Just after taking the top spot back, the red flag would wave for Art Liedl and give Grasso the open track he needed to create some breathing room.
The 4/10-mile oval was fast on the night, but the correct line entering the corners was imperative.
“I was sitting in (turn) one (under the red flag period) looking for the best route to get through and that was crucial because if you missed it you would get all thrown off,” noted Grasso afterwards.
Grasso would also be benefited by a lapped car buffering Barger and himself on the lap 16 restart. After the final caution on lap 20, however, he did not have such a luxury and Barger had one last chance to go after his fourth career BRS win. On the final parade lap coming to the lap 21 green flag, Barger drove up underneath Grasso to try to rattle him, but Grasso would remain stoic on the restart and drive away to the win.
With 34 impressive cars in the pits, the action was fierce throughout the night. Barger was satisfied with his runner-up showing, although he recognized afterwards that the chance to win was definitely available.
Josh Weller also lamented afterwards on the way the 25-lap feature played out, stating that a long green flag run light might have been just what he needed to pick up the win. In the end, he would have to settle with third place.
Randy West steadily drove the No. 56 towards the front to finish in fourth, while Jared Zimbardi made a late charge to claim a top five finish.
The on-track incidents on a beautiful spring evening included Chuck Hebing slammed the foam barricades protecting the turn one wall in hot laps, Bryan Howland slapping the backstretch wall after wheel-hoping another car in the heat, Alain Bergeron slamming the backstretch wall on the second lap of the feature and collecting Curt Michael, B-Main winner Steve Whary flipping in turn four and Liedl going for a wild ride off the backstretch. All drivers were fine.
Waters, of Whitesville, PA, kept defending track champion Jason Knowles in second throughout the final 16 lap green flag stretch that settled the second tour race of the season. Knowles would peak his No. 4 underneath the No. 11 of Waters on multiple occasions but to no avail.
The race had minimal stoppages, with the second on lap 14 requiring three restart attempts. One of those restarts was needed when Glenn Whritenhour, who had led up until that point, spun around in turn four and was relegated to the back. Waters would take over the lead and never give it up.
Behind Waters and Knowles were Jeremy Wonderling, Adam DePuy and Jared Hill to complete the top-five.
Ferguson, of Rochester, NY, held off a hard-charging Tyler Walker in the final nine-lap green flag stretch to take his No. 45 to Victory Lane.
The race was mired by cautions early in the event, but the late green flag run made it a two-car show battle to the win after Walker had got back by A.J. Bogino for second. Bogino would hold on for third while Nick Cooper and Mike LiVecchi completed the youthful top five.
Clay Weaver scored his second win in as many races in the Klein Steel Retail Enduro that concluded the night of action. Joe Boylan had a brief stay in the front of the pack and would hound Weaver for the lead all the way to the end, but would have to settle for second.
Brief afternoon showers would not deter racing from taking place nearly on time in front of an impressive crowd for the special Saturday show. Racing action returns to normal next Friday with the exception of Twin 13’s for the street stocks. For more information, visit www.BlackRockSpeedway.com.
Sponsored by Abtex Corp., Watkins Glen NAPA and S.P. Wilson/ Lakes Gas
Abtex Corp. Spring Sprint Nationals A-Main (25 Laps)- 1. J.J. Grasso (99), 2. Justin Barger (32), 3. Josh Weller (63), 4. Randy West (56), 5. Jared Zimbardi (35), 6. Becca Anderson (22), 7. Robbie Stillwaggon (89), 8. Chuck Hebing (45), 9. Steve Poirier (28FM), 10. Curt Michael (5G), 11. Kramer Williamson (73), 12. Bryan Howland (51), 13. Scott Kreutter (52), 14. Davey Franek (28F), 15. Tim Hogue (39), 16. Kevin Ward Jr. (13), 17. Dylan Swiernik (7c), 18. Tyler Rand (84), 19. Troy Betts (22B), 20. Vern Wasson (5), 21. Art Liedl (2), 22. Don Adamczyk (21), 23. Lance Yonge (17), 24. Steve Whary (44s), 25. Michael Parent (25), 26. Jeff Cook (10), 27. Alain Bergeron (8B).
Lap Leaders- Grasso 1-10, Barger 11-14, Grasso 15-25.
Race 1: 1. Jeff Cook (10), 2. Dylan Swiernik (7c), 3. Randy West (56), 4. Jared Zimbardi (35), 5. Davey Franek (28F), 6. Scott Kreutter (52), 7. Steve Collins (67), 8. Jonathan Swanson (17J), 9. Alain Bergeron (8B).
Race 2: 1. Josh Weller (63), 2. Chuck Hebing (45), 3. Tim Hogue (39), 4. Kramer Williamson (73), 5. Steve Poirier (28FM), 6. Tim Kelly (12), 7. Troy Betts (22B), 8. Dave Wickham (80), 9. Bryan Howland (51).
Race 3: 1. Becca Anderson (22), 2. Lance Yonge (17), 3. Vern Wasson (5), 4. Art Liedl (2), 5. Curt Michael (5G), 6. Robbie Stillwaggon (89), 7. Cory Sparks (7), 8. Shawn Donath (33).
Race 4: 1. J. J. Grasso (99), 2. Justin Barger (32), 3. Don Adamczyk (21), 4. Michael Parent (25), 5. Kevin Ward Jr. (13), 6. Steve Whary (44s), 7. Tyler Rand (44s), 8. Jeff Frasier (99x).
Lap Leaders- Whritenhour 1-14, Waters 15-
Heat Winners- Mikey Wonderling, Mike Wonderling, Jeremy Wonderling.
Lap Leaders- Bogino 1, Ferguson 2-20.
Heat Winners- Wise, LiVecchi, Ferguson.
Lap Leaders- Wilkins 1-3, Boylan 4-14, Weaver 15-30.