ASA STARS almost had a perfect weekend and one without any major controversy after an admittedly messy opener at Five Flags Speedway in March.
Dan Fredrickson had won a compelling Joe Shear Classic at Madison International Speedway, an event in which everyone seemed to have the good time, hospitality and logistical accommodations expected from a Gregg McKarns promoted event.
The vibes were mostly immaculate as everyone loaded their cars back into their haulers when word came down that Fredrickson had failed engine inspection with Ty Majeski inheriting the win. At face value, this wasn’t enough to ruin the weekend, because disqualifications are simply part of short track racing. It happens.
But then came Tuesday morning and a series of Facebook posts from Fredrickson lamenting the lack of transparency from the sanctioning body over the infraction and a conviction that broadcast partner Racing America had sensationalized the disqualification by re-posting the story on Facebook for those who originally missed it the night before.
That’s standard operating procedure for every story the website publishes by the way.
That morning, Fredrickson derided Racing America by posting a screenshot of his canceled subscription, while imploring his supporters to do the same thing. Fredrickson said he would send a commemorative shirt to every fan who sent him a screen shot of their canceled Racing America subscription.
The comments section was full of fans dutifully responding to the challenge.
What a mess.
For those of us at the track, it didn’t take too long to find out that the penalty was for a 1″ carburetor spacer with the rules allowing only a 1/2″ maximum. A little more digging revealed that this was the subject of a December rules change that Fredrickson had simply missed. Fredrickson also suffered an engine failure during practice on Saturday necessitating an overnight swap to the Southern Super Parts Engine used during the race on Sunday.
The veteran short track driver felt like this was the kind of context both ASA and Racing America should have published instead of simply releasing the phrase ‘motor infraction.’ Fredrickson felt like the messaging implied that he was cheating, when by his own admission, it was an oversight caused by missing the December rules change.
“I used the same spacer for eight years,” he has said. “On both engines. I had no idea they changed the rule on it this winter. Went through tech in both Pensacola and Madison multiple times and they never said anything. Ultimately, it’s my job to come correct so it’s on me. The new spacer combines with the taller air cleaner and makes just a few more horsepower so the infraction was not an advantage.”
It was a point he lightheartedly belabored on Tuesday afternoon as well.
The regular crew chief for the No. 69 Michael Hide Racing entry, Chris Cater, was working with Fredrickson on their combined effort over the weekend and took exception to both the spirit of the infraction and the ASA STARS inspection process and priorities.
Yeah don’t you miss Ricky Brooks at least in pre tech he would have found the spacer was a 1/2 tall. But all the ASA series is worried about is templates been telling them since the start that the skew of these cars are wrong so they finally tech.
But throw a man out for 1/2 spacer which I was told by a motor builder today it was worth maybe 2hp but you’re telling me 3 inches of body skew isn’t worth more than that!
ASA STARS promoter Bob Sargent leaves the second weekend for his new national Super Late Model series with more to add to his notebook after Pensacola and Madison.
“We learn every day,” Sargent told Short Track Scene. “To that point, we’ve already made some procedural changes for North Wilkesboro. But we are absolutely learning every day and will continue to apply what we’ve learned.”
Sargent says after talking to Fredrickson on Tuesday that he should have published all the details on Sunday but thought doing so would have made it look worse for the team. He says in hindsight that he recognizes that full transparency is something the entire industry agrees on.
Those details were published on Tuesday via the ASA STARS penalty report. That penalty report reads as follows:
Carburetor must be an unaltered 750 CFM 4779, 80528 Holley permitted. Carburetor must pass inspection at any time regardless of temperature. Maximum ½” carburetor spacer permitted on Chevrolet and Ford (updated December 2022).
The No. 69 car was found to have an unapproved carburetor spacer during post-race inspection.
As a result, car #69 have been issued the following penalties:
- The car has been disqualified.
- Both car owner and driver have been stripped of race-winning points, and awarded last place race points (19) and five (5) appearance points
- Owner and driver lose all bonus and segment points earned.
- Loss of all Race Earnings.
- Both owner and driver placed on probation for all events in the remainder of the Calendar Year.
Sargent just wishes Fredrickson wouldn’t have been so sharp towards Racing America.
“We hope that it’s just a misunderstanding, sharpness of feelings that will subside,” Sargent said. “We really enjoy having Dan race with us and appreciate the passion, but we feel this was just a misunderstanding and do not endorse what was said about a broadcast partner.”
It also has to be understood that Racing America is not a journalism platform. It’s a broadcast media entity owned by the Race Team Alliance, the NASCAR Cup Series team owners, that conducts official business with its series and track partners.
It probably should provide that additional context, but for the most part, Racing America exists simply to create and share promotional content for its partners.
That’s not a bad thing, and Racing America provides an extremely valuable service for the continued growth of the discipline, but all of this is to say that it was misplaced animus for Fredrickson to vilify the platform for sharing whatever messaging its partners put out for consumption. That frustration is better served towards the series and it’s something Fredrickson and Sargent have since discussed.
Racing America simply isn’t doing investigative deep dives.
All told, it was a good weekend for ASA STARS until the fallout from the Fredrickson disqualification. In a departure from the crash fest that was the Sunshine State 200, the Joe Shear Classic largely exemplified the Wisconsin brand of short track racing. There was some drama between Majeski and Jacob Gomes but nothing that seemed off-brand for the intensity this series intends to offer each time out.
Bubba Pollard potentially got himself back into championship contention with a runner-up finish following the penalty issued for fighting Casey Roderick after the race in Pensacola. Roderick himself got a top-5 to retain the points lead and Majeski continues to give himself a chance at two historic championships in one season with his victory.
Sargent says the positives were numerous.
“When we first started this thing, the teams asked us to go to top shelf facilities and we have,” Sargent said. “The staff was capable and accommodating. We wanted the teams to have good hauler parking and tech, dinner, everything is what we wanted. That’s what we wanted for every facility we go to.
“The teams have been working well with procedures between the three different regional tours and I feel like we made a lot of strides this weekend. Again, just our second ever race so we feel good about it.”
The only other blemish on the weekend was that Stephen Nasse failed to qualify into the race due to a combination of a characteristically disappointing time trials effort followed by an inability for the No. 51 to race its way into the field via the Last Chance Race.
It’s tough because Nasse had never seen Madison International Speedway before Saturday morning, much less turn laps on it. For a series called STARS, ASA was denied one of the biggest starts in the country for its main event on Sunday and likely for the championship battle the rest of the summer.
Granted, there were two provisionals respectively for ASA STARS and Midwest Tour points on Sunday, and a meritocracy isn’t bad at face value but there are other factors to consider too.
Sargent was reluctant to suspend Pollard after Pensacola, because not allowing him to participate in the Joe Shear Classic would have punished his series more than the offending driver. Even with the points penalty and fine, the decision likely cost him one of his few full-time championship contenders.
Not having some kind of protection in place for Nasse has now cost him another.
There just aren’t enough teams willing to make the drive to all 10 races from Wisconsin to Florida to send one of them home for missing the show. At a minimum, it needs some kind of protection for teams committed to running the full season similar to how World of Outlaws protects its platinum agreement teams.
It’s something Sargent recognizes.
“That is definitely a consideration,” Sargent said. “But there is also a consideration towards this being a national traveling series so how many provisionals do we have? How many guys would we take care of? This year is set but we do have some things to look at when it comes to next year. We have provisionals already with two regionals and two nationals.
“We’ll look at it though, the same way we look at everything else.”