By Ken Bruce
In what can possibly be described as the best race of the 2023 season so far, it was Mike Gular besting Corey Cormier in the Berks County Brawl at the Action Track USA bullring. For Gular, it kept up the momentum the team has shown in the past few weeks. Tuesday’s win was the fourth in the past three weeks and the seventh of the season.
Before the night got underway, I sought out a veteran driver to get his predictions on how the night was going to go, and ironically enough, the driver I talked to was the eventual winner, Mike Gular.
“I honestly don’t know how this is going to be tonight,” said Gular just before the drivers’ meeting. “I just hope it is not going to be too bad. Hell, it’s $5,000 to win, and someone is going to win it, so we’re here, and hopefully we can have a good, clean night. Maybe it will race well; we’ll see. The sprint car race was exciting, and who knows, it might not be that bad.”
The last part of Gular’s statement certainly came to fruition, as the track did race well, with Gular taking home the big win.
“I am gassed after that,” said a happy but tired Gular in the team’s trailer after the big win. “I told another guy that I didn’t think I could have gone another ten laps without putting it in the fence. I was starting to get sloppy and trying to get as close to the fence as possible without hitting it.”
The Terry Fastnacht owned No. 2A was on point throughout the race, but the car started to lose some speed late.
“We were kind of hanging on there at the end,” explained Gular. “We were getting loose off because I argued with Ron (crew chief Ron Seltman) about not tightening the car up too much, and I probably should’ve listened to him like I usually do, and he was scared to death. We might have messed up there, but I was able to hold on and get back by him (Corey Cormier) in traffic and hold on for the win.”
The battle between Gular and Cormier was an example of two drivers racing super hard but also giving each other respect as they exchanged slide jobs and tight racing.
“I was starting to search there and was getting loose off the corners, and I didn’t know where to go and started slowing down and moving out a little bit,” mentioned Gular. “When he slid me, I knew he had to be running the top part of the track, and once I got back by him, I was going to the top, and then we got into traffic there, and it just worked out. Sometimes you are just in the moment, and you do whatever your gut is telling you to do. You don’t really have time to think here, so you just kind of go. I knew when he got by me that I had to pick the pace up, and at this place, you just have to get up on it and go get it every lap. I have to give Corey credit, he ran me clean, and I ran him clean, and it was just two drivers getting after it and going for it.”
Gular and the No. 2A team have been on quite a roll lately, and Tuesday’s win just adds to the success they have attained in the past month.
“You and I talked about this the other week, and this is just reaffirming what I believe in myself all of the time,” commented Gular. “It’s great to have Ron here to boost my confidence all of the time and make me feel better than you think you are, and once you start driving with confidence, it is huge, and you cannot buy that.”
After all was said and done, I asked Gular to give me his summary of the race and how it all played out tonight after our talk earlier before the night started.
“We unloaded pretty good and only had to make a couple of changes,” said Gular. “Ron and I talked about it over the weekend and watched some videos. I watched some more videos late last night when I got home from the shop to prepare myself before I went to bed. So, coming in after watching the USAC guys, I knew you had to get up on the wheel, and that was my mindset coming into it, and that’s what we did, and it paid off. It is tight here, and you are going to rub guys, and I feel bad I got into (Bobby) Hackel there. Danny Bouc and I got together that one time there. It was fun and a good time, for sure. I never would have believed we would run 41 straight laps here, and I couldn’t believe we didn’t get into more lapped traffic. Honestly, I thought that was going to be an issue, but it wasn’t really even a factor there. There were a couple guys at the end, but they were pretty quick and weren’t that far off my pace. Overall, it was a good night, and the car is in one piece. Anytime you can unload your car, bring it to a bullring like this, and roll it back into the trailer, it’s a good night. I honestly don’t think it is any worse than after a Friday or Saturday night.”
Cormier settles for second: Corey Cormier made the trek down from his Otisville, N.Y., home to Action Track USA on Tuesday and, at night’s end, came away with a hard-fought second place finish. Cormier was quick throughout the night and slid eventual winner Mike Gular for the lead, but he could not hold it as Gular went back by him in the late stages.
“Man, that was a lot of fun,” said Cormier just after getting out of his No. 26 modified. “That was intense, you didn’t have a chance to breathe out there. I never thought we could go that long without a caution; I thought there would be a lot of cautions, and I was shocked that it kept going, and I am sure the fans enjoyed watching that. It was a helluva race!”
“I thought I was in good shape there when I got the lead, but I probably should’ve stayed up top, but you’ve got to try and pick a lane and go when there are cars in front of you, and tonight it bit me. It happens sometimes, and you just try to learn from it and move on.”
Admitting you are wrong: They say it takes a big man to admit when he is wrong, and since I qualify for the big man part of that saying, I can easily admit I was completely wrong about what I thought was going to happen last night when the Short Track Super Series visited Action Track USA for the Berks County Brawl, a 50-lap non-point event on the STSS South Schedule.
When Brett Deyo and Doug Rose announced this event, I think the prevailing sentiment from most people was that there was no way a full bodied STSS modified was going to be able to race around the Action Track USA bullring. It just cannot be done! I had expected multiple pileups, yellow flags, and a lot of hurt feelings, and from what I was being told by the drivers themselves, it was going to be a slugfest. One driver even suggested to me that it might be good for him to go around and apologize to every driver before the racing even starts.
Instead, what we saw last night was maybe the most entertaining modified feature of the season so far and possibly what we will see this season. The heats did produce some yellow flags, and there were some drivers who weren’t happy with each other, but that sometimes happens at any size track when drivers are fighting for those coveted qualifying spots, plus you have a track that has tons of grip in it. Talking to some drivers after the heats, they weren’t sure how the 50-lap feature was going to play out later that night.
The way it played out was not the way anyone thought it would go, and if they told you they did, they were probably lying. What we did see was a great display of driving from drivers who knew the situation and their surroundings and adapted to it to give the huge crowd on hand a race that had them up off their seats and wanting more when the checkered flag was thrown. It was one of those, what did we just witness moments. 41 laps of non-stop action on a 1/5-mile dirt bullring. That’s right, after a yellow on lap nine, those 2400-pound beasts of the northeast STSS modifieds ran 41 straight laps with plenty of side-by-side action permeated with slide jobs and some three- and even four-abreast action.
I will give Brett Deyo and Doug Rose their just kudos for sticking with this race despite what many may have thought and believing that our modified drivers could do it and put on a show. I think limiting the starting field to 16 cars was a smart decision, and it showed. But mostly, I give credit to the drivers themselves for driving each other with respect and putting on a great race for everyone, a race that will be talked about for some time. The fan reaction after the race was the telltale sign of success, as cheers erupted when co-announcer Barry Angstadt asked the crowd to give all of the modified drivers a round of applause, and the crowd erupted.
Action Track USA happenings: There were 22 modified entries on Tuesday night, with heat race wins going to Frank Cozze, Mike Gular, and Rick Laubach. The consolation race winner was Justin Grim.
Kevin Hirthler was the winner of the $1,000 to win “B” main…
Joe Funk was the only driver to have a rollover throughout the night, which happened in his heat race. After the track crew rolled the car back over, No. 14 caught fire, but it was quickly extinguished. Funk was able to get the car repaired and race in the B main.
Danny Bouc led early on but eventually fell back and finished in eighth. Bouc had his Wegner Weekend Warrior motor in his No. 6…
The next STSS South event is set for this coming Tuesday, August 8th, at the New Egypt Speedway for the running of the Dirty Jersey race.
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