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South Boston Season Opener...

Words by Natalie Sather with Rob Tiongson

South Boston Speedway
Friday & Saturday March 11-12, 2011

What a better way to spend your birthday than at a race track! Saturday, March 12th was the season opener at South Boston Speedway in Virginia. We started out the weekend with a short test session Friday night.

Track conditions were terrible due to the rainy weather all week. We basically ran laps to make sure the car was good and so I could get back into the rhythm of things.

Saturday morning came far too early, as I was not able to get to back to my apartment in Charlotte till late Friday night. I was up at 4am which made for a long day. I packed up my racing gear and was out the door to make the two hour road trip back to the track.

Making a pit stop in Danville to grab Starbucks and some cupcakes in celebration for my birthday, my next stop was the track. I was in a good mood, singing in my car as I drove down the windy road to SoBo, not paying attention to how fast I was going.

Well it was soon brought to my attention when I was pulled over! Not a good way to start your birthday, and seriously, who gives a girl a ticket on her birthday!?

Well that guy did!

At least I started out my day fast and that would continue on to the track!

For our first practice session, we had on the tires from Friday night’s test session that had just about 150 laps on them. Our times were very consistent, with almost every lap I ran in the .20's.

In the second session, we put on sticker tires and made a mock qualifying run, and then a few more laps to get comfortable with the fresh rubber. Not being happy with way the car handled on fresh tires, my crew chief Brian and I opted to make a small change for our qualifying run as we went down half a pound in air pressure on all four tires. It may not seem like a lot, but a little change with the tires can drastically change a car’s handling and speed.

I knew that qualifying was going to be tough. It had rained all week and the track was leaking water pretty bad in the line where we needed to run. The key was missing the water and coming off the corner pointed straight when going through the water.

We were seventh out of 26 cars to go. The checkered flag waved and I timed in at 15.650 seconds, enough to grab the provisional pole for a short time before I ended up 6th over all, which I was very satisfied with.

This year, we have a new structure for our race team. Last year, H.C. Sellers was my crew chief with Brian as my car chief.

For this season, we are doing things different at Sellers Racing, with Phillip Morris as my team mate, while H.C. is shuffling his time back and fourth. As a result, Brian has taken on the role as my crew chief.

After working with Brian all of last year, I have full confidence in his skills and talent to take on this difficult role! (laughs) He is young but is extremely hard working and very smart. I know that we are going to have a great season and Saturday proved just that!
Gearing up for a 150 lap race, Brian and I talked before the main event and knew that we had a good car. I was feeling very confident that he had put together a great car over the winter and I was ready to work hard during the race to show that off!

The field was very scattered, with good guys starting in the back and I knew they would be coming up through the field. Making my move when the green flag dropped, I was running in fifth till a bump-in-run pass.

Then, I found myself running behind Peyton Sellers, who was leading, Lee Pulliam, who ran in second, and Bruce Anderson in third, all Sellers Racing associated cars!

Following Bruce and Lee, it was a hard battle early on in the race. Biding my time, I laid back just enough, knowing a situation was in the near future.

That I was right on, as the two cars got together right in front of my Butler Seats/Hooker Harness/Lady Eagle Safety Wear No. 94 car, I just barely managed to sneak by a spinning Bruce Anderson. He was out for the remainder of the race.

Exercising patience, my car was a bit faster than Lee's, but the race was still early and after the incident he was just involved in, I knew that it would work itself out in the long 150 lap run.

Riding in third for awhile, there was another caution. South Boston Speedway has now gone to the cone format for restarts!!

Yes, this is such a great opportunity for a driver and great for the fans as well. Talking to my new spotter this year Justin Snow (last year’s Limited Late Model points champ, and winner of the race prior to mine), I told him that I like the top and that I am not afraid to go to the top.

With that being said, Peyton and Lee both took the bottom...not this girl!! I went to the high lane, and Justin had said in his opinion not to, but ultimately, it was up to me as a driver!

Coming for the green flag, Justin warned me that I couldn't pass till the start/finish line as I was going into turn one, door-to-door with Peyton.

I couldn't make the pass, so I dropped back into third spot. Running any where from third to fifth throughout most of the race, I avoided some major incidents resulting in two red flags through out the race.

With a mere 40 laps left, I found myself running in a solid third place before another caution flew with 38 circuits left.

On the restart, I took the inside lane behind Peyton in the center of turn one before getting a huge shove from Jeb Burton, causing me to spin, collecting another car in my door.

With a flat left rear tire, I pulled into the pits to make some major repairs to my car. The guys did major repair work in no time, but unfortunately, I went two laps down.

Restarting in the back, I took the outside and passed about eight cars on the high line. Needless to say, the adrenaline was a pumping! (laughs)

Driving my majorly damaged K&N car as hard as I could, I was the sixth driver to cross the finish, but unfortunately, I only finished in 10th place being that I was 2 laps down.

I fought so very hard throughout the whole race, so I was very disappointed not to be able to give the team a good finish.
Throughout the race, I knew we had a car capable of a solid third place finish. This is a new team this year, and we were a few guys short our first race, but I am so thankful to all the guys for their hard work this weekend. The "Miss II" was fast..

At the end of the day, we didn't have the finish we wanted, but we started off the season where we left off last year and the Sellers Team is thrilled. The Lady Eagle Safetywear car was pushed into the trailer with some damage, but not defeated.

All week my Mom and Dad kept asking me what I wanted for my birthday, and after the race, I called them to tell them what I wanted - a new body for my race car! (laughter)

Happy Birthday to me! Thanks everyone for all your support on Saturday and hope to see everyone at the next race on March 26th!
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