Church Uses 3-Wide Restart to Win Dillonby Jason Beck March 8, 2015 0 comments
Photo Credit: Hunter Thomas
By: Jason Beck
When the green flag dropped Saturday night, super late model driver, Tyler Church didn’t know if he’d have the money to race again this season. The $4,000 check Church claimed for winning the Pro All Star Series (PASS) South Carolina Clash 125 will certainly help.
The Hickory, N.C. driver used a fast car, conservation strategy and a daring three-wide restart with nine laps remaining to win the PASS series’ opening race of the season at Dillon Motor Speedway. Trevor Noles of Raleigh, N.C. finished second, and late model rookie, Zane Smith finished third.
Church’s late battle with Noles and Sanford, N.C.’s, Jody Measamer on the final restart was intense but unusually clean for racing on a tight speedway.
“I wasn’t expecting that, and I wasn’t going to back off until I got back out front,” Church said following his victory lane celebration. “We had the best car there, but we didn’t need those cautions at the end.”
Every driver who had witnessed previous events at Dillon knew tire conservation would be the key to success, and the top finishers spent the majority of the race cruising mid pack. Pole-sitter, Tate Fogleman dominated the race, leading the first 80 laps before fading late. He handed the lead to Measamer, who was finally passed by Church with 24 laps remaining.
Fogleman, who fell to fourth after being passed for the lead, crashed hard off of the bumper of PASS regular, Cole Timm, setting up the final restart with nine laps remaining. Timm, who ran in the top five most of the day, was penalized for the contact and finished eighth.
Church said saving tires until the closing portion of the race is difficult and requires patience.
“I kept watching the leaders pulling away, and I kept thinking I might need to pick it up some,” Church said. “I’ve been in this situation before and not had as good of a car. The longer we ran I thought we might be going green all the way, and I knew I better get with the program.”
Church’s fourth career PASS South victory is important for the driver and his lower-budget team. After experiencing recent financial hardship, the driver is hoping his most recent victory will turn some heads. Three previous winners of the South Carolina Clash – Daniel Hemric, Austin Theriault and Ryan Blaney – all raced NASCAR series races at Daytona International Speedway last month.
“It’s all you can do – you hope, pray, work hard and do the best you can,” Church said from his meager hauler after the race. “In my mind I can do anything … It’s a lot of hard work and heart.”
Church was recently hired at Hendrick Motorsports in the fabrication shop, and he’s hoping the new position will provide a career opportunity in big time racing. Another driver hoping to build a career is third place finisher, Smith. The 15-year-old Legends Car graduate recently relocated from California to the Carolinas to be closer to racing’s epicenter. Finishing on the podium in only his third stock car start will certainly turn heads. Smith fell to nearly last early in the race, but by saving his tires was turning the fastest lap times of anyone in the waning laps.
“It is all thanks to (owner) Gary Crooks; he basically talked to me the whole time and said at the beginning of the race don’t do any stupid moves,” Smith said. “I did what he said and we started to go on lap 75, and on lap 90 decided to get what we could get.”
Smith said his team will run the entire PASS South schedule in an attempt at the championship.
The Dillon race was slowed by only two caution flags. Joey Doiron and Measamer rounded out the top five. The PASS South will next compete on March 21 at Anderson Motor Speedway in Anderson, S.C.
In the night’s other feature races, Kodie Conner used a late-race restart with less than 10 laps remaining to pass 12-year-old rookie Chandler Smith for the victory in the 50-lap pro late model race. Conner started near the rear of the field due to a blown engine earlier in the day. Wesley Noles, Ryan Krachun and Logan Jones completed the top five.
Chase Purdy won the 25-lap Legends Car feature over Ryan Millington and Devin O’Connell.
Sean Gartner triumphed in his first career victory in the Challenger race after last-lap contact between Dillon regulars, William Haynie and Jeff Melton.