August 26, 2013 – By Jacob Seelman for Speed 77 Radio and Race Chaser Online – Hampton, GA – Friday at Atlanta Motor Speedway, it was a perfect storm of excitement that set the stage for the United Sprint Car Series inaugural event on the quarter-mile “Thunder Ring”.
Just moments after Ricky Stenhouse Jr., a former USCS competitor, took the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series pole for Sunday’s Advocare 500 at AMS, the stage was set for sprint car racing’s electrifying debut to one of NASCAR’s most-famous tracks. 19 cars, led by USCS National Points Leader Derek Hagar and 10-time USCS Champion Terry Gray, stormed to the quarter-mile bullring for 50 laps under the lights in the Tim Smith’s Climax Moonshine Sprint Car Shootout,.
The highly-anticipated program actually started in the daylight hours, however, as Brian Gingras, of Lakeland, Florida, set the Biobased.US Fast Time earlier in the afternoon. Gingras collected $200 for his blistering lap of 13.70 seconds. Teammates Terry Gray and Morgan Turpen, the #1 female sprint car driver in the nation, won the pair of USCS Heat Races that would help set the field for the main event.
At the drop of the green flag, it was Gingras who stormed from the K&N pole position to the early lead over two-time Must See Racing Xtreme Sprint Series champion and pavement veteran Troy DeCaire. Gingras would hold a comfortable margin over DeCaire, Derek Hagar and 2012 MSRXSS Champion JoJo Helberg in the early laps as the leaders worked in and out of lap traffic.
Those four would break away from the field before a caution on Lap 19 for 15-year-old Garrett Green (Valrico, FL) slowed the field for the first time. On the ensuing restart, Gingras would again grab the lead, but a scramble behind for second would result in JoJo Helberg sliding into the runner-up spot. Until the second and final caution of the event for Lance Moss’s #23 machine slowing in Turn Four, it would be Gingras holding Helberg at bay.
Once the field stormed back to green with 20 laps to go, the caution would not fly again, and Helberg would dog Gingras for the lead for 15 laps in and out of heavy lap traffic, while Derek Hagar, Michael Miller and Troy DeCaire would stage a thrilling battle for third behind the two leaders.
With just four laps to go, the tide of the entire event would change as Gingras, held up by the lap car of Jeff Willingham would push wide in Turn Three. That momentary miscue was enough for Helberg to storm three-wide to the inside and grab the lead for the first time. And once the #7 was out front, it was “Sayonara!” to the rest of the field, as Helberg would hang on to claim the win in the inaugural Climax Moonshine Sprint Car Shootout.
“This is an unbelievable feeling,” Helberg said in post-race Victory Lane to Race Chaser Online contributor Jacob Seelman of Speed77 Radio. “To win at Atlanta, it’s hands-down one of the biggest wins of my career. Definitely redemption for the last couple of weeks too. We’ve had some tough breaks. It’s good to be back.”
WINNER’S AUDIO INTERVIEW:
Though Brian Gingras was able to mount a charge, he ran out of time over the final three laps and came home second. The runner-up finish, combined with Gingras’ win at Watermelon Capital Speedway last month, was enough to secure Gingras the 2013 USCS Asphalt Thunder Championship.
GINGRAS AUDIO INTERVIEW:
Points leader Derek Hagar, 2000 USCS Rookie of the Year Michael Miller and Troy DeCaire completed the top five finishers in the highly-acclaimed and well-received feature event.
HAGAR AUDIO INTERVIEW:
The United Sprint Car Series now continues on a three-race weekend with races in Cleveland, TN on Saturday night and Toccoa, GA on Sunday night to complete the weekend.
For more information on the United Sprint Car Series filtercharged by K&N, visit uscsracing.com for all the latest results and information as the 2013 season rolls towards conclusion!
PHOTO CREDIT: Chris Seelman Photography
RESULTS – USCS Climax Moonshine Sprint Car Shootout at AMS
Biobased.US Fast time: #1 Brian Gingras, Lakeland, FL 13.70 sec. (1/4 mile flat oval).
Engler Machine and Tool First Heat: Morgan Turpen, Derek Hagar, Brian Gingras, Garrett Green, Troy DeCaire, Francis Crowder, Jake McLain, Jim Blenkarn, Joe Larkin and Lee Moore.
Butlerbuilt Second Heat: Terry Gray, JoJo Helberg, Michael Miller, Anthony Nicholson, Lance Moss, Tom Paterson, Todd Fayard, Ray Bugg and Jeff Willingham.
USCS Outlaw Thunder Tour main event 50-laps:
1. 7 JoJo Helberg, Santa Rosa, CA
2. 1 Brian Gingras, Lakeland, FL
3. 9Jr. Derek Hagar, Marion, AR
4. 4m Michael Miller, Ocean Springs, MS
5. Troy DeCaire, Wesley Chapel, FL
6. 10 Terry Gray, Bartlett, TN
7. 10m Morgan Turpen, Cordova, TN
8. 13 Todd Fayard, Saucier, MS
9. 3 Garrett Green, Valrico, FL
10. 9X Anthony Nicholson, Bartlett, TN
11. 100 Tom Paterson, Argos, IN
12. 67 Jake McLain, Indian Trail, NC
13. 17 Francis Crowder, Panama City, FL
14. 28 Jeff Willingham, Ripley, MS
15 46 Jim Blenkarn, Murfreesboro, TN
16. 23 Lance Moss, Cherryville, NC
17. 25 Ray Bugg, Iuka, MS
18. 1A Lee Moore, Tuscaloosa, AL
19. 33 Joe Larkin, Suwannee, GA