JOHN MICKEL WINS ASA FREE STATE 500
01/31/2010 By Peter Burroughes
Phakisa Freeway, Welkom, Sunday, January 31 – The inaugural ASA Transcontinental Series Free State 500 was won in dramatic style at Phakisa Freeway near Welkom this afternoon by Briton John Mickel in an RS Capp Chev Monte Carlo. Mickel, who started the 207-lap 500-km race from fourth on the 24-car grid, took the lead three-quarters of the way around the final lap to win by less than half a second from American Toni McCray (Lucas Oil Chev Monte Carlo) and 2,6 seconds ahead of American Marc Davis (WHUR 96.3/The Word Network/Marc Davis Motorsports Chev Lumina).
In his first-ever race on a 2,5-kilometre super oval, Cape Town’s Johann Spies finished a remarkable fifth overall in a Speedspot Motorsport Cape Town Dodge Charger. Five other South Africans made their super oval debut in the 600 bhp 358 cu in V8 American stock cars. Welkom’s Danie Correia Jnr (Liqui Moly Chev Monte Carlo) finished three laps down in 10th place to make it a memorable two South Africans in the top 10.
Gugu Zulu of Johannesburg was 11th and five laps in arrears in a Phakisa Freeway Chev Monte Carlo, Johan Cronje of Welkom (Phezulu Plant/JCB Ford Fusion) was classified 15th after completing 155 laps before retiring with engine problems, Welkom’s Johan Coetzer (Phezulu Plant/JCB/Speed Pro Engineering/Signs4U) was classified 18th after retiring on lap 89 with engine problems, and Klerksdorp’s Jaco Correia was classified 21st after crashing his Liqui Moly Chev Monte Carlo into the concrete wall on lap 29.
Unluckiest driver in the race was the most experienced, 60-year-old American Geoff Bodine, who dominated the weekend. The 1986 Daytona 500 winner and NASCAR legend started the race from pole position and led the most laps (86), including the 49 between lap 156 and 205. He was forced into the pits for a ‘splash and dash’ with two laps remaining after running out of fuel and was eventually classified ninth.
The historic first American stock car race ever held in South Africa on the continent’s only super oval track was watched by an appreciative crowd of just under 11 000 spectators on a hot and humid Free State summer’s afternoon.
Among the VIP guests were the premier of the Free State, Ace Magashule, who announced that his government would again bring the ASA Transcontinental Series back to Phakisa in 2011.
The United States ambassador to South Africa, the Honourable Donald H Gips, gave the traditional instruction “Ladies and gentleman, please start your engines” before the race got underway at 13h17 on Sunday afternoon.
John Mickel: “I thought Geoff (Bodine) had the best chance to win and then, when he pitted on lap 205, I thought it would be Toni’s race. But I pushed hard on the final lap and managed to get underneath her in turn three and beat her to the chequered flag.”
Toni McCray: “This was my first time on a 1.5-mile oval and my first time in a super oval stock car. I’m happy and pleased with our performance this weekend. It was a good, clean race.”
Marc Davis: “We were good all weekend and, although we didn’t get the win we wanted so badly – we had a flat tyre during a green period and dropped two laps - we are very pleased to have been a part of this historic race and have thoroughly enjoyed our first visit to South Africa.”
Johann Spies: “I’ve dreamt since I was a little boy of competing in one of these cars and now my dream is to go and race one in the United States. I’m over the moon. It was my first time on a super oval and my first race in a real ASA stock car. Thank you to the Free State government for bringing the series here, thank you to ASA for giving South African drivers a chance and a real big thank you to Dustin Dudley (one of the 19 Americans in the field) for making his car available to me after I had problems with mine in qualifying. The car and the engine were awesome”
Gugu Zulu: “I’m very proud to have represented my country in this historic race. I’ve learnt a lot and am pleased to have completed my first-ever oval track race in one piece. Next time I hope I will have a better car and I’m sure I will do a lot better”.
The Free State premier announced at the post-race media conference that his government was going to ‘adopt’ Zulu and send him to America to help him further his motor racing career.
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Pos No. Name
1 09 John Mickel 207
2 90 Toni McCray 207
3 96 Marc Davis 207
4 08 Rick McCray 207
5 900 Johan Spies 207
6 73 Gary Lewis 207
7 19 Tiffany Daniels 207
8 55 Greg Barnhart 206
9 8 Geoff Bodine 206
10 68 Danie Correia 204
11 20 Gugu Zulu 202
12 97 Mark Ebert 202
13 41 Ron Norman 198
14 98 Shaun Richardson 176
15 22 Johan Cronje 155
16 F22 Russ Blakeley 128
17 61 Tim Olson 115
18 00 Johan Coetzer 88
19 F66 Steve Carlson 54
20 52 Chris Wimmer 38
21 11 Jaco Correia 28
22 80 Mark Shaffer 28
23 85 Lance Fenton 12
24 88 Don Uhlir 1