Rich Vleck, DELEVAN, NY, (July 10, 2015)- Since entering the Patriot Sprint Tour in 2011, Steve Collins has been destined to win a feature. But after countless heartbreaks, he finally got the monkey off his back and claimed his first Patriot Sprint Tour win.
“Finally, Finally! It’s great to win here in my own back yard,” declared Collins, who lives in Belfast, NY, just 25 miles down the road from Freedom Motorsports Park, making the ¼ the closest stop to home on the Patriot Tour. Collins led all 25 laps of the Casey’s Truck Salvage A-Main, but there were some tenuous moments before the “Flying Physician” could break through for the win.
After winning his heat in dominating fashion, Collins started on the outside pole for the feature and quickly moved around Polesitter Chris Steele to take the lead. 2014 Freedom winner Jared Zimbardi took second place by lap five and began to apply pressure on the lead along with Justin Barger, who had moved up to third place.
On a lap 10 restart, Zimbardi got a big run off the top of turn two and looked to pull even with the leader, but Collins was able to barely get back in front and ride the rim as the duo moved around lapped cars.
“I saw a nose (to the right) on the restart and wasn’t sure if it was (Zimbardi) or Justin (Barger). I had a bad start, I spun the tires on the restart,” added Collins. “I just had to focus, I knew there was no room for a mistake.”
With under five laps remaining, Collins came up on lapped cars that were running the side-by-side, allowing Zimbardi to reel right back in. Collins was noticeably off the throttle longer than desired, and on lap 24 was in major jeopardy of losing the lead when the caution flag came out for a stopped car on the backstretch.
“I was worried about the lapped traffic I was in because they were running two-wide and I couldn’t go and could hear engines behind me and I was really worried. I didn’t want to mess myself up on a lapped car but I didn’t want to give it away either so I was happy when that yellow came out.”
On the ensuing restart, Collins checked out from Zimbardi and appeared to have the win in hand, but a massive pile-up just after taking the white flag would create a seemingly nervous pause in the action for Collins. It didn’t seem to faze him though as he once again pulled away on the final restart and cruised to the win.
Collins becomes the 59th driver in Patriot history to win a points-paying event. He is just the fifth former PST Rookie of the Year to win a Patriot feature.
After the race, Collins was asked how good it felt to finally breakthrough. “I’m relieved, but I’m ready to go get another one,” he declared.
It was clear how popular of a win it was, as Collins was quickly congratulated on the front stretch by Zimbardi, Barger, and their crew members with big smiles.
Jared Zimbardi would hold on to second place, his eighth podium finish of the year. The defending series champion knew he showed Collins the fast line on the lap 10 restart and Collins capitalized. Zimbardi had the best timed lap of the night, running a 12.72 second lap en route to his heat race win.
Justin Barger scored his third-straight podium finish, placing in third. Barger started third but the bottom line did not go on the initial start, dropping the Eriez winner back as far as fifth place. Barger recognized after the race that he was good, but so were the two in front of him.
2003 Freedom winner Kyle Drum bounced back from a poor redraw to drive from eighth up to fourth. The driver second in points would gain just three points on point leader Sammy Reakes IV though, as “The Honeybadger” won the Evingham Site Excavation Dash4Cash and drove up to round out the top five.
Scott Kreutter pulled double-duty on the night, winning the micro sprint feature and moving forward to finish in sixth in his No. 52, ahead of his buddy Jake Muench who scored a career-best seventh place finish. Tyler Graves, Steven Hutchinson Jr. and Canadian Chris Steele rounded out the top 10.
A total of 21 sprints started the feature, although not all were able to finish. It was a hard night for a host of veteran drivers, most notably Darryl Ruggles, who flipped over the wall on the opening lap of his heat race. Ruggles and crew thrashed to put his car back to the feature and the “Motorized Madman” drove up to sixth only to flip once again down the front stretch, this time getting slammed in to by Dave Just and George Suprick, who both suffered hard contact. All were able to walk away but suffered significant damage.
For more information, visit www.PatriotSprintTour.com.
Patriot Sprint Tour America Series Results: 7/10/2015, Freedom Motorsports Park, Delevan, NY.
A-Main (25 Laps)- 1. Steve Collins (67), 2. Jared Zimbardi (35), 3. Justin Barger (5), 4. Kyle Drum (47), 5. Sammy Reakes (17), 6. Scott Kreutter (52), 7. Jake Muench (14), 8. Tyler Graves (25G), 9. Steven Hutchinson Jr. (2), 10. Chris Steele (80s), 11. Josh Azzi (17z), 12. Darryl Ruggles (48JR), 13. Dave Just (54J), 14. George Suprick (87), 15. Dan Bennett (X), 16. Jim Porter (22), 17. Pete Richardson (67R), 18. Nick Cooper (35N), 19. Alysha Ruggles (48A), 20. Scott Just (54JR), 21. Stan Zanchin (94z).
Lap Leaders- Collins 1-25.
Evingham Site Excavation Four Laps of Fame Dash4Cash (4 Laps)- 1. Sammy Reakes IV (17), 2. Scott Just (54JR), 3. Scott Kreutter (52), 4. Dave Just (54J), 5. Alysha Ruggles (48A), 6. Jim Porter (22).
Heats (8 Laps Each)-
Race 1: Collins, Graves, Steele, D. Just, A. Ruggles, Zanchin, D. Ruggles.
Race 2: Zimbardi, Muench, Barger, Reakes, Porter, Azzi, Richardson.
Race 3: Suprick, Drum, Kreutter, S. Just, Cooper, Bennett, Hutchinson (DNS).
Hoosier Tire Canada/ Mike Emhof Motorsports Recipient: Kreutter
Pole Position Raceway Pole Winner: Steele
Patriot Sprint Tour America Series Point Standings (Top 10)- Reakes 1630, Drum 1565, Collins 1447, Zimbardi 1424, Hutchinson 1405, D. Just 1392, S. Just 1390, Suprick 1387, Graves 1195, Kreutter 969.
Evingham Site Excavation Four Laps of Fame Dash Series Standings (Top Five)- Kreutter 20, Collins 19, Zimbardi 18, Durand 15, Habeck S. Just and Reakes 12.
Patriot Tank Lines Hard Charger of the Season Standings (Top Five)- Zimbardi 60, Reakes and Hutchinson 32, D. Just 31, Suprick 29.
Danny Willmes Enterprises Lap Leader Standings (Top Five)- Zimbardi 79, Reakes 37, Howland 28, Collins 25, S. Just 19.