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Winning The Championship
Sep 15, 2008 - updated Sep 15th, 2008 3:21pm
Web posted by Paulie Harraka

--

And Running The Win Total to 11 Along The Way

2008 has been full of exciting, heart-pounding, thrilling weekends; they were all dull compared to this one. Going into this weekend, we knew that we'd need to put the Bill McAnally Racing Ruth's Chris / Aim Sports Toyota Camry in Victory Lane not once, but twice, in order to win the championship. The team pulled together, worked their tails off, and made it happen, making us the 2008 NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Champions and running our win total to 11 at Roseville, California's All-American Speedway.

After my Friday classes at Duke University, I headed to the airport and flew west, arriving to Sacramento, California in the late-night hours. I headed to Bill McAnally Racing's shop Saturday morning ready for the most pressure-packed day of my racing career. Upon my arrival, I found that crew members Ryan Precher and Travis Sutcliff had done a fantastic job of dotting every I and crossing every T in preparing our racecar. We made a few final adjustments and headed to the racetrack. Bill McAnally has definitely put me with a championship-caliber group of guys.

During the first round of practice, we tried a rear built for us by John Ruggiero of Evernham Motorsports, which I was extremely happy with. From there, I called for a few spring changes based on some of the data we'd gathered from our AiM Sports Data Acquisition System, as well as a Penske shock change. We ended up in the top five in both practice rounds and we were clearly the most consistent car at the track.

After a seventh place qualifying effort, we started from the inside of the fourth row in the first main event. Once again, I knew that patience would be the key. However, tonight wasn't about finishing well; tonight was about winning. Anything less than first place meant that the night was a failure, and the whole team knew that. Team owner and spotter Bill McAnally did a fantastic job of helping me get to the front. By lap 6, we were up to the third position, sitting right behind John Moore, who we are battling with for the championship. At the halfway mark, Moore and I both snuck past leader Gary Glenn to move into the top two positions, and it was on from there. I stayed glued to Moore's rear bumper, waiting for that fatal mistake to come. It did on lap 29, and I took advantage, jumping underneath Moore coming off of turn four. From that point, I stretched out my lead and teammate Bobby Grewohl, driving a second BMR Ruth's Chris Toyota, moved into second position. The checkered flag fell on the first BMR one-two of the year in the Whelen All-American series, and our crew couldn't have been more excited. "Thanks guys, this racecar was awesome. One win down, one more to go! Let's have those right side tires ready and go win this championship!" I called out on my cool down lap, as we were allowed to change tires between races.

Unfortunately, I spun a 5 on the invert wheel, meaning that I would start fifth, immediately behind John Moore, in the second race. When the green flag fell, I worked my way up to the fourth spot quickly. It became evident early on that Moore was going to do everything that he could to keep me back there, knowing that I needed to win this race to win the championship. Once I got behind him, Moore would duck low, as if to pass second-place Gary Glenn, when he didn't have any sort of run on Glenn, in order to block me. After a lap of this, I decided to give Moore two chances at good, clean, honest racing. When Moore continued his blocking and chopped me onto the rumble strips getting into turn one, I decided to help him out a bit. I got underneath him coming off of turn two, but didn't allow him to chop me entering three. Instead, when he tried to come down on me, he met up with my right front fender. I had no intentions of wrecking Moore, but I wasn't going to sit idly by. This tap got Moore just loose enough for me to slide completely alongside of him. I cleared him within a lap and set my sights on Glenn. Once I moved around Glenn around lap 18, I set my sights on fellow Drive for Diversity driver Kristin Bumbera, who had a lead of about 15 car lengths. I caught Bumbera in about 8 laps and passed her for the lead right after the halfway mark. Not long after I moved into the lead, Moore passed Bumbera for second. Just as I started to open up a cushion, the caution flew.

Moore and I started side-by-side with 11 laps to go. This wasn't just for the race win, it was for the championship. "Be smart. We've got the car to win this thing and I know you can do it. Don't let him play games with you on the restart. Just keep doing what you're doing and this is ours!" Spotter Bill McAnally called out over the radio before we went green. When the green flag flew, we Moore and I began probably the hardest racing of our careers. It took me five laps, but by lap 44 I cleared him and had the lead all to myself. Then, the caution flew again. Fortunately, once you are within 10 laps of the race's end, restarts are single file. I took the green and used up every ounce my car had to offer. I stretched out just enough of a lead that Moore couldn't get to me. We brought home our eleventh win of the season and, more importantly, the championship.

Any time you win a championship, it's special, especially when you have to overcome adversity to do it. It's even more special when the championship trophy is emblazoned with the NASCAR logo. This has certainly been a long and difficult season, as well as a joyous and exciting one, and my crew of guys has done a fantastic job of not resting on their laurels after victory and not getting down after defeat. A collective effort of everyone at Bill McAnally Racing, especially Bill McAnally, Ryan Precher, Travis Sutcliff, Alex McAnally, Herman Cortez, "Cheesecake" Nelle, and Billy Shaul made this come together. In addition, this would never have been possible without the support of engine builder Tony Oddo and my Dad. AiM Sports, Briggs and Stratton Motorsports, Ruth's Chris Steakhouse, Toyota/TRD, Inventory Sales, BSCI, Simpson, Joe Gibbs Driven, Willy's Carb and Dyno Shop, Stock Car Steel, Tri-Co Welding Supplies, Les Schwab Tires, Quicktime Products, Howe Products, Tex Racing, and The Racecar Factory were all crucial components to our success.

Since that event, I ran my first NASCAR Camping World West event for Bill McAnally Racing at Altamont Motorsports Park, finishing in the eighth position in the AiM/Esef Toyota Camry. Being one of the first cars to qualify really hurt our effort, as we ended up qualifying 18th after being 7th in practice. However, the entire team battled back and Crew Chief "Cheesecake" Nelle made some great calls throughout the night, enabling us to come home in the top 10. Overall, we met our goals for the night and I'm extremely excited to head to All-American Speedway in Roseville for the season finale. The spring race at Roseville sold out, so I'm sure all of those fans will be back to watch another awesome event.


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