JURKOVIC MAKES HISTORY AFTER BEING DOWN THREE LAPS
He's won the Bettenhausen Memorial, the George Appleton Memorial and the Elmer Musgrave 100. Those are all big races back in his neck of the woods around the Midwest. All have special meaning, but perhaps nothing means as much to Jurkovic as his new gun - A Winchester Rifle, earned for being victorious in the Winchester 400 CRA Super Series event. Not many people would guess that Boris Jurkovic would be standing tall, literally, in victory lane after being down three laps in the 40th Annual Winchester 400.
"I am so excited, this is a historical race and now we've won it," said Jurkovic with a grin. "I don't know what to say. In the middle of the race we were really disappointed and we went down a few laps because we had a bad tire, but we got a few cautions go our way and we can't ask for more."
Jurkovic spun on lap 241 and looked to be out of contention. As the race went on, a long green-flag run allowed him to get into a distant third. A yellow with five to go saw Chase Elliott come in for tires, leaving Jurkovic in second. After a quick green, then yellow, period, Jurkovic had to give the lead back for getting too good of a run on the restart. The second time he drove the low line perfectly in turns one and two to take the lead.
A final caution with two laps left saw Derrick Griffin pit for fuel and tires, but Jurkovic was able to hang on with the help of a few blocks to win the 400.
"I was ok with (the track position) until the 4 car (Griffin) went into the pits," said Jurkovic. "He was my buffer as Elliott had new tires and then they both did and it was a real challenge. I knew they had to give me the lead until the start-finish line and I just drove it down in there."
The 400 win comes just a few weeks after Jurkovic ran out of gas at Lucas Oil Raceway (IN) while leading the CRA event. That was a tough loss, but the 400 made up for that.
"We were a little disappointed after Lucas Oil, but you'll have that. Now we got a big win. We have won some big races, but this doesn't compare. This is a national race and that's more of local show. They are both great races, but this is the Winchester 400.
GRIFFIN IS CRA TOP ROOKIE AND CHAMPION
The kid almost did it all. We call Derrick Griffin a kid, but it's far from the truth. The recent birthday boy, who just turned 20-years-old, dominated the Winchester 400 only to come up short, but still managed to win the CRA Super Series Championship. Griffin was happy for the title, but the race was a few laps short for him.
"When we had tires we were the car to beat," said Griffin. "We didn't turn as good as the 9 (Elliott) or the 53 (Jurkovic) did on the restarts. Towards the end we came in with two laps to go because the fuel was cutting off and I thought we could do it, but we got back to second."
Another lap or two could have put Griffin’s car in victory lane. Prior to the late yellow, it looked as if Griffin was on his way. He was slightly better than the hard-charging Chase Elliott, who was working on Griffin hard for the lead hard. Once the yellow came out, Elliott came in for tires.
“Chase had a better car in the center on wore out tires. I just hoped we could maintain it and we did ‘til the caution came out. Jurkovic got us, not sure if the fuel was a problem just then too, but we had to come it with two to go.”
We asked Griffin if he was all-out seeing how the championship was locked up if he was going to do anything drastic to win with fresh tires. Some drivers might come only back with a steering wheel.
"I was driving as hard as I could without running into somebody," stated Griffin.
Despite not winning a race this season, Griffin will enjoy this championship right up there with his Great Lakes Outlaw title to his Stan Perry Memorial win.
"This is great and we're going to enjoy this and we are not sure what's next for us. 2012 is a mystery right now. Just trying to get another opportunity and see if we can run with it."
HANTZ ENDS 200TH WITH A THANK YOU
Scott Hantz might have had too much on his mind at the Winchester 400. He came into his 200th CRA race as the point leader and it was widely know that it was his final race for the Poe family’s #72 team. Hantz started off a little slow, but got to the lead only to have an oil line come loose, costing him the title and eight laps. Hantz finished 10th.
"It's a bittersweet day," said Hantz who had emotion in his voice. "Twenty-five or 26 years with EMF Racing is coming to an end. They are still going to sponsor me, but not the magnitude it was. We'll see what the future holds. I still want to race. I might be a local racer."
Hantz went on to praise Derrick Griffin on his title run as Hantz himself has three titles to his credit. The memories of those titles and a Winchester 400 win are etched in the mind of Hantz.
"I really appreciate Jackie Poe and Dick Poe, in memory of Dick Poe. We won a lot of races. They have been great to me."
ELLIOTT ALMOST GOES BACK-TO-BACK
Chase Elliott was almost in line to be a two-time Winchester 400 winner. The cards played out and if he had a full house then Boris Jurkovic laid down a flush at the end. After leading over 100 laps and getting tires late in the race, Elliott came home third in his third Winchester 400; it was his third top 10 in the 400.
"I wish the race had gone green for us for about 200 laps," said Elliott. "We were a little too tight on the short run. We might have been able to use a bit more gear. That was our plan to be good on lap 400 and that worked out well."
Elliott was very lucky he didn't get torn up in the big wreck when the field stacked up behind him. Elliott didn't come up to speed and drivers then ran over each other behind him.
"We broke fourth gear on a restart and had to change it under the red flag," said Elliott. "That's amazing the guys were able to do that and keep us in the race. I have to thank Aaron's and Ricky (Turner) and all the guys and I think we'll have some stuff for the bigger races towards the end of the year like the Derby."
SUPER SPOTTER WINS THREE TIMES
Jonathan Martin won the USA Modified title, Erik Jones won the JEGS title and Derrick Griffin won the CRA title all at Winchester and all with "Super Spotter" Branden Lines on top of the spotter stand calling the action for all three drivers.
"To think on Monday I could be a part of three championships was pretty amazing," said Lines, whose voice was about gone. "Not going to lie, I wanted that 400 gun, but we got him a championship so that really works out well for him."
KENSETH'S BID END WITH A FLAT TIRE
Ross Kenseth came to Winchester looking to get back on track and out of a recent slump. Kenseth came from deep in the pack to run in the top five before a flat Hoosier sent him to the pits late. He would lose two laps, but was still able to finish eighth.
"We ran something over after the wreck off four with Nasse and Mingus," said Kenseth. "We rode around on it for a lap or two, but we learned our lesson last year and came in and changed it. It really stinks cause I thought we were as good as Chase (Elliott). The 4 (Griffin) had everybody covered, but we could have been right with them at the end."
Kenseth had a flat last year only to end up in the fence before the 100 lap mark. This year they had to fight to get a handle on their machine before marching forward.
"The car was really tight early on so we had to wait to get tires on it to catch up. Those guys were better on the short runs, but after 10 or 15 laps we were as good as anybody."
VADNAIS MAKES MOST OF 400 DEBUT
In only his second start of 2011, Josh Vadnais came to Winchester hoping for success and came away with a strong fourth-place finish. The former Rockford Short Track National Champion can add a top five run to his list of achviments.
"We knew it was about survival for the first 350 laps and then everyone let it fly in the final 50," said Vadnais. "This is a great run for us in our first trip. It's like the Daytona 500 for us. We have not been able to make too many races this year, so it's extra special for us."
To the naked eye some fans might notice the Kyle Busch Motorsports blue colors on Jurkovic's Hamke Chassis winning car. The car was purchased from KBM and was a big winner for that team at the Snowball Derby and SpeedFest in back-to-back years.
GABEHART GETS HIS 400
Chris Gabehart finally gets a piece of the Winchester 400 as he was the crew chief for the day on the 53 car of Boris Jurkovic. Gabehart has won some big races with Kyle Busch Motorsports on the pit box, but he was a driver when Kyle won the Winchester 400 in 2009.
JEFF LANE FINISHES
For the first time ever Jeff Lane finished the Winchester 400. After knocking the nose off the car he limped into the top five with some damage and a big smile. The fifth-place finish was a career best for Lane at the 400.
"Man it's the Winchester 400 and we were bucking for the lead, so why not," said Lane. "Heck we finished. It's so hard to stay out of trouble here. It's 400 laps and it's grueling."
40TH TIME IS SPEICAL
The 40th running of the Winchester 400 featured a flyover at the conclusion to the national anthem which really got the crowd pumped up for the 400-lap Super Late Model show. Not many races have reached the 40th year. The Snowball Derby, The Milk Bowl, The National Short Track Championship at Rockford are just a few that are over the 40 mark.
ERIK JONES DRINKS THE MILK
How do you celebrate a championship when the winning driver is only 15-years-old? Since they couldn’t use champagne, Erik Jones’ Paragon Racing Team showered the youngster in milk in victory lane. In one of the grossest celebrations in recent memory, Jones was covered with low-fat milk, chocolate milk and all things in dairy liquid form. See video for highlights. Also to read more about Jones' title click here.
TRAVIS BRADEN A BRIGHT LATE MODEL STAR
Travis Braden won Saturday night's season finale for the JEGS Crate Late Model Series on the Winchester high banks. Braden was a track champion this year at the Columbus Motor Speedway (OH) and won a 13 times in 32 starts in NASCAR Whelen All American Series action.
-16 caution flags slowed the race for 94 laps.
-Boris Jurkovic might be the tallest Winchester 400 on record, can't prove it though.
-Derrick Griffin led a race-high 262 laps and did not win the 400.
-Chase Elliott finished on the podium for the second straight year.
-13 cars were running at the finish, only 11 were in 2010 and 12 in 2009.
-Jurkovic rode a Hamke Race Car to victory lane with Hamner Racing Engines power.