As throngs of fans mingle with the drivers on the front stretch, Bobby signs an autograph
Charlotte County Motorsports Park owner/promoter Bobby Diehl and United Drit Late Model Challenge Series promoter Ken Kinney had the drivers pull their Late Models onto the front stretch for a special autograph session where the fans could walk down the front stretch and meet the drivers prior to the race. It was an odd scene to have a full field of Drit Late Models parked on pavement, but the fans loved it. After numerous autographs were signed and pictures taken, the fans were ushered back to their seats and the drivers prepared for battle.
With a roll of the dice, the first six qualifiers were inverted for the green flag. That put Collins on the inside of row two with Mark Whitener on the pole and Mike Bresnahan to the outside. When the green flag dropped, the field screamed off into Turn 1 in front of packed grandstands. The race would be over just 13 minutes and 28 seconds later with Collins in Victory Lane. Johnny Collins was so fast he had the lead well before the midpoint of the race, lapped everybody but the Top 5 cars and won by more than a quarter of a lap.
Packed grandstands prove that Drit Late Models on asphalt are a great draw.
How'd we do? Eleventh, but the car did exactly what our strategy said it would do. Bobby started the race slightly tight and as the fuel burned off, the car came to him, getting faster and faster. Veteran asphalt driver Billy Bigley was at the race, timing us as well as others. He told us later that over the last 10 laps, Bobby was consistently faster than Collins. Unfortunately for our strategy, the race went off without a single caution. That's right. There wasn't a single yellow flag to keep the field bunched up, and Collins was able to walk away with the victory.
Had there been some cautions, the outcome of the race might have been different, but our qualifying spot and the lack of cautions kept the Circle Track Project DLM mired mid-pack.
Bobby Diehl, owner/promoter of Charlotte County Motorsports Park, gets things under way. I
After the race, the consensus through the pits and the grandstands was one of excitement and surprise.
"I would never have expected that many green-flag laps," Collins said later. "But I was glad to see it go green that long."
Collins' sentiments were echoed by Bobby. "That was a lot of fun, but if you told me before the race that we'd go caution free, I would have told you that you're crazy."
Runner-up Mike Bresnahan wanted to see a caution for one simple reason: "I'd have liked to see yellow to see if I had anything for him, but Johnny was awesome."
Bresnahan wasn't the only one hoping for a caution, Third- and Fourth-Place finishers Dusty Cone and Mark Whitener also desperately wanted one. But in the end, it never came.
We made a calculated gamble on our race strategy basing much of it on a combination of the inevitable cautions and the car getting faster as the race wore on. Well, we were 50 percent right.
We all still agree that it was the right thing to do and would do it again given the same situation. After all, no one, from Bobby Diehl down to the youngest kid in the grandstands, could have predicted that the race would go caution free.