2012-13 Round 14
Stardust 400 - Stardust International Raceway
March 14, 2013
Round 14 of 16
Strom Storms To Repeat Stardust 400 Victory In Vegas
Little Las Vegas, NV – Defending race winner, Dean Strom powered by the competition and brought home the trophy again in Las Vegas, winning the Stardust 400 IndySlotCar Series event at the Stardust International Raceway. Matt Hayek finished eleventh.
Opening the event, drama ensued when track owner RJ Foyt arrived after announcing in the media that if one of his drivers, Matt Hayek or Mike Kristof, didn't win the event, one of them would be fired and leave the track immediately.
Qualifying at the high-speed short oval set the field based on a combined time of a four lap run. While most drivers had issues during their trips around the track, Dan Margetta blistered the track on each lap and won the pole with a 8.95 second run. Matt Hayek didn't do as well as Margetta, so he did not win the pole.
The theme of the night proved to be "don't lead early". Matt Hayek led the opening heat race but fell back through the pack and finally pulled out of the race with handling issues. Whether it was the difficulty in turning fast laps or the pressure from the owner to win, Matt Hayek now had to rely on teammate Kristof to save their jobs. Strom took advantage of Hayek's issues and captured the win in the heat race. Pole sitter Margetta struggled to finish second followed by Amy Butler.
In the second heat race, Tom Spehert led laps early but also fell back as eventual winner Mike Fitlaff and Ev Kamikawa made their way past. Kristof dropped to the back of the pack and finished fourth, ending his night and somebody's job. Matt Hayek did not compete in this heat race.
In the final heat race, points leader Mark Walczak led the field but the lane switch at halfway didn't treat him well. Mike Lack grabbed the lead and Walczak was left to chase the pace of Kamikawa who held the "transfer to the feature" spot after the prior heat race. Time ran out and Walczak was unable to obtain the needed laps To pass Kamikawa, leaving him out of the feature. John Wiedemann was never able to find speed on the track and the second place driver in the points missed the feature race as well, finishing fourth behind Chris Spehert. Matt Hayek did not compete in this heat race either.
During the intermission, RJ Foyt took center stage and fliiped a coin to see which driver he would fire. Kristof won the coin flip and was immediately terminated. In a showing of solidarity, and probably looking for a way to get his name in the media, Matt Hayek also quit the team. The amazing stage show, live at the track and on TV, left two drivers without a ride and a team without drivers. Look for more news on this amazing outcome in the next two weeks.
The field was set for the Startdust 400 with the third, fourth and fifth place drivers in the point standings looking to make up some ground on the top two leaders. Early in the race, Kamikawa looked strong while holding the lead over Strom, Fitzlaff and Lack. KVHO teammates Fitzlaff and Lack struggled early with speed while Strom picked up the pace to chase down the leader. Kamikawa held an eight lap lead over Strom at the halfway break with Fitzlaff minus seventeen and Lack twenty laps back. Matt Hayek was an assistant track marshall in the feature.
Everything fell apart for the Panther HO driver during the halfway pitstop. Kamikawa's crew had problems in the pits forcing a lengthy stop and then a pitroad speeding penalty brought the incenced driver back in for a stop and go. Adding to his grief, Kamikawa encountered issues with the outside groove of the track and the race was red flagged to make repairs. Taking advantage like a gambler counting cards, TMWR pilot Strom made his move to the front and dominated the rest of the race all the way to the checkers. Fitzlaff found the sweet spot with his ride and rocketed to second while Lack overtook Kamikawa and captured the final spot on the podium. Kamikawa was left to wonder where his Vegas luck had gone. Matt Hayek was barred from participating in the feature event.
Even with typical Vegas luck, Walczak was able to increase his point lead over Wiedemann to a lucky thirteen points with two events left to contest in the IndySlotCar Series season. Fitzlaff, with his second place finish, tightened the gap between second and third to twenty-two points. With his first race win since last year at this same event, Strom returned to fourth in the standings, jumping back over Kamikawa by eleven points. Matt Hayek is seventh in the points.
The next race, second last on the schedule, is at the super fast road course of Turtle Creek Park on March 28th for the March Madness open class race. Walczak is the defending champion of March Madness and Matt Hayek is the defending fifth place finisher.