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Trevor Noles Earns Signature Victory at Bristol in U.S. Nationals Amidst Hoosier Tire Controversy

Trevor Noles broke through to win the U.S. Short Track Nationals on a night where tire failures took center stage

NASCAR champion Joey Logano once called Bristol Motor Speedway the ‘baddest mamma jamma racetrack’ ever upon winning the Night Race in 2014.

The Last Great Coliseum lived up to that moniker on Saturday night with Trevor Noles winning the U.S. Short Track Nationals on a night best described as survival of the fittest.

Noles and Greg Van Alst exchanged the lead over the final two restarts with 22 to go and 14 to go respectively but were the only two drivers to not take fresh right sides during the course of the Pinty’s 100.

The rest of the field were forced to bolt on new right sides due to a new batch of Hoosier F56s that were suffering from cording and blistering issues – causing at least one caution and necessitating two competition cautions.

Van Alst, the reigning CRA Super Series champion, used up the last remaining life in his only right front tire to retake the lead and it just wasn’t there when he needed it on the final restart eight laps later. Meanwhile, Noles raced his way to the front from fifth after posting the quickest speed in time trials earlier in the afternoon.

Ultimately, the fastest car won the race.

This was Noles’ fourth attempt at the U.S. Short Track Nationals and he coveted the Bristol Motor Speedway Gladiator Sword as much as any other trophy in the discipline.

“It’s just the atmosphere here,” Noles said. “You’re like a kid on Christmas when you come to Bristol Motor Speedway. It’s the high banks. The speed. The closing rate. Everything here. It’s special for the Late Model guys to race here.

“And it feels good to come out on top of this one.

“I’ve come here four years in a row and couldn’t seal the deal. I’ve been close. I had a lap car put me in the fence here last year. Just feels good to finally get the win here. I can’t thank everyone at Rowdy Manufacturing, Wilson Motorsports enough — everyone on this crew.”

Had the penultimate restart stood, Van Alst believes it would have been enough to hold off Noles over the final 24 laps.

“I don’t know, it just fluttered a bit in Turn 2,” Van Alst said of the decisive restart. “The car was really darn near perfect. I think the right front was going away a little bit. That last restart where I took the lead was probably all the right front had.

“Had the yellow not come out, I think we were in the car bird’s seat there.”

That was the position that Georgia youngster Jake Garcia seemingly found himself in for the first 60 laps of the race. He took the lead from Sammy Smith on the first lap and pulled away to a commanding lead after each restart.

However, on the second called competition caution when teams were called down pit road to check the status of the blistering and cording issues, crew chief Ricky Turner discovered a punctured left rear. As a result, Turner went ahead and changed the blistered right sides too, sending their No. 35 to the rear of the field.

There simply wasn’t enough time for Garcia to race his way back further than his fifth-place finishing position.

“I led the first 60 laps of the race felt like I was the dominant car of the race,” Garcia said. “Then we had a restart with 50 to go and the 51 of Sammy Smith just ran into me on the start in Turn 4.

“I’m not sure what that was about, but it’s whatever, I guess. That cut down the left rear tire. When we came in and pitted, we noticed it was going down. We had to change that and go back to the rear.”

For his part, Smith said his Kyle Busch Motorsports No. 51 had suffered a flat right front tire and couldn’t lay off Garcia when he jumped on the throttle.

Tires were the story of the night.

After teams noticed blistering and cording during the 100-lap Pro Late Model contest earlier in the afternoon. Race officials from the CRA, Southern Super Series and CARS Tour made the decision before the race to call for a Lap 35 competition caution.

It was the only one scheduled, but it wouldn’t be the last.

Corey Heim crashed out of Turn 4 after suffering a right front failure that sent his Jett Motorsports No. 78 into the frontstretch wall on Lap 64.

“I’m not really sure what the deal with Hoosier this weekend is,” Heim said afterwards. “I don’t know if this was the tire or mechanical failures or what. It seems like a lot of problems going on with tires.”

Complicating matters was that some teams felt frustrated with how race officials legislated the tire failures – the mid-race decision allowing teams to take new tires even without a proven failure. Others said they were not clearly notified of the consequences.

Some felt like a halftime break should have been called to allow everyone to take right sides without penalty due to what they saw on Lap 35.

Stephen Nasse finished third but only after changing right sides. The driver of the Jett Motorsports No. 51 left Thunder Valley frustrated with Hoosier Tires South and the Champion Racing Association.

“Hoosier tire really, really hurt us this weekend,” Nasse said. “They destroyed 3-4-5 race cars. They probably would have destroyed mine if I hadn’t smart enough to bring it in. All four of my tires were corded.”

Nasse said a new batch of tires need time to cure, and alleged Hoosier essentially took them right from the production plant to Bristol Motor Speedway posthaste.

“If they’re going to send a fresh batch of tires like that, they should say something,” Nasse said. “And the reason they didn’t say something is they all know we would know you can’t do that.

“The tires are too fresh. They need time to sit. And that’s a prime example of why. We had tires we bought for practice, and I guess they were from last year’s race. The tires that we bought for qualifying and the race were new tires and you see the problems they caused.

And then there were the complaints about the officiating.

“CRA officials didn’t do a good job officiating if you ask me,” Nasse said. “The tower, it was like the wild wild west up there. It was every man for himself. They were trying to send me to the rear for changing a tire under a competition caution.

“Some of the things they do don’t always make sense. They get in the heat of the moment and try to press the show along for fans. I don’t think it’s fair to us racers because without us, there wouldn’t be a show.

“They don’t take that into consideration, and they should take this as a lesson. Tonight sucked. From every aspect. The tire. The calls. Everything. It wasn’t a good night for Super Late Model racing on the whole.”

Southern Super Series championship leader and veteran racer Jeremy Pate offered the following take:

“From what I understand, what we ended up racing wasn’t the same actual batch we practiced on, from what I understand,” Pate said. “I don’t know 100 percent. When we get back, I’ll find out. Last night in practice, no one had any issues.

“Going into the Pro Late Model race, we thought we’d be fine, but then those guys started showing this tire issue. We fired off well, but like a lot of other guys, we had the same issues and we had to come on and bolt some tires from practice on.”

As a result, Pate finished 11th.

Hoosier Tires South did not provide a comment after the race.

Meanwhile, Noles and Van Alst never changed tires and they finished 1-2.

What did they do differently?

“Maybe it was air pressure, and whatever they started on,” offered Noles. “Maybe that had something to do with it. Or camber. My crew chief Troy (Smith) told me we were going to be fine and we were.”

“I don’t know what happened because it was always behind me,” ValAlst said. “I don’t mean to sound disrespectful, but that’s just how it was. I don’t like that they let guys bolt new tires on, when we got the set-up right. My personal opinion: They should have stopped us on Lap 50 and let everyone bolt on new right sides.

“I mean, that clearly cost Jake Garcia the win. I feel like he was the best car, but he got sent to the back when he took new tires. Just stop us on Lap 50 and let everyone have new tires.”

Nasse took tires on Lap 35, and it nearly won him the race, had there been one more restart.

“Van Alst was just in the way there, and I guess he was on old tires, but I don’t know what he was thinking,” Nasse said. “He is racing for another championship. But he held me up. We’ve raced together for years and always with a lot of respect.

“I was faster and didn’t get respect when I had a car that could have driven up there and won the race.”

Albeit on fresh tires.

All told, it was Noles triumphant, exuberant and ecstatic with his signature win, and one that earned his team $12,000.

“Biggest win for sure,” Noles said. “This place is awesome.”

It’s the ‘baddest mamma jamma racetrack’ too.

RESULTS

  1. Trevor Noles
  2. Greg Van Alst
  3. Stephen Nasse
  4. Daniel Dye
  5. Jake Garcia
  6. Logan Runyon
  7. Sammy Smith
  8. Justin Crider
  9. Austin Nason
  10. Kodie Conner
  11. Jeremy Pate
  12. Connor Okrzesik
  13. Matt Craig
  14. Josh Brock
  15. Cody Coughlin
  16. Michael Simko
  17. John Coffman
  18. TJ Duke
  19. Corey Heim
  20. Josh Todd
  21. Jeff Batten

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Matt Weaver is the owner and founder of Short Track Scene. Weaver grew up in the sport, having raced himself before becoming a reporter in college at the University of South Alabama. He is also the associate motorsports editor of Autoweek Magazine and its website, which allows him to cover the highest levels of the sport.

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