Sweltering heat, 95-degrees, and a humidity that put sweat on your forehead as soon as you stepped foot into the outdoors; that’s what competitors and fans endured at the inaugural CRA Super Series event at M-40 Speedway in Jones, MI. Good thing for all was that the temperature of the action on the track matched the ambient air Sunday during the Independence Day 125 at the 3/8’s of a mile racetrack.
And when Floridian Steve Dorer climbed out in victory lane, sweat poured down his face and his firesuit was soaked from a battle of epic proportions during the final 25-laps of the race.
“I was just working the hell out of it,” said the 41 year-old. “The car was loose and I was nervous. It was just exciting.”
Exciting because Terry Fisher, Jr. and Nick Gullatta attacked Dorer’s #10 Super Late Model like greyhounds on a rabbit. Fisher took the gutsy route, by going to the outside, while Gullatta kept poking his nose to the inside of Dorer.
But to understand the intensity of the battle and the pressure Dorer was under, you have to know one fact. Dorer had no spotter due to the fact that he began having radio issues before the halfway mark in the event.
“Man, I lost my radios on like lap 40. I had taped ‘em (the connections together) and the tape got in the way so I couldn’t plug them (back) in. I had to chew the tape off (EDITOR’s NOTE: All while he was trying to lead the race) because I didn’t have any finger nails. I finally got it off, but I couldn’t get it (the plug) in all the way, so I had intermittent radios for a while and then finally at lap 75 they were gone.”
Try that when you have someone (Fisher) to you outside and another one (Gullatta) trying to sandwich his way into the mix as well.
“I knew someone was there, cause every once in a while I’d get a look coming off of four and I said, “he’s there, he’s there,” but I never felt him or saw him (completely alongside), so I kept on doing what I was doing,” explained Dorer.
Fisher was fast on the high side, but didn’t have enough grip to make the move stick.
“I was just trying to get to the top side because I knew Steve wasn’t getting off the bottom and I knew it was hard to pass here,” said Fisher, who won the CRA SS show the Sunday prior in Angola, IN. “Once we got to second, I knew we were quicker than he was so I had to do something. It just got too tight up top.”
The ironic part about the battle, especially between Dorer and Fisher, is that it almost didn’t happen. Fisher had delivered a hard blow to Dorer earlier in the race that had sent the #10 into the wall.
“Coming out of two, I didn’t expect it,” said Dorer of the blow. “My guy hollered caution and all of a sudden I got hit in the rear. I spun around and tried to do a 360 and it just hit hard in the fence. It hurt my shoulder and my head hit the seat hard. I was mad! I was screaming on the radio, ‘Who the hell? What the heck? That’s great, we’re done.’ And my guys said, ‘No you might not be done. You might have more downforce now; it might be better.’ So we just gave it a shot and here we are.”
“He just checked up off of two because a caution must have come out and my spotter never called caution. It’s my fault completely,” said an apologetic Fisher.
Dorer competes in several CRA SS races during the summer months during a family vacation. He has a house on a lake in Steuben County, Indiana. Now he is a winner in the series and a winner for the first time in a year in Super Late Model competition.
“Man, I get sick if I don’t win at least a race a year. The last two years I’ve won one a year,” said Dorer who last drove to victory lane at DeSoto Speedway (FL) in June of 2010. “I’ve been on fire, I’ve had throttles hang, I’ve wrecked; I’ve done all kinds of crashing. And the last two weeks my luck has changed a little. (EDITORS NOTE: Dorer finished second last week in the CRA SS race at AMS) And winning in this deal is such a big deal because it’s such a reputable series, even Speed51.com comes and covers this series and that means so much.
“This is so much fun racing here. There’s such good competition and everyone runs so clean. Last week I started in the back and came up to the front with hardly any altercations. These guys don’t beat on ya; they don’t rough you up; they just race you hard. This is what racing is all about.”
LAST YEAR’S ROOKIE OF THE YEAR FINISHES SECOND
Even with all the talk of Fisher on the high side, it was Nick Gullatta who beat Fisher to the line on the final lap for second. It was the best finish of the season for last year’s CRA SS Rookie of the Year and his first top-10 finish in six point’s races.
“I enjoyed racing with Terry and Steve. I was waiting until about 10 to go and I had those guys pretty tight across the middle, but I just couldn’t get up there,” said Gullatta. “And then Terry got up there and I couldn’t get position again. I wasn’t ready to go up there because if you go up there and don’t make it stick, you are dead. But I’m happy for the team, they really needed it.”
THE HURRICANE FEELING THE WINDS OF CHANGE
Three-time CRA Super Series champion Scott Hantz might be feeling the effects of losing his long-time crew chief Pat Anderson. The duo split up shortly after the season began when Anderson took a full-time job with the EMF Corporation, which houses all of Hantz’s equipment.
Hantz finished seventh Sunday at M-40 and now has four top-five and six top-10 finishes in the first six races of the year to lead the standings. But as the tracks heat up in the summer months, the veteran is beginning to feel the loss of his crew chief.
“You live by your crew chief, you die by your crew chief,” said Hantz as he packed up his trailer. “The car was just tight. We actually had a tire (left-rear) going flat at the end of the race and that helped it a little bit (EDITOR’s NOTE: due to the fact that it opened up the stagger.)”
Hantz also competed in the Gold Cup Outlaw Late Model race on Friday at Toledo Speedway and finished fourth.
- 19 Super Late Models were on hand at M-40 Speedway.
- There were four lead changes by two drivers, Terry Fisher Jr. and Steve Dorer.
- There were five cautions in the event.
-Terry Fisher Jr. closed the gap on Scott Hantz in the battle for the championship. He gained eight points on Hantz and is now only 37-points behind. Fisher has the same number of top-5 finishes as Hantz, but one less top-10 run.
- Derrick Griffin was the top rookie in the event. He was scored fifth unofficially, but it appeared, to our vantage point, that he beat Tyler Roahrig to the line for the position.
- Roahrig was back behind the wheel of his own family-owned #24 Super Late Model after leaving the Welch and Wilson team earlier in the week.
- Jonathan Martin, a competitor on the JEGS Tour and a Modified racer, filled the seat vacated by Roahrig during the M-40 race. He finished 12th.
- Rookie Mason Mingus finished sixth, but had to battle up through the field after starting 15th.
- Michiana competitor Brent Jack scored his second straight top-10 finish in CRA competition.
- Matt Hall told us after the race that his #04 was just “too tight.”
- Damon Ecoff continues to compete in a former Richie Wauters prepared racecar.
-The next CRA Super Series event is at Plymouth Speedway on Sunday, July 24th. More than 30 cars are expected for that event.