LaCrosse takes home the cash at Clash at the Creek
By Bert Lehman
After earning a front row starting spot for the $10,000-to-win Clash at the Creek feature during the first night of qualifying Benji LaCrosse said he had “no clue” what his game plan would be for the feature the next night. He said he would monitor the track conditions and make adjustments from there.
When LaCrosse arrived at 141 Speedway the night of the feature, his game plan didn’t change.
“Once I got here and watched how the track transitioned, my plan was to run the bottom,” LaCrosse said.
For a brief moment prior to the feature, LaCrosse had doubts about his plan, as water was applied to the top side of the track. He said when that was done prior to the B-mains, drivers were able to pass on the high side.
“I was a little concerned that might be good for the first 10 laps,” LaCrosse said. “I just decided I’m going to run the bottom and if they freight train by, I’ll have to do whatever I can do after that.”
It turned out to be a winning strategy as he led every lap of the 50 lap race to claim the $10,000 top prize. LaCrosse also won the event in 2013.
“It feels good,” LaCrosse said after the race. “I wasn’t sure if I was going to be able to get it done or not but it’s awesome, that’s for sure.”
LaCrosse said there were two concerns during the race, the first being rough track conditions in corner three and four, and the second being lapped traffic.
“I was just trying to find a good way to get through it,” LaCrosse said about the rough area of the track. “Every time I’d come through it I’d hit it one way or another. I could never get a good line where I was comfortable through there. Every lap was kind of like hanging on for dear life.”
Lapped traffic did become a factor at the end of the race. LaCrosse got caught up behind a couple of cars about to go a lap down, allowing Mike Mullen to close the gap on LaCrosse.
“As time went on I actually looked at the [lap] board two or three times to see how many laps were left and I think there were four left when I looked up and I knew I had been held up for quite a long time here, I need to get going,” LaCrosse said.
Mullen, who was attempting to win his third straight Clash at the Creek event, said he knew lapped traffic was probably his only chance at the victory.
“We knew we had to get to the bottom right away,” Mullen said. “The track was just one lane and rough on this other end. Benji was just quite a bit faster than us. He gave us a shot at the end with the lapped cars that didn’t’ want to get out of the way which helped us.
“I was looking at the lap board and saw there was 10 [laps] to go and I knew that we’d catch the lapped cars so I needed to keep trying and trying to get close. I wanted to make a last ditch effort in the last corner but it just didn’t work out.”
Entering the event Mullen admitted that his limited time racing the IMCA Modified this year had him a little less prepared than the past two years.
“It definitely isn’t going to help when everybody else has been doing it all summer,” Mullen said prior to racing action the first day of the event. “We’re comfortable in it, we’re just not quite where we were the last two years.”
After securing a second place finish Mullen said he finished where he deserved to finish.
“We’re happy with second for not racing as much with this car,” Mullen said.
Missouri driver Hunter Marriott was making his second appearance at 141 Speedway and finished third. Early in the race Marriott tried a higher groove than the lead cars.
“I knew if I was going to pass some cars that was the time I was going to do it,” Marriott said. “I know Benji and Mikey were both really good around the bottom. We definitely need to improve a little bit, but all in all a third place finish is good and we didn’t tear anything up.”
He added that racing the bottom groove at 141 Speedway is different than most tracks.
“You really have to slow down to be fast and just be disciplined about that,” Marriott said.
Although he was satisfied with a third place finish, he was also disappointed.
“Definitely never happy with a third place finish, but we can’t complain,” Marriott said.
Iowa driver Brian Irvine qualified for the feature through a B-main and started mid-pack in the feature. That didn’t hurt his confidence.
“You have to have a good car and I think we have a pretty good car,” Irvine said during the afternoon prior to the feature. “There are plenty of laps. If your car is good enough you can come from dead last to win the thing.”
Irvine did work his way through traffic to finish fourth in the feature.
“I seen [Kyle] Strickler going through the middle around lap 10 or 12 so I moved to the middle and got better rolling there,” Irvine said.
A caution helped Irvine catch the front cars. Irvine said he would have liked to have seen another caution.
“I would have liked to have had a caution at the end to see where we were with those guys,” Irvine said. “I think we were a little better than Hunter at the end.”
(This article appeared in the July 2016 issue of Full Throttle magazine.)