Victory 11 Years in the Making ...
Rebecca Johnston tries to qualify
as Davin Lasanen looks on.
Shannon Keating and Ralph Gleaton
try to qualify for the big finale.
GM Michael Garton controls the Final
as Ralph Gleaton, Josh Githens, Phil White and Michael Buccheri
watch the race progress.
James McCarthy and Bill Burdick are
just two of the 22 finalists seated around the oval track when
the race begins.
Sweet Relief ...
This year's tournament consisted of eight preliminary races
in three heats (150 laps on a One Mile Oval) with 46 drivers
vying to qualify for one of the coveted spots in the Final race.
The top three drivers from each of the heat races advanced for
a field of 24. Nearly half the field took multiple shots to
qualify by returning to run in succeeding heats, but some still
fell short. Two drivers, Mark Mitchell and Josh Coyle ran in
all three heats and their persistance was rewarded when they
qualified in their third and final try.
The preliminary race winners were Michael Buccheri, Josh Coyle,
2000 champion Tim Dolan, Dan Lewis, James McCarthy, Keith McFarland,
and a pair of Italian drivers: Fabio Pelligrino and Mario Ales.
At the drop of the green flag for the Final, 22 of 24 qualifiers
were present for 200 Laps on a Tri-Oval Superspeedway. The polished
veteran GM team of Michael Garton and John McLaughlin kept the
action moving briskly, aided by projected lap cards to keep all
drivers well informed. Carol Caler in car #99 started in the
pole position with 00, Dan Dolan Jr, leading the outside lane.
The action was intense from start to finish with a total of
eight lead changes. 14 different drivers were counted in the
top six at one point during the race. Two crashes claimed seven
drivers and reducing the field to 15 cars. During the green
flag pit stops, #95, Mike Buccheri (aka Rickey Bobby), decided
to sacrifice his good car settings for a chance at a faster pit
time, but his pit crew failed to get him out any faster and he
fell to last place where he stayed until the last lap. He then
made a successful last ditch effort and passed a car to climb
out of last place for a small moral victory.
Meanwhile, at the other end of the parade, #9, two-time champion
Phil White held the lead for the most laps and was still in the
lead at the start of the last play only to fall short by a photo
finish to #23, Ralph Gleaton. Ralph started the race in fourth,
only to fade out of the top six. With less than 50 laps to go,
he climbed back into the top five and made a charge from fourth
to first on his last move. It resulted in not only his first
SCC title, but his first WBC shield ever after over a
decade of making the northward pilgrimage with the Mafia. It
is rumored the plaque made its return to Greenville attached
to the grill of Ralph's car as a triumphant hood ornament.
Fabio Pelligrino in car #42 started the field dead last and
moved up steadily during the race to break into the top five
for the first time on the last lap to earn the most improved
driver - moving up a total of 17 positions. Dan Dolan, Jr in
#00 was the most consistent driver - starting second, never falling
below fifth, and finishing in third place.
It is a 12-lap turn and Mark Mitchell
is flanked by the Italians to his left and the Mafia to his right
... talk about a Soprano moment.