Clanton Survives At Smokey Mountain
“I was just using most of the racetrack,” said Clanton, whose previous victory this season came in the tour opener on Feb. 8 at Screven Motor Speedway in Sylvania, Ga. ”We got tight there in the middle and I was just floating in the bottom, letting it float across and then using the brown to leave the corner. I was trying not to spin the tires because I knew we had a softer right-rear.
“It feels good that we were able to hold on. We’ve had a lot of good runs so far this year but we wanted another win.”
Casebolt, 34, was left wondering if he could have done anything differently to change the outcome.
“I felt like we had the fastest car, but I think I missed my mark a couple of times with a few laps to go,” said Casebolt, who started fourth. “Once my tires cooled off after those cautions it was so hard for me to hit my mark coming off (turn) two. I needed to be low, but I had to get so crooked entering one with those cold tires that I didn’t feel like I had enough drive. So I just carried momentum in one and two, and that was probably a mistake. I maybe could’ve drove a little bit different and had a better shot at winning.
“In my opinion, I felt like I would’ve had a much better shot at winning the race had that last caution not come out,” he continued. ”I think I was passing Owens (for second) at the time and we were really coming on, but the caution killed me.”
Casebolt tried to put on a happy face, but it wasn’t easy after threatening to bag his first-ever WoO LMS victory.
“A second is great - its another great run for us this year - but we’re here to win,” said Casebolt. ”And we were so close to winning. Its not like we were a half-straightaway away. We were half a car-length away, and that’s just a little bit hard to handle.”
Four caution flags slowed the event. The most serious incident occurred on lap 19 when Vic Hill slapped the turn-three wall after apparent contact with another car while racing just outside the top 10. Other cautions flew on lap 14 for Tommy Kerr, who slowed with a flat tire; lap 18 for Eric Wells, who slowed with his car’s rearend sparking after catching the wall; and lap 38 for Rick Eckert, who relinquished sixth place to a broken rear axle.
Other casualties of the race were Mike Marlar and Scott Bloomquist. Moments after Kerr brought out the lap-14 caution, Marlar slowed between turns one and two with mechanical trouble that caused flames to appear under his car. He collected Bloomquist and both drivers retired from further action.
Defending WoO LMS champion Darrell Lanigan finished a quiet 14th after using a provisional to start 23rd. His night went downhill when he blew a right-rear tire while leading the second heat with two laps remaining.