Salem, IN – Brian Gerster would not be denied a win in Saturday’s 55th annual Joe James/Pat O’Connor Memorial at Salem Speedway despite a failing car. The event was the final race on the 2014 Must See Racing Xtreme Sprint Series (MSRXSS) calendar.
The speedway was recently repaved in turns three and four and the new pavement insured plenty of side-by-side racing the entire night. A healthy crowd was on hand for the event despite cool race time temperatures.
2011 Joe James/Pat O’Connor Memorial winner Jo Jo Helberg earned the night’s qualifier award with a lap of 14.300 seconds. Unfortunately, he would have to start eight in the feature by virtue of a number eight pill being drawn for the feature inversion.
Troy DeCaire made quick work from his inside row four starting position and gained the lead by lap three. DeCaire to be in control of his own destiny and looked strong early. With Gerster and Helberg lurking, DeCaire became overly aggressive in heavy lapped traffic. He made contact with a lapped car on lap twelve and cut a right rear tire down. This misfortune would end his bid for the win.
Gerster then assumed the point until his motor began to miss on lap 18, allowing Helberg to make the pass for the lead. The top spot was short lived as Gerster roared back to take the lead a handful of laps later in strong fashion, as the duo ran wheel-to-wheel through turns three and four. Gerster would narrowly hold a hard charging Helberg off the final five laps as Gerster’s left side wing side panel began to peel back.
An excited Gerster explained the James/O’Connor Memorial are one of the few pavement sprint car events left that Gerster badly wanted to win. ”I’ve never won here at Salem and this is a big win for me. To add your name to the list of former winners of this event is an honor” explained Gerster.”I’ve wanted to win this race. I’ve had some strong finishes here in the past. I lost the lead early tonight when my motor sputtered. I finished the race on seven cylinders and the sideboard of my wing began to peel back with about five laps to go. We’ll take it” concluded a happy Gerster.
Following Gerster to the checkered flag were: Helberg, Aaron Pierce, Davey Hamilton Jr., and Anthony McCune rounding out the top five.
-Must See Racing Xtreme Sprint Series Press Release. Photo Credit: David Sink
OFFICIAL FEATURE FINISH 30 LAPS
1. Brian Gerster (50m)
2. Jo Jo Helberg (7)
3. Aaron Pierce (26p)
4. Davey Hamilton Jr. (81)
5. Anthony McCune (14c)
6. Jerry Caryer (0)
7. Cody Hoover (23)
8. Kevin Blue (6)
9. Sam Davis (43)
10. Ron Koehler (10k)
11. Troy DeCaire (22a)
12. Davey Hamilton (1)
13. Jimmy McCune (88)