NASCAR Cup Series
Joey Logano Scores Pole for Pennzoil 400 at Las Vegas
Mar 4, 2023
Seth Christensen won the 59th Alabama 200 in just his second start behind the wheel of a Pro Late Model but it was far from a straightforward victory.
Driving the No. 35 with Ricky Turner calling the shots, the 15-year-old knew he would be capable of scoring a top-five if he simply did his part. By the closing laps, he had done just that when a series of chaotic circumstances catapulted him into the mix for the win.
Most notably, leader Christopher Tullis spun from contact by Carson Brown, the result of hard racing and gamesmanship between the two. Then, Chase Spradlin took Gavin Graham and Johnny Aramendia three-wide on the next restart -- resulting in another caution and shuffling of the deck.
That gave Christensen and John Bolen the front row. Already with five second-place finishes in the Alabama 200, Bolen resisted any desire to use the bumper and Christensen drove away to a Pro Late Model major extremely early in his career.
It’s something he couldn’t believe.
"I never," Christensen said. "Our goal was to just get a top-10. It's been an amazing car all weekend. With it being my first time here, I just wanted to bring the car home in one piece with a respectable position.
"I got nervous because a bunch of guys pitted on Lap 130, and by Lap 150 that's when I was getting worried, but we got a bunch of cautions and we were able to take our tires too."
That helped, but so did Bolen, who seemingly could have driven deeper into the corners over the final two laps if that's what he wanted to do to finally win the Hunt for the Bear. Bolen isn't that driver and wasn't on Saturday night either.
"That’s not how we race," Bolen said. "We finished second in this race so many dang times that I didn’t want to win it that way. We had a good car but was just tight all night. Tony (Eury Jr.) and all the guys have kept working and digging.
"We got it close there at the end. I thought we had a better long run car if we could run true laps and not get chopped off so many times with the cautions."
But again, the most decisive moment of the race was arguably the incident between Tullis and Brown. Tullis had pitted earlier than Brown and suspected he would be a sitting duck.
One restart was called back and then the two contenders raced each other hard and close. Tullis went around and placed blame squarely on the Rackley WAR development driver
"You want me to be blatantly honest with you," Tullis asked.
"Punk --- money kid used us up and wrecked us," Tullis said. "Used me up every chance we got. He had fresher tires, right? He was clearly going to drive by us, but we were going to make him earn it. Laps were counting down, and I get it.
"But you door me every time into 1 on the restart and I somehow managed to stay even with you down the back and you just washed us both out. I didn’t quite understand it."
The race director sent Brown to the rear for the contact, something he didn’t agree with, nor did he agree with Tullis, who shared his frustrations in person after the race.
It's an assessment Brown didn't agree with, in person, or after their meeting.
"Everyone has their own opinions," Brown said. "He was definitely racing me hard. He knew I was on better tires. I think he was in the wrong but I don’t know."
There was so much tomfoolery and chaos by the end that Augie Grill found himself back in contention over 100 laps after a hard crash into the Turn 3 wall with Dylan Fetcho. The crash began when Fetcho broke an axle and got hit from behind into the two-time Snowball Derby winner.
The incident crumpled the right side of his No. 43. It maintained good drive but was aerodynamically hurt by the body damage.
But still, Grill actually believes he should have taken the final restart from the outside front row, something the race needed to be red flagged with three laps remaining to sort out.
"The car was really good, the damage just took all the air off the right side of the spoiler," Grill said. "It was sideways in the corner but manageable at the end on fresher tires. I just couldn’t get around the corner the way I needed to.
"I didn’t have anything for those top two but wish I had gotten a different call on the lineup at the end, might have had a shot at it. All in all, third place is a good day and this damage was just cosmetic, so we’ll take it and move on."
And through each wild moment, Christensen gained and gained and gained spots until he restarted with the lead and remarkably held off a 20 year veteran in Bolen, to get the job done.
"First, thank you John Bolen, I am so grateful for how you raced me," Christensen said. "But this is all unbelievable. I figured at the end, I was going to have to work my way through the top-5 on our tires. We got a lot of luck with the wrecks and guys getting into each other and I snuck right on By.
"I can’t believe I found myself in that position to just get it done. I’m so happy!"
59th Alabama 200
Montgomery Motor Speedway
March 4 2023