The Washington 500 is quite possibly one of the oldest racing weekends in the Northwest. As a kid I remember my dad taking me to the speedway to watch the NASCAR Series. Usually a big name or two would come and make an appearance. There has been huge hype around this event for decades, but recent years have seen the prestige dwindle a bit, bit that doesn’t discourage those who show up. All in all, it’s always a fun time at the track and 2010 didn’t disappoint the Snohomish Pie Co #70 team.
The gates opened early and we planned a full day of testing and getting the car ready in order to race in both shows, a 150 lap race and a 175 lap race. The track made a decision to change the type of tire we’d been using, which made for some challenges. We’d been told that the tire was pretty much the same as the older model, but truth be told, not even close. My intentions of racing both events were dashed when we bolted on the new model. The car, which had been phenomenal on the previous tire, was a bucket of bolts on the new model.
Having won the previous race I’d figured we would fine tune the chassis in practice and have a relatively easy day, not so fast. After scuffing the new tire the car had a severe push, so bad I thought we were out to lunch for sure. I was kicking myself for not practicing the night before like my rival, Tom Moriarty. The points battle for the Championship is close between us, so every point matters, and I didn’t want to leave one point on the table. In addition, the field of cars was strong. There were 15 Championships starting on the grid. I wanted to show every one of them that the Snohomish Pie Co is a legit contender in a solid field of cars.
Steve and my crew went to work. They were working like animals in the 85+ degree temperatures. They changed springs, tolerances, measurements, and a bunch of race car jargon. I went out to practice again, and the car was a lot better, but still needed more. Again, more work was done. At one point the guys were soaked from the heat, but they were jammin.
I went and scuffed the race set of tires. The car was decent, but I thought it’d go away in the race. Steve left it alone for qualifying. Guess what? It was the right call!!! We qualified on the pole! It was awesome. The car was solid. I knew I had Q-1 coming off turn 2 if I didn’t make a mistake in turn 3 and 4. The car was so good through 1 and 2 there was no one taking it from us.
The night would start with a trophy dash. We elected to scuff the two right side tires that we would change in the race, so I hung in 3rd for the few laps.
We rolled out on the track for the main. As we were sitting there it dawned on me I was surrounded by 15 Championships, but had out qualified them all! I took a moment to pump the guys up on the radio and let them know how appreciative I was for their hard work this day. We had a chance to win this thing.
The race was to be 150 laps with a 10-minute caution at lap 75. My plan, because it was a full invert starting me in the back, was to just ride and not use up my left side tires as I would get new right ones at the break. So ride we did, the break came and we had went from 10th to 5th without really using the car, but for a few laps.
The car was loose, so the guys went to work at the break to tighten it up. They did a great job.
Starting the 2nd half, I was on the grid in 4th. We went into turn one and my car didn’t turn, it went straight for the fence. I went from 4th to last in one corner. But it wasn’t over, even when it seems over, it’s not over. I put my head down and drove.
The car was wicked fast. Someone told me that 11 laps later I was in first. I did move around the outside of my competitors as quick as I could. The worst part was I had to show how good my car was. It was quicker than the leaders and I had pulled them back about a half a straight away. I was riding in 3rd heading to the front when the leaders got together. One car spun, the other was sent to the back for the spinning. I was in the lead.
What would happen next was one of my favorite moments in my short racing life. Like passing Roger on the 5/8’s years ago when I was a rookie, this was a high point.
John Zaretzke was saving his car also; in fact, earlier he had just waived me by. But as the race went on he came after me. Not once, but 4 times! I held him off the 1st time on the outside and cleared him. I held him off a 2nd time, and a 3rd. I knew I could beat him if I just kept my groove and didn’t make a mistake. It was the 4th time with just a few laps remaining that I made a small error. I lost my focus trying to navigate a lapper and John took advantage. He got me.
We rode out the remaining laps in 2nd. You might think I was bummed. Well, sure I’d have love to win that race. It would have been my greatest win yet. However, I qualified first in a huge field of cars, no disappointment in that. Secondly, John and I had an epic battle, two guys just having a blast racing wore out race cars. Third, my team was top notch on Saturday, the best at adapting to the new tire. Fourth, talking with John after the race; the smiles, laughs, stories, these are the reasons why I race.
Thanks Washington 500. Thanks for letting me see Harry Gant, Bill Elliot and Davey Allison when I was a kid. Thanks for giving my dad a place to take me and make memories. Thanks for the ‘banners’ Roger and I borrowed after the race was over for our shop, we’ll get those back to you some decade… And thanks for letting this guy do something I never thought I could.
And Thank you Lord for keeping us safe this weekend…until next time.