SOUTH PARIS, Maine – It’s not the checkered flag being waved over his car, the Victory Lane ceremonies or even the final pass for the lead that Gary Chiasson will remember most.
Nope, what Chiasson will remember most about his first career Oxford Plains Speedway Late Model win was one of the smaller moments that stock car drivers cherish most.
“I looked up and there were two laps to go and I was running into lapped traffic, and I saw the flagman waving the passing flag to those cars ahead of me,” said Chiasson, of Peru, Maine. “That’s when I figured I was really going to win it. He was pushing over those lapped cars down to the inside, and I’ll never forget it.”
Chiasson started sixth in the 24-car Late Model field last Saturday night at Oxford, took the lead early and then ran out and hid from everybody else to win the 40-lap Oxford Championship Series main event. After half a dozen years of showing up at the track with nothing to show for it, Chiasson finally had his first career victory.
The win came in a brand new Crazy Horse Racing chassis built over the winter.
“The car we ran last year, it was 13 or 14 years old – it was T.J. Brackett’s old Pro Stock. We’d gone as far as we could with that, and we figured it was time. It was at the point where a brand new car would benefit us,” Chiasson said. “I never went out and priced out a car with anybody else (last winter). I told (Crazy Horse owners Mitch and Judy Green), if I was going to build a new car, I wanted them to be the ones to build it.
“They’re great people, and they’re just awesome to deal with. I just can’t say enough about them.”
Chiasson’s win said it all, anyway.
Until this year, Chiasson was the track’s all time leader in Wednesday night Acceleration Series victories with 22 career Runnin’ Rebel wins. He made the jump to a Late Model six years ago.
After working hard on tire management and trying to make small tweaks to the car’s handling over the first half of this season, he said it all began to click during TD Bank 250 weekend a few weeks ago.
“After the 250, we felt the most confident we ever had. We were pretty close to a Top-10 car in the 250,” Chiasson said. “We were passing a lot of cars throughout the whole day. We knew were close. I’ll tell you, it felt good to pass so many cars. It’s a feeling we weren’t used to.”
After winning a last-chance qualifying race and finishing 19th in the TD Bank 250, Chiasson said his team spent that night celebrating like they’d “just won the Daytona 500. That’s how much it meant to us.”
With a scheduled off week, the wait to return to the weekly wars at Oxford seemed interminable. But the No. 71 picked up where it left off on Saturday night – taking to the outside groove to gain the lead on Lap 6. From there, Chiasson made a decision – instead of riding and trying to save his stuff for a battle at the end, he was going to check out as best he could and let the field try and catch up to him.
Without a caution flag to slow the event, the strategy paid off perfectly.
“If we’d had a caution, would I have won it? I don’t know. We’ll take it anyway we can get it, and I’ve got to thank the man upstairs for this one,” Chiasson said. “That whole night (after winning), it was unrealistic… Going into it, I was hoping for a Top-5. Even when I got out in the lead I figured they were going to catch me eventually. But then with two to go, that’s when I figured I was really going to win it.”
Chiasson credits Mitch Green with having put his program in Victory Lane.
“Before the 250, I had Mitch set the car up right where it had been originally at the start of the year,” he said. “Now we’ve got a car that reacts to the changes we want to make – and it’s a lot easier to learn that way. With the older car, it just didn’t want to react to any of the changes we made.
“This car’s better, and it’s cornering better. The front-end geometry is nice – and it really gets through the corners, and that’s where we’re a lot faster.”