The 52nd Winchester 400 on Sunday evening ended with Gio Ruggiero in Victory Lane but devolved into a wide spiraling conflict involving some of the most prominent teams in Super Late Model racing.
An incident involving Jake Garcia set up a restart with less than 10 laps to go and denied Stephen Nasse and Anthony Campi Racing what looked to be a sure-fire third victory in the longest and most challenging race of the ASA STARS schedule.
Nasse chose the outside on the restart, intending to carry the momentum towards the lead, but Ruggiero drove him towards the wall and outside of the top-three. Nasse could only get back to third by the finish but that is where the theatrics began.
Nasse door slammed Ruggiero during the cool down lap, giving him a middle finger in the process, at which point the frontstretch began to fill up with various crew members.
Campi crew members gestured to Ruggiero, their former Pro Late Model driver-client. Jeff Nasse, Stephen’s father, began walking towards where Ruggiero parked adjacent to his son. Ruggiero throttled-up, the kick back, sending the elder Nasse flipping through the air.
Gina Nasse, Stephen’s mother, then ran towards Ruggiero. She said ‘You have one coming to you.’
Nasse began strapping out of his car, eventually charging towards Ruggiero, still in his car, where he was intercepted by a combination of security and crew members from both teams – who collectively diffused the moment.
Ruggiero and Donnie Wilson Motorsports had a rifle trophy presentation to celebrate.
“He picked the outside and I was on the bottom,” Ruggiero said. “I drove in there hard and took the lead. Not really sure what happened, maybe he got in the marbles up there and lost turn and got in the fence.
“I’m here to win and took the opportunity and capitalized.”
Nasse was pretty diplomatic afterwards all things considered.
“I knew I needed a good restart to get clear into 1 but I wasn’t able to do it,” Nasse said. “He stayed door to door with me and just didn’t lift until he ran into me and ran me up into the wall.
“I’m pretty pissed off but at the same time, I understand. I’ve been in that situation but I’m not going to forget it. We have a lot of racing to do. I definitely owe him one now. You gain a lot more respect running clean, and who knows, we could have had a great race there. He may have gotten me straight up.
“But just driving up and knocking me into the wall is definitely not the way to do it. It took me a long time to learn that too.”
He also was not feeling diplomatic in the moment.
“I wanted to get at him and put my hands on him,” Nasse said. “That probably wasn’t the way to go about it. A lot of passion. Adrenaline. Now that I’ve had time to think about it, I’ll be able to get him back and it will hurt him more when he is in his race car rather than me getting him today.
“Hopefully we’ll race together again soon and maybe I can get him back.”
This is not the first time that Ruggiero has run afoul of his former team owner.
For one, his decision as a family and management team to move from Campi to Wilson Motorsports before the Snowball Derby last year left some disappointment. Casey Roderick, who started driving for Campi as a result, then ran afoul of the Wilson cars during the World Series of Asphalt. Ruggiero roughed up William Byron in a Campi car to win at Hickory in May.
There are just multiple layers to the tension.
Upon returning from tech, the Wilson Motorsports team discovered tires had been slashed on both haulers, but no one has claimed responsibility. Meanwhile, series promoter Bob Sargent will likely have to hand out penalties to multiple parties involved.
Lastly, both Nasse and Ruggiero are entered into the CARS Pro Late Model Tour race on Saturday night at Tri County so stay tuned.
ASA national tour points leader Ty Majeski suffered an engine failure 15 laps into the race and was unable to score any stages points while also finishing 21st.
“Just a bummer,” Majeski said. “Great race car though. I felt like, I know it was early, but felt like we had something we could have competed with. Just unfortunate.”
It was Majeski’s one-off debut for Michael Hinde Racing and in a Hamke Race Cars chassis, as Majeski and longtime crew chief Toby Nuttleman had never raced at Winchester before, and opted to partner with a team that has had experience and success at the World’s Fastest Half Mile.
Majeski enters the final race of the season, the All American 400 at Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway, with an eight point lead over Cole Butcher.
It didn’t fare much better for Hinde himself who fell out of the race 42 laps later.
“The transmission kept falling out of gear,” Hinde said. “I tried to hold it down but it was vibrating too bad.”
- Gio Ruggiero 400
- Cole Butcher 400
- Stephen Nasse 400
- William Sawalich 400
- Dakota Stroup 400
- Logan Bearden 400
- Chase Burda 400
- Austin Nason 400
- Jake Finch 400
- Jordan Miller 399
- Jake Garcia 399
- Jaden Cretacci 382
- Andrik Dimyauga 379
- Brandon Varney 376
- Noah Gragson 346
- Albert Francis 310
- Billy VanMeter 294
- Blake Rowe 291
- Dalton Armstrong 173
- Michael Hinde 58
- Ty Majeski 26
- Chris Munson 15
- Jon Beach 13
- Evan Varney 8