At the end of Monday’s KOMA Unwind Modified Madness Series event at Ace Speedway, Tim Brown, much like his No. 02 car, was running on fumes.
Fighting a stomach bug on a day where the thermometer reached mid-90-degree temperatures at the North Carolina oval, Brown had just enough fuel to cross beneath the checkered flag first in Monday’s Back to School 125. He then had just enough energy to gingerly climb from his car and wave to the fans in victory lane.
With cars running out of fuel all around the leaders due to the 10 caution flag periods that pushed the actual lap count close to 200, Brown took the lead from longtime Modified rival Burt Myers with six laps remaining. Myers, who led a race-high 78 of the 125 green-flag laps, ran Brown up the track in turn two on a lap 119 restart. In turn four on the same lap, Brown gave Myers a bump, sending Myers’ car up the track. Brown then maintained the lead through a final restart after Bobby Sheffield spun in turn four with three laps remaining. Myers ran out of fuel on the last lap and Jonathan Brown, who inherited second when Myers was bumped from the lead, couldn’t mount enough of a charge on Tim Brown in the final circuits.
The Back to School 125 was Tim Brown’s second-straight and third overall KOMA Modified win of the season. This one, however, was a struggle even after the checkered flag had flown.
“I’ve been fighting that stomach bug for two days now,” said Brown. “All night long I thought me, the 1 (Burt Myers) and the 4 (Jason Myers) were about equal. Whoever got that optimum line was going to be the one who would win.
“With that last restart where me and him were side by side, we sailed off into the corner down there and I had a little bit of an advantage on him. He gave me a shot and ran me up the racetrack, but it gave me a great run off the corner. So I gave him a shot to try to get under him and it worked.”
Myers, who won the KOMA series’ first race at Ace Speedway back in June and went to victory lane in the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour event at Langley (VA) two days prior to Monday’s race, knew he had his hands full on the fateful restart when Brown got the advantage from the drop of the green.
“We went down into the corner and I washed up into him a little bit,” said Myers, who finished ninth after running out of fuel on the final lap. “We got back to three and he sailed me off into the corner. I had it saved, but somebody else hit me and knocked me sideways. We’re definitely disappointed with the finish, but let me tell you something. This LFR Chassis, that thing is bad fast, man.”
Once Brown was out front, he still wasn’t in the clear. The restart with three laps to go was a concern, but perhaps not as much of a concern as potentially running out of fuel. Jason Myers, Mike Norman and Zach Brewer had already needed to pit to add fuel in the closing laps, so fuel was very much an issue in the closing laps for Brown.
“Up the back stretch on the last lap, mine blubbered,” said Brown. “I was shaking it and it got power up off four. Then after we took the checkered flag it died out of gas. The last several cautions when I saw cars running out of gas, I was shutting my car off and letting it roll. If I hadn’t done that, we wouldn’t have made it.
“I know how much fuel goes in and how much fuel is left over after you run 125 laps with three or four cautions where you run six or seven caution laps. I told my guys, ‘Hell, we may run out of gas.’ I didn’t tell (the crew) on the radio because I didn’t want everybody else to do it, but I was leaving all the switches on so all the lights would stay on, but I was shutting it off to keep it rolling. Then when they’d get away from me, I’d fire it back up, get in the gas and cut it off. I did that for several laps and if I hadn’t we wouldn’t have won.”
Brown entered the Ace event 47 points behind Burt Myers for the inaugural KOMA Modified championship. The win, coupled with Myers’ ninth-place result, helped narrow the gap with just two confirmed dates remaining on the schedule.
“We’ve been great all year,” added Brown. “A couple races just got away from us. We were really good at Coastal Plains, but we lost a bunch of laps with a mess-up on pit road. The last race here we were really good, but had a left-rear wheel come loose and wipe the caliper out. We’ve been right there, it’s just starting to pay off right now.”
Jonathan Brown finished second in his debut in Tommy Neal’s No. 21 Modified, followed by Johnny Sutton, who had led 12 laps in the second half of the race. Jason Myers was fourth with Dan Speeney fifth.
Click here to replay the Speed51.com Trackside Now coverage of the Back to School 125
– By Matt Kentfield, Speed51.com Executive Director, Twitter: @MattKentfield. Photo credit: Speed51.com