Robert Strmiska is living a racer car driver's dream and would rather not be woken! The Lexington, North Carolina mini stock driver entered Saturday’s North Carolina Mini Stock National finale at Bobby Watson’s Carteret County Speedway as the tour points leader and winner of four tour races and eight wins in sixteen overall season starts. “I’ve had a killer season,” claimed Strmiska earlier in the week and that karma would follow him to the checkered flag Saturday in the North Carolina Mini Stock Championship race.
Mini Stock drivers from New Hampshire to Illinois gathered at Carteret County Speedway for a 100 lap championship showdown with 20 cars in the starting grid. The race was run in two 50 lap showdowns and was as much about strategy, patience and attrition as it was racing.
The first 50 laps were fraught with yellow flags, six in all sending half a dozen cars to the pits including early pace setter Chuck Wall. Wall would later return but was eight laps down. Avoiding the early spins and crashes were Brandon Clements in the 7-car, Tim Canipe in the no.10, Stephen Sanders piloting the 24 and Strmiska in the 90.
The four would rotate positions the final 15 laps of the first 50 with Canipe, Sanders and Strmiska running 1-2-3 when the yellow dropped for the intermission break.
By that time Clements had fallen to sixth but by luck of a draw to determine the inverted positions to start the final 50 laps, Clements found himself on the pole!
Fourteen of the 20 starters were able to answer the green flag for the final 50 laps and now it was time for some serious racing and only one yellow was dropped over the final 50 laps.
I talked about Strmiska having a dream season and his chariot was about to turn into a pumpkin, not this weekend! Strmiska set a Carteret Speedway track record for mini stocks in qualifying with a clocking of 17.704 seconds and with 35 laps to go, Strmiska was positioning himself to take the lead.
He made an inside move down the front stretch and nosed ahead coming out of turn one to take the lead for good. Strmiska would never be threatened the final 35 laps enroute to the championship and his 9th win of the year overall, 5th on the North Carolina Mini Stock tour. Clements would lock down second place with Sanders in third.
“I drove as hard as I could tonight,” said Strmiska adding, “I’ll never have another year again like this.”
A great night and year for Strmiska and for the North Carolina Mini Stocks who hopefully will be back to do it again next year at America’s Nicest Short Track!
The Mini Stocks were the only game in the house Saturday as the Bombers, Jr. Mini Cups, Legends, UCAR’s and Mod-4 divisions put on a show.
If Strmiska had a dream night, so did Sam Pacitti competing in both the bombers and UCAR divisions. Pacitti wasn’t sure what to expect from his No.22 bomber which he claimed was slow in practice but none the less led wire to wire in the 25 lap bomber race to win. Pacitti held off Duane Walker who finished second in the 48 and Cornell Williams, third in the 03.
In the Junior Mini Cup Division, Michael Bivens and Anthony Ventresca traded the lead on four of the first five laps before Bivens settled his No.97 Junior Mini Cup into first place and a 10 lap win.
When asked about the multiple lead changes early in the race, Bivens said, “I went sideways in turn 4 at one point.” Bivens then added, “At least I think I went sideways!” You got to love the Junior Mini Cups, they are the future of racing at Carteret Speedway.
Charlie Beals was the real deal in the 15 lap Legends feature race. Beals, who definitely had the fastest car on the track, led wire to wire to beat Scotty Benford and Aiden McConnaughey.
The final race of the night was a rare performance from the Mod-4 division, a niche category that is always great to watch compete. The Mod-4’s went 30 laps with Jason Adams in the 00 beating Darrel Haynie’s 63 car by .661 of a second while Kevin Jefferies in the No.21 was third.
The next racing at Bobby Watson’s Carteret County Speedway is December 9 and 10, The Race of Champions with a purse of $50,000! Stay tuned at carteretspeedway.com for more details.