After working through what has been self-described as the toughest season of his racing career, Pro Late Model veteran Andrew Gresel earned his first victory of the 2015 season on Round 7 of the tour at Sunset Speedway on August 23rd.
The second-generation standout entered the season as an early favourite for a run towards the inaugural tour championship, but suffered through a number of on-track incidents in the first five rounds of the schedule that left his team with just a single top-10 finish entering Sunset.
“After everything this team has been through this season – this is the win we’ve been working for,” remarked Gresel upon clearing post-race technical inspection. “It’s been tough. This is the toughest season we’ve ever had to work through, but these guys never gave up”
Gresel transferred into the 100-lap A Main after winning the afternoon’s last chance qualifiers event, working his way through the field from his 23rd starting position.
“We just missed it in time trials and made this day a lot tougher,” explained Gresel.
“We were practicing on old rubber and that definitely turned out to be a mistake because we just didn’t know what the car was doing and what it wanted to do. Once we won the B Main, I knew we were alright, because the car felt awesome”
“I can’t thank my sponsors and every single person that helped us keep this car on the track all season. It’s been a struggle even at the best of times, but finally getting a win at a track that hasn’t been our best in the past is an awesome feeling”
Gresel stripped the lead away from Matt Pritiko on lap-98 of the event to complete a highlight-reel late-race push. Pritiko – who was making his return to the APC Series after a disastrous crash in Round 4 of the tour in early July – hung on to finish second.
“We were good all day, I was really happy with how this car responded right out of the box,” said Pritiko post-race in reference to his new McColl Racing Enterprises chassis.
“This car is completely different from anything I’ve ever driven and I’m super excited about what we can do with it moving forward”
Pritiko worked with 30-time Late Model champion – and current Sunset Speedway weekly regular – Tom Walters throughout the afternoon and was quick to credit the Hall of Famer in post-race ceremonies.
“Bringing Tommy on board made such a huge difference to our day,” said Pritiko. “I’m not from around here, so I don’t know this track nearly as well as a lot of these other guys do, so having Tom in my corner all day really helped. He just kept pointing out what to do and where to run and it worked out huge”
Third-generation star Dale Shaw entered the event just 17-points behind tour leader Shawn Chenoweth. Shaw would finish third, while Chenoweth would grapple with brake issues through the second half of the event and limp to a 19th place finish, tightening up the points battle entering the final event of the season on September 19th at Delaware Speedway.
“At one point, I looked over at the infield and saw Shawn [Chenoweth] and told myself ‘Ok, I need to be smart here’,” explained Shaw when asked about his late-race strategy.
“We scored some good points during qualifying, and finished ahead of the guys we needed to,” continued Shaw. “Now, we’ll go to Delaware – my best race track – and see if we can’t track down a championship”
Post-race, Chenoweth insisted the points situation will not impact his team’s strategy entering September 19th’s finale.
“We’ve won championships before where we’ve had to come into the final night and be perfect,” shrugged Chenoweth in reference to his 2013 Flamboro Speedway title run. “Delaware is not my best race track, but we’re going to unload there and see what we come out with”
“I haven’t had an answer for Delaware in the past,” continued Chenoweth. “I can’t really say we’re horrible there – because we’ve led laps in the past – but we haven’t had a run solid enough for me to say we’re good there just yet”
“All we can do is fix this brake issue,” added Chenoweth, “and the car owner [Paul Law] told us that now that we’re down to the final night – it’s checkers or wreckers.”
For information on Round 8 of the APC United Late Model Series presented by Grisdale Racing Products, visit www.APCRacingSeries.com or www.DelawareSpeedway.com.
Fans can keep up with the tour by following on Twitter @UnitedLMSeries.
1) Andrew Gresel 2) Matt Pritiko 3) Dale Shaw 4) Jason Parker 5) Jamie Cox 6) Josh Stade 7) Mat Box 8) Nick Goetz 9) Steve Laking 10) Brandon Watson 11) Shaun McWhirter 12) Mark Watson 13) Dan McHattie 14) Billy Schwartzenburg 15) Ron Beauchamp 16) Trevor Collver 17) Tom Gibbons 18) Shawn McGlynn 19) Shawn Chenoweth 20) Willie Reyns 21) Rick Burbridge 22) Linc Brown 23) Dwayne Baker 24) Cayden Lapcevich 25) Marvin Freiburger 26) Mike Bentley
-By Spencer Lewis, Speed51.com Canadian Editor – Twitter: @itsspencerlewis
Photo Credit- Jerry Abramowicz