Heading into Dells Raceway Park after a sour ending to the Howie Lettow Classic 100, down a
car and searching for the best plan of action, the Gabe Sommers Racing crew still had their
spirits up in anticipation of the night ahead. As defending winners and the current ASA Midwest Tour points leaders, they had every right to be. While their path to the checkered flag had become more difficult after the previous MWT event at Madison, taking their primary choice of car out of the stable for repairs, the No. 15 was still being touted as a potential candidate to challenge for a win in the Jim Sauter Classic 200.
A beautiful weather forecast set up Dells Raceway Park to play host to a bustling crowd of race fans, some showing up alongside the race teams to grab their seat and watch the upcoming practice sessions. Rolling off for the first practice session, there was some slight uncertainty in the Sommers pit about how their “backup car” would fare in regards to its raw speed and consistency, with an engine package that wasn’t quite as friendly on tires on the smaller tracks.
The worries were mostly wiped away out of the gate, as Gabe slotted into the sixth position at the conclusion of the first session, less than a tenth of a second off of quick time.
While making some changes prior to the second session, the Travis Sauter led crew found
some adjustments that would directly coincide with improving how Gabe felt about the handle of his racecar. It only took a dozen laps for Gabe to plant himself firmly atop the time charts in the second and final practice session of the day, with a better balance and some confidence gained on the responsiveness of the chassis. A short break to gather information and make final adjustments led into qualifying in front of an increasingly large crowd. Gabe would match his position from the first practice during qualifying, timing in at the sixth position with a 13.472 second lap, just 0.077 off of fast time. This set Sommers up for a sixth place starting position in his heat race, where he stayed, running slightly off of the pack and saving his equipment.
With two hundred laps on the docket for the feature, battling the attrition that comes along with these longer races is often more important than battling the cars around you until the final 25 percent of the race. Such was the strategy for the GSR team, rolling off from the eighth position after a heavy invert. Not wishing to abuse his tires more than necessary, Gabe quickly dropped down to the thirteenth spot by lap 10/200. A trio of quick cautions by lap 63 bunched the field back up and allowed Gabe to continue to save his Hoosier tires for later on in the Jim Sauter Classic 200.
Big trouble was just barely avoided on lap 73, with two cars getting together just in
front of Gabe’s nose, forcing him to slam on the brakes and stop to avoid accruing severe
damage. A small battle scar on the left side door was the result, but nothing worthy of concern. Taking his tires and adjustments right around halfway with the majority of the field, Gabe would rerack in the ninth position and begin making his move up the order. Long green flag runs limited Gabe’s progress after the field stretched out around the ⅓ mile speedway, only able to pick up two spots, moving him to seventh in the running order.. Finally, with less than 25 laps to go, a much needed caution flag waved and reset the field. Gabe quickly grabbed another spot from a fellow title rival, where he stayed all the way until the end. The No. 15 was able to rebound for a sixth place finish once the dust had settled.
While the GSR crew didn’t bring home a win, they still increased their points margin over the
rest of his competition in the ASA Midwest Tour points standings, loading up in one piece and with a 79 point lead over second place. While the MWT takes a slight break in the action, the team will regroup and get ready to head west to Minnesota for the Thunderstruck 93 at Elko Speedway on September 23. As always, if you can’t catch the race in person, you can tune in from wherever you may be on MidwestTour.tv!