ARCA Truck Series: Shawn Szep Victorious at “Home Track” in the Penn Grade 1 ® 75 presented by Glockner Oil Company !
Obetz, OH – For the first time in a long time this season, sunshine greeted teams as they arrived to Columbus Motor Speedway for the Penn Grade 1 ® 75 presented by Glockner Oil Company. What made the sight even better was that it stayed for the entire day.
Saturday night marked the second visit to Columbus Motor Speedway in series history and the fourth race of the season.
Shawn Szep’s season has been a roller coaster. After a fifth place finish to start the season at Toledo, one that disappointed Szep, he took his first career victory the next race at Lake County Speedway. In the third event of the season at Motordrome, he scored a DNF and took ninth.
He was able to put all of that behind him and had a new mindset coming to his home track. Jeff Myers Jr. set the pace early, but the top spot was a carousel as a handful of drivers held it. That came to an end when Shawn Szep laid down a 14.800 lap time. That time held, as Szep edged out Huff (14.804) for fast time in practice.
It is interesting to note that the top four trucks of Shawn Szep, Brandon Huff, Cody Quarrick, and Jeff Myers Jr. all went faster in practice than Paul Hahn’s track record setting qualifying lap in 2011 of 15.073.
Usually there is some fluctuation between practice and qualifying times. On Saturday, there was quite a bit for Brandon Huff. For the third consecutive event in 2015, Huff was the Rocco Kirsch Pole Award winner. The feat made him a perfect three for three this season.
After going a 14.804 in practice, Huff went an impressive 14.569 to set the fast time and a new track record. Right behind him was 2014 Holley Performance Rookie of the Year Jeff Myers Jr. Myers also picked up some speed going from a 15.014 in practice to a 14.655, nearly half a second faster.
Following qualifications, Brandon Huff rolled a 6 in the inversion dice roll. The inversion would place Billy Strehle and current points leader Cody Quarrick, who was having a quiet day, on the front row.
When the green flag dropped on the Penn Grade 1 ® 75 presented by Glockner Oil Company, Billy Strehle was edging Cody Quarrick as the duo came off the exit of turn one. However, it was Quarrick edging Strehle at the line to lead lap one.
Right behind them, the night got off to a rough start for Holley Performance Rookie of the Year candidate Brian Brewer. After countless issues this season, including overcoming a broken rear-end, it appeared the Columbus native was dealing with yet another issue.
If it isn’t engine woes it was a rear differential. Brewer only ran four laps in practice before the rear differential broke. It was enough for seventh fastest. “I didn’t even get a chance to ‘get on it’ and see what it had,” said Brewer. The team hard feverishly all afternoon and got him back on the track for qualifying where he was fourth fastest.
But before Brian Brewer could complete two laps he was once again in the pits with issues. An unfortunately circumstance for a team that has worked so hard to come back from issues all season.
While Brewer limped his way to the pits, the battle up front was heating up. Billy Strehle would edge Cody Quarrick to lead lap two, while Shawn Szep was working his way to the leaders tailgate.
Shawn Szep made his way around Cody Quarrick on lap three and set his sights on Billy Strehle. Following him was Jeff Myers Jr. Both drivers appeared to have the trucks to beat. Strehle was protecting the inside and enticing Szep to try the outside to make a pass. However, that has never been Szep’s style. He waited for an opportunity to get on the inside, which presented itself a lap and half later. Once he gained the inside, he was to the lead. Following him was Myers.
Behind them the field was jockeying for third back to eighth. 2010 series champion Chris Bailey Jr. was on his way to the front. That mission would soon be thwarted by what was later reported as power steering failure, a tired and worn out Bailey told ARCA Truck Series officials. He drove nearly the entire race without power steering, in which he was fighting to keep up.
Another driver making his way to the front was Bobby Dale Earnhardt. “We wanted to wait and see how the race went and save the truck for the second half,” said Earnhardt. On lap 14 he was in the top five and appeared to just be cruising and awaiting the halfway point.
Back up front Shawn Szep had his hands full with Jeff Myers Jr. It was all he could do to keep the Todd Guns, SPEAR Motorsports Chevrolet Colorado in his rearview mirror, until the opportunity to get underneath Szep presented itself and Myers found himself in the lead.
Shawn Szep gave Jeff Myers Jr. a hard run for the lead, trying to get back out front to lead at halfway for the bonus points.
The first caution of the night would come out for points leader Cody Quarrick, who spun in turn two.
On the ensuing restart, Shawn Szep and Jeff Myers Jr. picked up their battle where they left off. Szep hung around on the outside, but couldn’t make it stick and fell in line behind Myers. Behind them Brandon Huff had slipped into the third position and was pressuring Szep for the second position.
After a great run from deep in the field, Bobby Dale Earnhardt’s night came to an end on lap 32. It appeared the truck lost power, in which the Quarrick Racing team later revealed the alternator stopped work and the truck did lose power.
Leading at halfway would be Jeff Myers Jr. During the brief intermission another dice roll took place, in which a 6 was rolled. The inversion would put Billy Strehle back on the pole position.
Cody Quarrick quickly jumped into the lead and opened up a lead on the field as Billy Strehle and Brad Yunker battled for position behind him. Yunker would get hung on the outside for a handful of laps, while Strehle, Shawn Szep, and Jeff Myers Jr. all passed underneath him. Once cleared of Yunker, the duo of Szep and Myers made their way around Strehle and began to move in on Quarrick.
Within a few laps Shawn Szep was on the tailgate of Cody Quarrick for the lead. In another couple laps he found an opening going into turns three and four and had the lead coming to make lap 45. Quarrick wasn’t able to hold off Myers, who would pass by him the next lap, followed by Brandon Huff, who had made his way back to the front.
Once Shawn Szep found his way back to the front, it was apparent that he was there to stay. He would open up a few truck lengths lead on the field and began to count down the laps.
Meanwhile, the battle for second place was intense. Brandon Huff had made his way back to the front and was pressuring Jeff Myers Jr. for the second place position. Myers’ truck seemingly had fallen off a tad and Huff had a truck to contend for the win.
With six laps remaining, Brandon Huff found a window to slip underneath of Jeff Myers Jr. entering turn one. Before he could make the pass exiting turn two, it appeared the two made contact and became hooked, which sent them into the outside backstretch wall. It wasn’t a hard contact, which was fortunate for Myers who was on the outside and took the brunt of the hit. The call for the caution was put on Myers, who seemingly didn’t give Huff enough racing room and forced the contact that sent the two trucks into the wall.
The following restart would feature Shawn Szep and Brandon Huff. Both drivers entered Columbus Motor Speedway searching for a good result. Szep looking to win in front of the home crowd and gain championship points, Huff searching for win number one and to erase all the bad memories of the 2011 Columbus Motor Speedway event.
When the race went back to green the two left the field behind and were engaged in a fierce battle for the lead. Brandon Huff would hold his own on the outside for nearly five of the remaining six laps before he fell in line behind Shawn Szep and settled for second.
The checkered flag would wave of the Techicom Electric, Amsoil, Prostar Chevrolet for the win, the second time of Szep’s career and second of the season.
It had been a few years since Shawn Szep had been to victory lane, the last of which came at Columbus Motor Speedway behind the wheel of a modified. “I just love this place,” said a joyful Szep. “Ever since I have been racing here I have been able to get around it… I’ve had a few laps around here.”
The second place finish for Brandon Huff would match his career best, which dates back to Kentucky Motor Speedway last season. “We’re getting closer,” said Huff. “We are faster and consistent. Now we just have to be out front at the end of a race.”
Coming in third was ARCA Truck Series points leader Cody Quarrick, who has not been to victory lane this season, yet he averages a 2.25 finish. It is that consistency that has kept him atop the championship points standings. “We had a good truck and a good race, but it is going to take a bit more for us to win the championship,” stated Quarrick.
Brand Yunker would finish fourth, with Jeff Myers Jr. rounding out the top five.
Katlynn Leer won the Holley Performance Rookie of the Race with an eighth place finish. After a long day of struggles finding the setup her team found prior to qualifying where she took off nearly eight tenths of a second from her practice time. BJ Wollerman had a strong top-ten performance as well, finishing ninth. Early troubles hindered Brian Brewer’s night, which took out one of the faster trucks, and he rounded out the top-ten.
The ARCA Truck Series will have this coming weekend off and be back in action at the Angola Motorsport Speedway on Saturday, July 25th. Following the event at Angola, the ARCA Trucks come back for their second event at Columbus Motor Speedway on August 1st.
The ARCA Truck Series completed its fifth full season presented by the Phoenix Management Group of Ohio, LLC, (or PMG) of Millersport, Ohio in 2014, under a licensing agreement with the Automobile Racing Club of America (ARCA).
The ARCA Truck Series (ATS) ran exhibition races late in 1998 with the first full season in 1999. Today, the series has grown into one of the most versatile in short track racing, having taken popular four cylinder, V-6 & V-8 sealed crate engine powered trucks to asphalt tracks of many sizes under one mile, road courses, and numerous dirt tracks in its history.
The Automobile Racing Club of America (ARCA) is among the leading and most diverse auto racing sanctioning bodies in the country. Founded in 1953 by John and Mildred Marcum, the organization administers more than 100 events each year.
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