Gruel Back in Familiar Territory With NORA Win at Spencer

By – Chris Porter

After spending a week away from victory lane, driving the Tim Barbeau-owned No. 50, Fulton’s Dave Gruel made another visit Friday night at Williamson’s Spencer Speedway. Taking the lead away from his car owner on the eighth lap, Gruel dominated the rest of the Lakeside Racing News-sponsored 25-lap NORA Small Block Supermodified Touring Series event. It was Gruel’s fifth win in six career tries in the No. 50 car, his fourth win in five attempts in 2009. He’s won the last two NORA features, dating back to last season’s Race of Champions event.

Listen toDave Gruel on his fourth SBS feature win in 2009

Barbeau and Gruel led the field to the green to start the 25-lap feature. The two FFB Racing Chassis raced side-by-side for a lap until Barbeau was able to put the Steve Abt-owned No. 58 machine out in front. Gruel, Rob Pullen, David Cliff and Jason Simmons chased Barbeau across the line to complete the maiden lap.

Barbeau earned himself a little breathing room over the leaders, as JJ Andrews led Dave Danzer, Barry Kingsley, Jack Patrick and Mike Bond in the race for positions six through 10.

Gruel moved in to take a better look at the leader on the sixth trip around the speedway. With Pullen and Cliff at his heels, Gruel took a peek underneath Barbeau on the seventh lap before blasting by Barbeau’s left side down the backstretch, on lap No. 8.

Soon after, Gruel began to inch his No. 50 car away from the runner-up Barbeau. By the 10th lap, Barbeau sat five lengths in back of the leader, with Pullen and Cliff fighting fiercely behind him.

With a commanding 12-car length lead, Gruel headed into lapped traffic on his 15th trip around. Using the same lapped traffic Gruel had just overtaken, Cliff dove underneath Pullen’s No. 25 car, taking over the third position. Recovering from the three-wide pass, Pullen’s No. 25 car pin-balled backwards, losing positions to the Simmons No. 91 and Danzer’s Hedger Chassis No. 52.

A few laps later, the Danzer No. 52 and Simmons No. 91 cars came together in the third turn. While Simmons was able to keep his car going, Danzer was sent spinning up into the path of the Andrews No. 93. Avoiding contact with the No. 52, Andrews added an extra 1/8 mile to his turn, taking his No. 93 car deep into the grassy field, coming back onto the racing surface at the end of the fourth turn.

All involved were able to continue, but more impressively, every SBS starter remained on the track with just six laps to go. Even though his move into the grass was to avoid an accident in front of him, Andrews was penalized for his involvement and joined Danzer at the tail of the field.

On the restart, Cliff bested Barbeau down low as the two raced to the green. Pullen took advantage of the hole Cliff made, also moving underneath Barbeau and bringing Simmons with him.

Cliff had five laps to chase down the leader, but Gruel proved too much for the charging No. 06. A quick caution for Chris Lupa’s spun No. 46 gave the leader’s challenger an opportunity on the restart, but Gruel had him covered. He built and held a five-car length advantage all the way to the end, sealing the win.

Listen toDave Gruel on taking the race lead and earning the victory

Cliff brought the Gnomey Racing No. 06 home in second place. Cliff says fighting with Pullen burned up what rubber his tires had left on them. By the time he was able to take a crack at Gruel, his tires were all but gone.

“Rob had me at the start and it took me a long time to get back by him,” Cliff said. “I worked really hard on him. I think it took half of the race to get by him. I ran Tim down and ended up getting him on a restart. I didn’t have to work too hard on that one. Then, I had one restart when I was right up on Dave and thought I might have something for him, but he just walked away. I think we just smoked our tires.”

The team will be putting in a new motor to start the month of July with. The current motor will go into the back up car. That car will likely sit for most of the season, but should at least see some track time around Classic Weekend, with another driver behind its wheel.

Landing his car in fourth place last weekend at Oswego Speedway, Pullen was able to back it up with a solid third-place finish on Friday night.

Listen toRob Pullen on his feature run

Improving every week at Oswego, Simmons was able collect a heat race win before later landing his No. 91 small block supermodified in fourth place in the feature.

Listen toJason Simmons on his heat race win and first top-five finish of 2009

Kingsley ran his No. 23 car solidly all evening, earning himself a fine, fifth-place finish.

Listen toBarry Kingsley on his top-five finish

If you’re going to have a feature lead taken away from you, Barbeau had the best-case scenario. Leading the first seven laps, Barbeau watch his own No. 50 slip by underneath him and go on for the win. He fell out of the top five, but only by one position, finishing sixth.

Listen toTim Barbeau on his sixth-place finish in the No. 58

Not a rookie in the division by any means, but a rookie at Spencer Speedway on Friday night, Patrick drove his Dodge-powered No. 9 to a ninth-place finish.

Listen toJack Patrick on his first trip to Spencer Speedway

Making his first appearance of the season as a driver, Andrews piloted his No. 93 Hedger Chassis to a 10th-place finish.

Listen toJJ Andrews on bringing out his No. 93 small block super for the first time in 2009

Also making his 2009 debut, was Lupa and his No. 46 car. Bringing out his small block super to support NORA, he finished the 25-lap feature in 13th place.

Listen toChris Lupa on his 2009 debut

Driving the Shawn Walker-owned No. 68, Dennis Richmond made his small block supermodified debut at Spencer Speedway. A crew member on the Abt No. 85 team, Richmond says fans shouldn’t be surprised to see him behind the wheel of an SBS racer again, really soon.

“It was awesome,” Richmond said. “I really felt comfortable in the car. We had a throttle break on us in the heat race, but that was no big deal. You’ll probably see me back this season in another car. This car isn’t out of the picture either. There’s nothing in the works at the moment, but we’re looking to possibly buy. I had a lot of fun tonight.”

NORA Lakeside Racing News 25:
1. Dave Gruel (50), 2. David Cliff (06), 3. Rob Pullen (25), 4. Jason Simmons (91), 5. Barry Kingsley (23), 6. Tim Barbeau (58), 7. Mike Bond (2), 8. Dave Danzer (52), 9. Jack Patrick (9), 10. JJ Andrews (93), 11. Dennis Richmond (68), 12. Mark Castiglia (90), 13. Chis Lupa (46), 14. Dennis Rupert (95), 15. Steve Abt (85)

In heat race action, two Bill Law-powered small blocks powered their way into victory lane. At the start of the first race, Simmons took the early lead away from Lupa. After a quick caution for Castiglia’s spun No. 90 machine (which had been surging from the back of the pack), Simmons raced much of the preliminary event unchallenged. A fierce battle between Gruel, Barbeau and Danzer saw the trio run three-abreast down the front stretch at one point, thrilling Spencer Speedway’s fan base. Eventually, Gruel won the battle for the runner-up position, but Simmons had the race in the bag.

Starting on the front row, Cliff beat Patrick to the first turn to move atop the field. However, half a lap later, Abt was the victim of a brake-check gone array, as the field bunched together at the tail-end of the backstretch. Abt caught a wheel from the Andrews No. 93, launching his No. 85 into the grassy field that pours off of turns three and four. When racing resumed, Cliff raced away with out threat to collect the win.

Heat Race #1:  1. Jason Simmons (91), 2. Dave Gruel (50), 3. Tim Barbeau (58), 4. Dave Danzer (52), 5. Barry Kingsley (23), 6. Dennis Richmond (68), 7. Mark Castiglia (90), 8. Chris Lupa (46)

Heat Race #2: 1. David Cliff (06), 2. Rob Pullen (25), 3. JJ Andrews (93), 4. Jack Patrick (9), 5. Dennis Rupert (95), 6. Steve Abt (85), 7. Mike Bond (2)

Though coming up just short in the feature, Cliff was the lucky winner of a $100 dollar drawing, courtesy of Lighthouse Lanes.