Cunningham Motorsports nearly has three top 10 finishes at Mobile
Cunningham Motorsports nearly has three top 10 finishes at Mobile
Cunningham Motorsports Escapes the War that was the ARCA Mobile 200
March 24, 2014 – (Irvington, AL) – If the ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards race at Mobile International Speedway had taken the checkered flag at the scheduled distance of 200 laps, Cunningham Motorsports would have had three top-10 finishes. As per normal on most short tracks, the race was extended to a green/white/checkered finish due to a caution before the checkered flag could fly.
Out of character for the organization, the Cunningham team brought 3 Dodges to the 200 lap event. Austin Wayne Self, the just-turned 18 year old from Austin, TX, was in the #22 AM Dodge, Tom Hessert, the 6 year ARCA Series veteran from Cherry Hill, NJ, was piloting the #72 AxiomWarranty.com/Caregard Dodge and 16 year old Anderson Bowen from Suwanee, GA drove the #77 Dodge. After testing 12 days prior to the race, the Cunningham organization was expecting great things at the Mobile track. All three cars experienced major changes in handling and speed, after crews made adjustments at the shop after the test.
After struggling with the handling on his #77 Dodge during the first practice, Anderson Bowen’s comfort level quickly improved as he posted the second quickest speed during the final practice. Later in the evening qualifying session, Bowen duplicated his qualifying effort from last year’s Mobile race of third.
Anderson Bowen had a busy day Saturday, beginning with 200 laps in the ARCA Mobile 200. Taking the green flag for 200 laps from the 3rd spot, Bowen overtook 2nd on lap 2. After the first caution flew on lap 4, Bowen got a quick jump on the leader and grabbed the point, leading for just one lap before setting into 2nd behind eventual winner, Grant Enfinger. During the 3rd yellow on lap 60, Bowen’s car shut off on his way to pit road. After changing ignition boxes, the #77 re-fired, allowing Bowen to bring the car to the Paul Andrew’s-led crew’s attention for four tires, fuel and a track bar adjustment. On the re-start, Bowen found himself mired in the 13th spot, but he didn’t stay there for long—moving back up to 8th fourteen laps later.
Bowen continued moving toward the front, after the final pit stop during caution on lap 130 for four tires and fuel. By lap 138, Bowen had moved to 5th, before settling back into 7th prior to his final forward push. When the yellow waved for the final time on lap 197, Bowen had re-taken the 5th spot. As the green flew for the green/white/checkered finish, Bowen got up on the wheel and grabbed 4th. As he was preparing to hurry out of the Mobile track, Bowen commented, “We led some laps today, but what really hurt us was the ignition box going bad on us right before we went to pit. We came in the pits last and came out last. That hurt us really bad. We used our stuff up too much coming through the field. We hurt the tires and once we got up to the top 10 or so it was a battle to gain positions. We were just maintaining what we had and trying to gain as many spots as possible. At the end of the day, all four fenders are intact and we left Mobile with a solid finish.”
After leaving Irvington, AL, Anderson made the 200 mile trip to Opp, AL for the Rattler 250 at Southern Alabama Speedway. Bowen was forced to start 23rd since he wasn’t able to make qualifying last weekend because he was running the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East race at Bristol with Cunningham Motorsports. He didn’t let his starting spot hamper his progress, as he quickly put his Copper Creek Hardware #29 in the top-4.
As the checkered flag closed in, Bowen closed in on eventual winner Casey Roderick, but simply ran out of laps. After completing almost 450 laps in one day, Anderson lamented that he would have liked to have had one more lap to run, “One more lap and I think I would have had him (Roderick)! “ Bowen was able to put his amazing double-duty experience into perspective as he said, “It was a great experience for me this weekend. This was the first time I’ve ever done double-duty in a one day deal. That really helped me. It just feels like it makes you a better driver because you’ve got to adapt to the car that you are driving.”
Tom Hessert’s most recent race was a 4th place finish at Daytona International Speedway in February. His Mobile International weekend produced various emotions in the 25 year old. During the first practice session he radioed to Crew Chief Ed Berrier that his Dodge was, “the polar opposite of the car at the test.” After finding a shock problem during the downtime between sessions, Hessert found the #72 more to his liking in the 2nd practice session, posting the 9th quickest speed. After qualifying 6th on Friday evening, Hessert felt that he had left a “little speed on the table.”
For the first 60 laps, Hessert raced in the 7th-8th spot, prior to pitting on lap 60 for 4 tires, fuel and adjustments. Tom brought the Dodge to the attention of the pit crew under the caution on lap 130, after losing the lead lap a few laps earlier. In addition to earning the free pass, allowing Hessert to rejoin the cars on the lead lap, Hessert and his #72 liked the adjustments the crew made. One by one he gained positions, picking up 3rd by lap 159. A few laps after, Hessert got punted in the door by another competitor, forcing his car to the outside lane, where he fell back to 8th, before continuing to fall to 12th. Once again, Hessert started his climb, making it to 5th as the caution came out on lap 197, setting up a green/white/checkered restart.
During the final two laps, Hessert again got punted and finished 10th. A disappointed Hessert commented, “It was a frustrating day at Mobile. We really struggled through the first two runs of the day, but made some good changes to our AxiomWarranty.com/Caregard car and got pretty competitive over the last 60 laps. We were able to capitalize on the double file restarts and make up a lot of ground late. I got all the way to 3rd at one point before getting knocked back to 12th. After some more late restarts we were sitting in the top five coming to the white flag, but I got put in another bad situation by another car and lost a bunch of spots to finish 10th. It’s tough losing all those spots late, but we had a decent day. I really enjoyed working with Ed Berrier and everyone on the #72 team. I am looking forward to getting back to Salem next month!”
Austin Wayne Self
After being the quickest of the Cunningham cars at the test, Austin Wayne Self returned to Mobile International Speedway expecting to pick up where he left off. The changes that were made in the shop, along with the difference in weather conditions, made for two long practice sessions, without the #22 team getting a chance to make a mock qualifying run. By the time qualifying happened, Crew Chief Chad Bryant and Austin had things lined back up, qualifying 5th---making three Cunningham cars in the top-6.
Self took the green flag in the 5th spot and fell back a few spots early, before spinning on lap 30, with the help of a fellow competitor. On the third caution on lap 60, Self brought his #22 into the pits for 4 tires and fuel, only to have to return to the pits under the next caution on lap 86, when Austin caught a bit of damage from a spinning car. After his crew checked over the Dodge, he re-started in 17th. During Self’s final pit stop on lap 130, his crew bolted on 4 fresh Hoosiers and filled his fuel tank before sending him back on track. With 50 laps remaining in the 200 lap event, Austin had fought his way up to 8th, before dropping to 9th. Once again, Self was involved in a competitor’s spin to bring out the final yellow flag, falling to 12th. With the race being decided by a green/white/checkered flag, Self had to settle for 12th. After the race, Bryant determined that the #22 had a broken right front shock, which drastically changed the handling of the car. He commented, “Austin did an amazing job today, racing most of the race with that broken shock. We are really pleased that he hung on to it like he did.”
Next up for the Cunningham teams will be the Federated Auto Parts 200 presented by Crunch ’N Nutter at Salem Speedway, April 27. Two practice sessions and Menards Pole Qualifying presented by Ansell are scheduled for Saturday, while the 200 lap race will roll off Sunday at 2:15 EST. Austin Wayne Self will pilot the #22 AM Dodge, with Tom Hessert his teammate in the #77 AxiomWarranty.com/Caregard Dodge.