He waited seven years to win his father’s memorial race.
But the five minutes that followed the end of Saturday’s Rick Haskell memorial race probably seemed longer than seven years.
Gregg Haskell went from third place on the final lap to a dramatic victory when Brad Authier and Jim Jones collided coming out of turn four of the eighth annual Haskell memorial for the Westside Performance Plus UMP Late Models.
Haskell, with his fist pumping out the driver’s window, pulled onto the infield in anticipation of an emotional celebration.
Instead, a track worker told Haskell that the race wasn’t over because the caution came out and a second green-white-checkered finish would be needed to determine the winner.
“I didn’t see a yellow flag, I saw the checkered,” said Haskell, who admitted he was livid inside the race car.
Race officials reviewed the finish and determined the yellow flag never came out and Haskell was declared the winner.
“I was at Cedar Point last week and there’s no ride there that compares to what that race was like,” Haskell said.
The Chatham driver took the lead with three laps to go when the leader Erick Walker tangled with the lapped car of Mike Dale coming out of turn two, bringing out the caution.
Two more cautions set the stage for a first attempt at a green-white-checkered and a controversial final restart.
As Haskell was rolling to take the green, Jones and Authier both sped past, leaving the leader fuming.
“They definitely got the jump on me, the green flag wasn’t out, but for some reason, they (race officials) let it go,” Haskell said.
“I was fired up,” he continued. “You go from first to third before the race even hit the flagstand, I thought for sure I was going to go flying off the end at full speed.
“But I calmed myself down, I could see that I was gaining on them, I wanted to stay high and hoping something would happen between them … and something happened,” he said of the collision between Jones and Authier.
“It was karma … Dad was riding with me, he kept me calm,” Haskell said of his victory, as tears flowed freely as he was joined by his racing brothers Patrick and Jason, mother Deb, sister Kristen and the rest of their family and team members.
Patrick finished sixth and Jason, who led the first six laps, finished 11th.
“Rick’s looking down and he’s so proud of all of his boys,” Deb said. “It didn’t matter who won, as long as one of his boys won, and it was a safe race.”
“The feeling’s still unbelievable, it really hasn’t sunk in yet,” Haskell said about the biggest of his eight career feature wins.
“It’s great that I have had two championship trophies presented to me at the banquet, but I can’t wait to go to this year’s banquet and get my dad’s trophy,” he said.
Walker rebounded from his late-race incident to finish second.
“Congratulations to Gregg, I know how much race this means to him … I just made a mistake,” Walker said of his lap-17 accident.
Haskell said he knows how Walker feels.
“He’s still a rookie,” Haskell said of the second-year driver, “and I know the feeling of being a rookie running up front, you get a little over anxious, you drive in a little harder than you should and that’s what happened when he got into the ‘OO.
“Unfortunately, that’s the growing pains,” Haskell added.
Could Haskell have caught and passed Walker in those final three laps had the race stayed green?
“It would have been a good race,” Haskell answered.
“I wasn’t putting it to the floor, I was trying to save my tires because sometimes Erick can get a little loose and you can get by him on the outside.
“But he hadn’t done it yet and I was thinking he might not do it this time.
“It’s too bad it happened, he ran a great race.”
Jones was credited with a third-place finish despite not crossing the line while Authier, who was able to roll, finished eighth, penalized for the last-lap accident.
Chatham’s Matt Wauthier and Ridgetown’s Dale Glassford rounded out the top five.
- It was Haskell’s second straight and fourth feature win of the season, doubling his career total coming into the year.
- The Haskell brothers again solicited sponsorship from businesses and individuals for lap money to give their fellow drivers some extra cash in honour of their father.
- Track manager Garry Lemesurier, impressed by the Haskells’ dedication to the Late Models, added another $1,000 to the purse.
- “It was an ugly race, from what I hear, but when you put up that much money, that’s what’s going to happen,” said Haskell, who pocketed $1,500 for his win.
- Extra sponsorship has pushed the Late Model winner’s purse to $3,000 for the Canadian Fall Shootout on Sept. 27.
- Jones padded his lead to 12 points over Glassford with two race nights remaining, including the season championship race on Sept. 13. Haskell, in a bid for a third straight title, is 62 points back.
- Glassford won the heat and pursuit, upping his division leading total to14 checkereds.
- Chris Ross won the other heat and was in the hunt for the feature win but was knocked out in a lap 17 crash that also collected Authier and Jones, who both got their spots back for the restart. Ross finished 10th.
- Authier and Glassford are two-time Haskell memorial race winners. Joe Field, Andrew Reaume and Kirk Hooker also won.
- It was the fourth memorial race for the Late Models, as Reaume won the Gord DeWael and Don Hendricks while Glassford won the inaugural Gord Gotelaer memorial.