Fast cars, a worn-out surface, and a spectacular sunset posed pretty good challenges to PGRL drivers as they tackled Atlanta Motor Speedway on Tuesday. The double-header was a tale of two extremes. A bold fuel-saving strategy saw Colton Salek capture his first checkered flag in a caution-free Race 1. In the second event, Scott Eckrich recovered from two minutes of damage to earn his series-leading 23rd victory.
RACE 1 RECAP:
Jeff Ward earned the Mahan Speed Laboratories Pole Award at Atlanta, setting a four-lap average of 31.129 seconds. Michael Chrobok lined up alongside Ward on the front row. After a good launch, Chrobok spun the tires and slammed the wall, dropping to the rear of the field and allowing Ward to pull out an early lead.
Atop the pit boxes, calculators were smoking. With fuel numbers tight and tire wear high, most drivers opted for a two-stop strategy. Jeff Ward pitted out of the lead on lap 24, turning the top spot over to a rotation of competitors including Robert Barney, Colton Salek, and Tyler Dohar. Salek and Dohar stopped on laps 33 and 34, respectively. They felt they could make a one-stopper work with additional fuel saving in the second stint.
The race stayed green, and the strategy worked to perfection for Salek and Dohar. The Chevrolet pair cruised to a 1-2 finish ahead of a disappointed Ward, the highest runner on the two-stop strategy. Salek’s victory was his first in PGRL and came in his 17th start.
RACE 2 RECAP:
Points-leader Paul Pepper started Race 2 from pole position and jumped out to a sizeable advantage, as sun glare made racing through the tri-oval extremely challenging. The big one struck on lap 9, as an attempt at give-and-take amidst the limited visibility went awry. Scott Eckrich was caught up in the incident, suffering several minutes of damage. Marc Cohn used his cat-like reflexes to weave his way through the carnage, earning the Pretty Good Move of the Week.
Back up front, the lead was contested between the two winners from last week, Paul Pepper and Ryan Zima, along with Ricky Hardin. Disaster struck Hardin’s team on the final pit stop, as his crew failed to get the memo to change tires. “I fully expected you to be HardInTheWall by now, not need new rubber,” the crew chief of the #3 team said.
The miscue cycled Brian Yaczik to the lead, but his older shoes were no match for a hard-charging Scott Eckrich. Thanks to speedy service from the Winternode Service Plus crew, the #70 was back in top shape. Eckrich took over the lead and never looked back, winning by an even 2 seconds over Jeff Ward.
On the strength of four consecutive top 10s, Johnathon Caddell takes over the series points lead.
AROUND THE TURN
PGRL heads to Darlington Raceway on September 19th. Catch all the action from the track Too Tough to Tame on the Virtual Grip Network LIVE at 8:50pm Eastern.
FULL RACE REPLAY – SAY NO TO GRIP 100s AT ATLANTA