In asphalt short track racing it’s not too rare to see a race decided in the tech shed with a couple of cars here and there getting disqualified. Sometimes it’s the winner that gets tossed. Sometimes it’s the guys that finish second or third. More often than not, nobody gets disqualified. But very rarely does what happened at Florida’s Citrus County Speedway on Saturday night take place.
After the Eddie Brann Memorial Florida Modified race, a total of 15 cars were disqualified. LJ Grimm took the checkered flag on the race track, but ninth-place finisher Jeremy Gerstner took home the trophy and the checkered flag.
“I guess they wanted to prove a point, whatever point that was,” Grimm told Speed51.com powered by JEGS.
“Well it started off because in our opinion Florida Modifieds have gotten out of hand,” Ray said. “I’ve raced them and we know that and a lot of people agree to that. We were paying out a $20,000 purse and we wanted to make sure that the car that won this race was going to be right.”
Grimm said he was disqualified because the right side door panel went past the back of the engine block. Others were disqualified for having right side windows that were too narrow as well as a multitude of other issues.
“That’s the biggest race of the year for us,” Grimm said. “It definitely sucks, especially the way it was done. It’s pretty frustrating. Then they started changing rules this year and I understand a rule is a rule, but most of the front-running cars have passed Ricky Brooks’ tech and they’ve been legal all year long. It just sucks that everyone was jumping through hoops to get their cars legal for that race and then they go and do something like that.”
Ray said that he and the head technical director, his uncle Robert Ray, were very specific in the rules on what needed to be done. Ray added that they tried to be as helpful as possible to anybody that asked for rule clarifications in the weeks leading up to Saturday’s race.
“We told them all numerous times that the guy that wins that race is going to be the guy that wins it in the tech area,” Ray said. “We always reminded them to look the rule book over numerous times because we were going to start on page one and go all the way to page four and that’s exactly what happened at the end of the night. Some people say it’s our job to tell people what we’re going to check this week, but every time I went to a race with my Pure Stock or Modified we never knew what they were going to check.”
Gerstner, the official winner, said he jumped through hoops to get his car legal for this race at his old home track. He said he changed the right front A-frame, changed an axle, put new nerf bars on, changed the right front A-Arm, upper and lower tie rods, bought new wheels and added lead to the car to make sure he’d conform to the rules of the race.
“I built this car in 2003,” Gerstner said. “I’ve won a lot of features at Citrus and I won a championship there in 2010. It’s not like I’m not a top-three car. But I did all of it. I was told by the track that they were going to make everybody across the board make changes to their cars and there would be no favoritism.”
Gerstner’s race car has an old Chevrolet Chevelle frame. He won a championship at Citrus and at Ocala Speedway (now the dirt track of Bubba Raceway Park) in the 2000’s. But his frame has notches in it for tie rods, and Gerstner said that made him nervous.
“I called the track and I told them I wanted to come and run their race, but I need to make sure my car is legal. I told them I couldn’t afford to be illegal because I blew a lot of money making changes to fit the rules, but I wanted to come play. I told the track that I didn’t have a tube chassis. I had an old-school car because it was built in 2003. But it’s notched for the tie-rods. William Ray told me he had no problem with it because my Chevelle frame weighs 230 pounds and the tube frames weigh 75 pounds so I was already at a disadvantage.”
Gerstner finished ninth, and then was told to take the check and trophy home after passing tech around 4 o’clock in the morning on Sunday.
Ray said that some people are saying that the track just didn’t want to pay out the full purse. To counter that argument, Ray said that the track has actually donated the unpaid purse money to a trust fund for Eddie Brann’s daughter. That unpaid money came out to be a total of $12,625.
While Ray is thrilled to be able to make a donation like that, he said he still feels bad that this situation happened in the first place, especially for the teams that spent a lot of money to make changes and still failed tech.
“I’ve been talking to them, and there’s guys that spent thousands of dollars to get their cars ready to come to this race track. I do feel bad that we took their money. But they changed a few things, but didn’t change other things.
“We told them so many times to read their rule book. We just felt there was a little bit of ignorance sent back to us. With Dickie Anderson (car owner for Josh Todd) for instance, we went to his shop twice and looked through his whole car for suspension and steering. We told him numerous times to get rid of all of the aluminum on his car. Then he shows up they find an aluminum steering quickener. Come on, man.”
Meanwhile, Gerstner has been getting complaints thrown towards him on social media for accepting his prize money.
“A lot of people have been talking about what an a**hole I am for taking the money and that I should have boycotted the whole thing,” Gerstner said. “Really, it’s just insane and it’s sad. It really is. This is not the way I wanted to win this race, by any means. These guys are my friends and I haven’t gotten to run with them in a while. I didn’t want to win this way.”
-By Rob Blount, Speed51.com Southeast Editor – Twitter: @RobBlount
-Photo Credit: Citrus County Speedway