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Michael McGuire rallied from a slow qualifying in the K&N Pro Series East race Thursday at RIR.
The Roanoke Times | File 2012
Driver Michael McGuire was eighth in his second race of the series.
Friday, April 26, 2013
RICHMOND — Talk about pulling a rabbit out of a hat.
Saddled with a race car that was just this side of junk in time trials, Vinton teenager Michael McGuire survived a mid-race scrape that sent him to the pits twice for repairs and then made a miraculous move to escape a multi-car crash in the final laps before finishing eighth in Thursday night’s NASCAR K&N Pro Series East Blue Ox 100 at Richmond International Raceway.
“Oh, man, we [the team] whiffed it today. If we didn’t have a good driver, we would have looked like idiots today,” said Tony McGuire, the 16-year-old’s uncle and crew chief.
The top-10 finish marked McGuire’s fifth in as many career starts on NASCAR’s developmental circuit.
It was certainly a long-shot bet following a shoddy late-afternoon qualifying effort in which the William Byrd High School sophomore was only 27th among the 36 drivers who made the field for the 100-lap race. Following the poor performance in time trials, the kid appeared to have lost some of the bounce in his step.
“Oh, he was down in the dumps,’’ said Mark Huff, the team’s chief mechanic. “But that’s racing. Then the boy came back and brought it home eighth, and that says a bunch.”
After battling back to 12th before a restart on lap 87, McGuire was riding in a huge pack of cars going into Turn 1 of the 3⁄ 4 -mile oval. Leader Cole Custer suddenly slowed going into the corner and his pursuers began to scatter in all directions in an attempt to evade what ultimately transformed into mayhem.
McGuire, riding high in the outside lane, saw Zak Hausler’s car veer across the track in front of him and crash hard into the outside wall. Responding in split-second’s time, McGuire cut his car dead left and darted through a hole to avoid the carnage without a scrape.
“He’s like a rattlesnake. His reflexes are crazy, man!” said crew member Randy Zelehak, who watched the move from the team’s pit road stall.
What did the kid think about the move?
“That was a wild ride!’’ said McGuire, wearing a smile after returning his Toyota to the garage afterward . “It was a pretty crazy view from where I was sitting. All I seen was cars going everywhere. So I just hit the gas and tried to stay clear of it all.”
“It was probably one of my best moves,’’ he added. “This year, yeah, that was a pretty slick move.”
No kidding. Anything else and the under financed backyard racing team was bringing home a torn-up race car late Thursday night.
“Man, I feel lucky as hell to get out of here with an eighth-place finish,’’ Tony said. “We could have had a car on a flatbed truck. And now we’re leaving here with the car somewhat in one piece and my driver all good. It’s a win-win for all of us.”
Young McGuire had run only one of the tour’s first three races because of finances. He won the pole and led the first 30 laps at Bristol before a lapped car spun him into the wall under caution. He battled back from far back in the field to take fourth, his top finish in his brief foray on a tour that includes numerous teams rocking $500,000 sponsorships.
“I can’t wait to go the next one,’’ McGuire said. “Our goals are pretty modest, It’s top-10 finishes or top-five, we’re pretty content with it. We would like to start shooting for some more top-five finishes. We’re just going to try to keep digging.”
Ryan Gifford, 24, of Winchester, Tenn., drove away on a late-race restart to win for the first time in 44 career starts.
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