By Anddy Veltman
(Talladega, AL) The ASRS Twitchy Race Reports Premier Cup Series would see action last Tuesday in Alabama. Following a week hiatus, drivers and teams geared up for the Sam Maxwell Customs Cup Talladega 200, a 76-lap event slated to take place at the 2.66-mile Talladega Superspeedway. One of two restrictor plate tracks on the schedule, fans would be hard-pressed to expect anything outside of close, high-speed pack racing.
17 drivers would advance via the open qualifier to fill the 35-car field. Of main event qualifying, the perch’n Pole Award would go to Jay Graves Jr (8). Graves would post a 51.874s lap time, just 0.001s quicker than Tom Giannini (44) and Jason Stewart (11), with Giannini picking up the outside pole by a few ten-thousanths. Overall, there would be a difference of 0.091s through the top-17 qualifiers.
At the wave of the green flag, Giannini would get a slight jump on Graves, pulling ahead by a nose heading into Turn 1. The advantage would be short-lived as Graves would enlist the drafting help of Stewart to push himself back to the lead. Graves would clear Giannini by the 2nd lap, though Giannini would try to hang on in the outside lane, with help from his teammate and owner Jim Foose (42), but would settle into the 12th position as the majority of the field would fall into single file. By Lap 4, the top-16 drivers would then breakaway from the rest of the field.
Lap 6; Stewart would make a move around Graves, passing to the outside with help from Jarred Haggerty (6) and then sliding in front of Graves to secure the spot. Haggerty would hold tight to Graves’ right-side door panel momentarily, nearly making contact as the cars bounced around in the draft. Haggerty would lose momentum, with Pete Baskins (3) jumping front of the 6 car to take lead of the oncoming outside lane of traffic.
Powering the high line, Baskins would make his move on Lap 8, edging Stewart on the backstretch and clearing him by the exit of Turn 4 to grab the lead. Trailing Baskins, Haggerty would again push from the outside, but with limited help from Tyler Saville (63) and Nick Kerling (91), would be unable to find enough speed to pass the larger number of cars still holding true to the inside line.
Lap 20; in what appeared to be a possible bump from behind, Alex Giese (77) would lose the rear wheels entering Turn 1, shooting down to the apron and then up the banking, taking Kris Titus (25) with him into the outside wall. The impact would send Titus for a ride on his roof, with a handful of drivers behind stacking up in an attempt to avoid the incident, and qualify as grounds for the first caution period. Baskins would lead the field down pit road, but it would be Jay Graves Jr. taking 2 tires to beat Jordan Ashelin (27) back on track for P1.
Back to action on Lap 25, Graves and Ashelin would battle side-by-side through the backstretch, with Graves picking up a half-car advantage as they passed the flag stand. Graves would clear Ashelin after a couple of laps, as Ashelin would lose drafting help, reduced to just the single car of Baskins behind him, as the other drivers would settle into the lower groove. Ashelin would eventually fall in line in 9th.
Lap 29; while battling in the 2nd group, Jordan Miller (76) would drift up from the inside line, making slight contact with Jarred Haggerty and Steve Buhala (43), with Miller sliding onto the flat area at pit road exit. Miller would restart his machine and continue on track, with the race remaining green and at the control of Graves.
Mark Emerson (22) would see an opening on Lap 32 below Graves and look to move, but would be forced to the apron as the gap closed. As a result, the leaders would scramble to make room for Emerson to return to the track, with Steve Ritter (16) taking advantage and passing Graves for the lead with help from Sam Maxwell (98).
Ritter would continue to lead under green conditions until lap 37, as Brian Yaczik (55) would get turned on the exit of the tri-oval while working with Ty Hester (36) further back in the field. Yaczik would regain control of his vehicle without making any contact and continue on, but ASRS Officials would display the yellow flag. Pit stops would be welcomed by the lead lap cars, with Maxwell’s team coming through on a 2-tire stop to send their driver out in 1st over Ritter.
The green flag would wave on Lap 43, with Maxwell on the inside of Ritter. Joined with help from Mark Emerson and Jason Stewart, Maxwell and company would clear the outside lane, with Ritter falling in behind them for 4th, leaving those remaining in the pack to continue on double-file. Within a handful of laps, this would allow the top 4 to distance themselves from the remaining drivers. A safety net would be short-lived, however, as by Lap 49, the 2nd pack of cars would regroup. Setting themselves in line, they would close the gap and increase the size of the lead pack to 17 cars.
With 20 laps to go, Nick Kerling would look to lead a push from the rear of the pack, with Drew Carroll (85) and Scott Eckrich (70) jumping out in front of him for extra momentum. Jeff Ward (90) and Mitch Brown (18) would do the same, getting in front of Carroll to increase the power in the outside groove. With an abundance of drafting help, the outside line would slowly begin to work up alongside the others, with Ritter sliding up in front to pull alongside the 3rd-place car of Stewart. Ultimately, the line would stall out, with many drivers jumping back to the inside, sending Ritter backwards.
Coming to 12 to go, Ritter would attempt to slide back in line, but would catch the bumper of John Kennedy (89), sending Ritter sideways onto pit road and Kennedy through the grass. Ritter would roll behind pit wall, while Kennedy would continue on. With both drivers clear of the racing surface, the green flag would stay out.
At 10 to go, Sam Maxwell would hold the lead over Mark Emerson and Jason Stewart, with 13 cars total in the lead pack. With all drivers sticking to the inside line, Tim Knott (41) would jump to the outside, but without drafting help would slip to the back of the pack.
Jordan Miller and Steve Buhala would again make contact coming to the line with 8 to go, with the 43 car hooking into the outside wall and drawing the yellow flag again. The lead drivers would remain on track to guard track position, with none of the top spots changing.
Sam Maxwell would once again take the green flag, this time with 3 to go. Outside, Mark Emerson would hold pace with Maxwell through Turn 1, then edging the 98 car on the backstretch via a push from Jordan Ashelin. Emerson would clear, sliding down in front of Maxwell to take the lead. Maxwell would remain glued to his bumper, looking for drafting help in Jason Stewart.
Coming to the white flag, Jay Graves Jr. would make hard contact with the outside wall while drafting with Mitch Brown. Bouncing back across the track, a multi-car incident would ensue, allowing the top-5 clearance to race back to the line. Exiting Turn 4, Stewart would look to make a move around the outside of Maxwell for 2nd, with Maxwell also looking to get around Emerson, but it would be Emerson taking the victory in 3-wide fashion.
Leading 3 laps, Mark Emerson would celebrate in victory lane for his 1st ASRS TRRPCS victory. Sam Maxwell, despite leading a race-high 35 laps, would score the runner-up finish, while Jason Stewart would round out the race where he started, in 3rd, with 2 laps lead. Jordan Ashelin, Pete Baskins, Jim Foose, and Steve Ritter would also pick-up bonus points for leading at least one lap each. As for other notables, the pole-sitter Jay Graves Jr. would come home in 21st, while the entering points-leader Jeff Ward would finish 5th.
Following Talladega, the top point positions would remain the same. Ward continues to hold the point lead over Jared Mogard (00) by 20 points. Brian Yaczik remains in 3rd, 31 points off of the lead. Jordan Ashelin and Jason Stewart round out the top-5. The largest gain is picked-up by Richard Fletcher (47), up 18 spots to 56th in his first start of the season, while David Howard Jr. (14) falls 5 positions to 15th after getting caught in the first on-track incident.
Returning in 4 weeks, the ASRS Twitchy Race Reports Premier Cup Series will next see on-track action in North Carolina for the Fred’s Charlotte 200. Prime Time Racing TV coverage will begin at 9:00PM EST on May 22nd 2018.
Race feed: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=24QDwInoZLw