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Tavo Hellmund report, 5/29/04


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Release: May 30, 2004

 

Austin's Hellmund and Suzuki Motorcycles Team Fourth in NASCAR West Series "Havoline/NAPA Auto Parts 150"

Stockton, California -- Austin's Tavo Hellmund and the Suzuki Motorcycles and ATVs Pontiac Grand Prix team qualified seventh and ran with the leaders in the top five for the entire race, finishing fourth in Saturday's NASCAR "Havoline/NAPA Auto Parts 150" Grand National Series race at Stockton 99 Speedway. Austin Cameron, the 2003 Grand National Shootout champion, was the winner; followed by points leader and polesitter Mike Duncan, then David Gilliland and Hellmund.

 

The Suzuki team was fastest in Friday's practice and in the top three on Saturday, but the car was loose in qualifying. Hellmund still put the Suzuki entry solidly in the field in seventh. (It was the only long-wheelbase car to make the race on a track that favors the shorter-wheelbase cars.) At the start, Hellmund moved quickly into the top five and then to fourth, but the car was still loose. Despite that, Hellmund raced hard with Cameron as the two worked toward the lead.

 

At the halfway point, the crew discovered the loose condition was caused by the right rear tire changing stagger for some reason. A touch on the wall caused by the change had also damaged a ball joint, but Hellmund was still racing with (not just running with) the leaders. The engine sound changed during the last 75 laps and Hellmund thought he had cracked a header pipe. After the race, they discovered a broken rocker.

 

Despite being down on power, Hellmund and the Suzuki Pontiac were part of a pack of four cars not only racing for the lead, but pulling away from the rest of the field. At the end, they were well clear of the next four cars, with only eight cars finishing on the lead lap.

 

"We were good," Hellmund said afterward. "The car was handling well, though we still don't know why the stagger changed. We were down on power the last 70 laps, but could still race with the leaders. Without the engine problem we might have won it." Hellmund and the Suzuki team have run this car six times in the West Series, finishing in the top five in all but one race.

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