Thru Noggles Goggles .::. July 9th
Darren Hagen of Riverside, California narrowly edged out Kyle Hamilton in a photo-finish Friday night to secure the Mopar National Midget Series victory at Plymouth Speedway after a heated duel between the two for much of the 50-lap affair. It was Hagen’s third win of the season and 19th of his career, timing him for 31st on the all-time win list with greats Stan Fox, Jason Leffler & Jerry Coons, Jr.
This one did not come easily for Hagen, as he was dogged high and low by Hamilton, who set fast time for the third race in a row on the National Midget circuit. Coming off his first-career series victory last Saturday at Grundy County Speedway, Hamilton nearly had the pass for the lead completed multiple times. A multitude of cautions through the race’s mid-point slowed the pace and provided restarts where Hagen would get some breathing room. The final fourteen laps went green, and Hamilton went at Hagen from every angle. A diamond move in turns three and four took Hamilton to the inside of Hagen on lap 38, and the two made contact in turn-one and skated up the track, narrowly avoiding disaster.
Over the final ten laps, Tracy Hines poked under Hamilton and forced him to strictly utilize the higher groove that Hamilton had used much of the race to assault Hagen. After taking the white flag, Hamilton cut smoothly through turns one and two, leading to a dramatic ending that left the crowd in suspense as to who took the win. Hagen edged Hamilton at the line by the narrowest of margins, sending his RFMS Racing – Liberty Village #3 Beast/Esslinger to victory again, lengthening his point lead.
“Starting position for us tonight was everything. We were pretty decent for a while, but right through those cautions, we just kept getting looser and looser. We both slid up the track there sideways when he got under me, but I just got back to the throttle and it drove off straight. I really thought he might try to bump me in the final corner – I was protecting the bottom – and he almost drove by us on the top. He raced us clean and it was a great finish,” Hagen said.
Hamilton thrilled the crowd with another strong performance, coming from sixth to nearly steal the win aboard the Curtis Motor Sales – Hamilton Painting #33 Spike/Esslinger. “I tried everything I had there. You can’t fault me for lack of effort there. I got pinned up on the outside by Hines there towards the end, so I just kept rolling the top there and almost got him at the end. It was a great race, just tough to beat a good guy like that,” Hamilton said.
Hines tucked in close with the leaders and poked his nose in the fight for the lead, but had to settle for third in the Parker Machinery – Turbines, Inc. #24 Spike/Stanton Toyota. “I always try to be patient in those long races and let guys stuff die away. I went when I needed to, but I just never could clear Kyle (Hamilton). I kept trying to push him up to try to get by him and get my shot at Hagen, but he ran me so clean I had to keep respecting his line up there. It’s good to race a young guy like that, that’s a perfect scenario. We just got stuck back there and had to take third,” Hines said.
The top-five was completed with a pair of cousins, as Caleb Armstrong came home fourth in the Syngenta Seed – EverFi #7c Beast/Stanton Toyota & Dalton Armstrong finished fifth in the Syngenta Seed – EverFi #7A Beast/Stanton Toyota.
MOPAR USAC NATIONAL MIDGET RACE RESULTS: July 6, 2012 – Plymouth, IN – Plymouth Speedway (Paved) – “Plymouth Palooza”
QUALIFICATIONS: 1. Kyle Hamilton, 33, Hamilton-12.582; 2. Tracy Hines, 24, Parker-12.644; 3. Taylor Ferns, 55, Ferns-12.656; 4. Caleb Armstrong, 7c, C&A-12.660; 5. Dalton Armstrong, 7A, C&A-12.703; 6. Darren Hagen, 3, RFMS-12.712; 7. Jarett Andretti, 17B, RW-12.755; 8. Bryan Clauson, 71, Kunz/Curb-Agajanian-12.760; 9. Kody Swanson, 11, Wilke-12.813; 10. Jimmy Simpson, 21, RacePro-12.823; 11. Mario Clouser, 17, RW-12.855; 12. Bryan Nuckles, 59, Nuckles-12.865; 13. Nick Drake, 6, East-12.869; 14. Kyle O’Gara, 67x, Fisher/Hartman-12.879; 15. Grant Galloway, 16, Galloway-12.953; 16. Andy Nock, 51, Nock-13.158; 17. Zach Daum, 5D, Daum-13.166; 18. Rico Abreu, 67, Kunz/Curb-Agajanian-13.210; 19. Dillon Welch, 39, Tucker/BCI/Curb-Agajanian-NT.
FIRST HEAT: (8 laps) 1. Drake, 2. Andretti, 3. Hamilton, 4. Simpson, 5. C. Armstrong, 6. Welch, 7. Nock. NT
SECOND HEAT: (8 laps) 1. O’Gara, 2. Hines, 3. Clauson, 4. Daum, 5. Clouser, 6. D. Armstrong. 2:08.50
THIRD HEAT: (8 laps) 1. Galloway, 2. Abreu, 3. Hagen, 4. K. Swanson, 5. Ferns, 6. Nuckles. 2:10.35
FEATURE: (30 laps) 1. Darren Hagen, 2. Kyle Hamilton, 3. Tracy Hines, 4. Caleb Armstrong, 5. Dalton Armstrong, 6. Bryan Clauson, 7. Mario Clouser, 8. Jimmy Simpson, 9. Dillon Welch, 10. Taylor Ferns, 11. Jarett Andretti, 12. Kody Swanson, 13. Rico Abreu, 14. Bryan Nuckles, 15. Grant Galloway, 16. Andy Nock, 17. Nick Drake, 18. Kyle O’Gara, 19. Zach Daum. NT
FEATURE LAP LEADERS: Laps 1-50 Hagen.
NEW MOPAR NATIONAL MIDGET POINTS: 1-Hagen-866; 2-Hines-674; 3-C.Armstrong-645; 4-Clauson-609; 5-Bobby East-545; 6-Clouser-544; 7-Kyle Larson-500; 8-D.Armstrong-445; 9-Chris Windom-442; 10-Abreu-441.
The following day, this assembled group of five had a wonderful luncheon with six-time Indianapolis 500 starter Paul Goldsmith (3rd/1960). [Picture, etc. in tomorrow’s report.], As the group was preparing to return to the track for the second night’s racing program, a phone call from Gene Crucean, who had left early and gone to the track to perform his USAC photography duties, informed us that the Saturday night program was cancelled due to the extreme heat. (Could it also have been the small attendance the night before?) Here is the official announcement from the USAC website:
Temperatures continuing in the 105-degree range expected to adversely affect engines and track conditions and creating extreme heat in northern Indiana have forced cancellation of Saturday night’s USAC portion of the “Plymouth Palooza” at the Plymouth Speedway. The USAC Mopar National Midgets are scheduled to compete on Sunday night at Angell Park Speedway in Sun Prairie, WS, while the next scheduled appearance of the Midwest Ignite Midgets is July 13 at the Gas City (Ind.) I-69 Speedway.
So it was home earlier than expected and an escape from the extreme heat. Such is the life of a race fan, always at the mercy of the weather.
Regarding the July 4th report on the Pikes Peak Hill Climb, long-time PPHC Chief Steward and TNG reader Bill Walters sends this report:
One of an auto racing’s worst fears was realized Saturday in IndyCar’s first practice when helpless crew members were struck by a race car on pit road. Justin Wilson couldn’t stop his Dale Coyne Racing machine as it approached his pit box. He saw a collection of crew members standing in his path, so he turned toward the inside pit wall to slow the car down as much as possible. Still, four people were struck, one seriously.
Chuck Homan of Dragon Racing was transported to a local hospital for evaluation of a leg injury. Witnesses said he was pinned between the front of Wilson’s car and the back of Sebastien Bourdais’. Another Dragon crew member, Raffi Aroyan, also was transported to the same hospital with an apparent ankle injury. David Martin of Dragon, along with Michael Cole of Coyne’s team, were treated and released from the track’s infield care center.
“Came down pit lane and I pressed the button to get neutral, and it denied (it),” Wilson said. “It left me in first (gear); I couldn’t get neutral. On top of that these carbon brakes don’t work when they’re cold, so I’m hard on the brakes and I’m not stopping. I’m not even locking the front wheels. I (took) it out of gear just as I’m (coming) into the box. At the last second I tried to hit the wall to take speed off of it. I can see those guys sitting there and they’ve got no idea I’m coming. I’m still in first gear pushing on. I steered the car into the wall. Still got them. I hope Chuck’s OK.” Wilson was clearly shaken. “That was pretty horrible, totally helpless,” he said. “I didn’t know what to do; I couldn’t turn out (into the pit lane). They don’t know I’m coming; they’re looking forwards. Normally you’ve got enough brake power to override it and stop the engine. But my brakes didn’t work.”
Bourdais said he didn’t immediately talk to Wilson, but he didn’t like what he heard of Wilson’s explanation. “Still, it’s a (reconnaissance) lap,” he said. “Unless there is no brakes, no clutch, no gearbox and the throttle is full on, it can’t happen.” Wilson sat out most of the practice session only to back out near the end. As he came around Turn 8, he saw Alex Tagliani’s stalled car in the middle of the track. Wilson did the only thing he could to avoid hitting Tagliani squarely in the side: He turned the car into the tire barrier. “It’s just been a horrible session,” he said.
Simon Pagenaud apologized to Will Power today for their second on-track incident of the weekend, but Power wanted none of it, and Pagenaud knew it.
Paganaud said it was his mistake that they touched wheels approaching Turn 8 in this morning’s practice. The incident came on the heels of a similar incident Friday that left Pagenaud confused by Power’s intentions.
But this wasn’t payback, Pagenaud insisted.
“I (made a mistake), to be honest,” he said after the practice session ended. “I tried to let him go on the outside and I saw him going on the inside in my mirror, so I didn’t want to get on the brake at that time.
“I went on the brake too late on the new tires, and I locked up. I couldn’t make the corner, but he stayed there and tried to make the corner, and I couldn’t make it, so we hit. I said I’m sorry; he heard me. I said, ‘I’m sorry. It was definitely my mistake.’ But he’s imagining different things. He think it was payback; he thinks I’m trying to run him off the track. That’s not true.”
Power declined to be interviewed. Pagenaud acknowledges that he now has a strained relationship with his former Champ Car teammate.
“And that’s a shame,” he said. “He knows we’re friends, he knows I can help him if he needs it, but he doesn’t want to listen.”
Power is IndyCar’s points leader. Pagenaud is sixth, 40 points behind Power.