By Bill W
April 25, 2011 – A night to forget turned into a night to remember for sprint car driver Kaley Gharst and the fans at the 34 Raceway in West Burlington, Iowa on Saturday night. Two rain delays were more than worth it when they witnessed the 22 year old driver from Decatur, Illinois live up to his nickname “Showtime”, by driving from 18th to 2nd in the series’ opener for the Monster Energy™ Sprint Series.
Thirty-nine cars made up a strong field of sprinters. Kaley went out late in qualifying with precipitation falling and registered the 14th quick time of the night. “We went out kind of late and it had been raining for a while,” he says. “It was slimy when we went out, but considering the field that was there, it wasn’t a bad-qualifying time. It put us third in the heat race.”
His heat was less than memorable as well. He started third, but backed up to fifth at the checkers and headed to the B main. “We got the car too tight,” he says. “I got a bad start and we went backwards. You never want to have to run the B in one of these things.”
The Plath Motorsports #14P team went to work and after a pair of rain delays had things dialed in for a B main win. “The team really had the car working well for the B,” says the two-time and defending Spring Invaders champion. “From that point on, we were just going to make the best of it.”
Some cars are good at the beginning of a race, and some at the end. The #14P was good throughout the 30-lap main event distance. Kaley headed to the top shelf and started moving quickly through the field. “It didn’t look like there was much up there,” he says of the top of the track. “There was a ridge a little lower, and that was pretty rough. Most of the guys were running the low groove because of that. If you got way up top, it was pretty smooth. Starting as far back as we were, we had to find a place to run where we could pass some cars.”
Kaley was in the top ten by the time a caution rolled around on lap 10. “We were able to take advantage of where we were running,” he says. “We got a really good start. We had to move around all over the track to get through traffic. We were slicing and dicing.”
He was into the top five two laps later. “When we were behind (Brian) Brown on the caution, I was able to get up top and run my own race,” he says. “We were really picking off cars at that point.”
In no time, he was on the second place car of Joey Moughan, and chasing down leader, Danny Lasoski. A last lap bid fell short, but as he emerged from his second place car on the frontstretch, he was greeted with a standing ovation from the big crowd assembled. “It was a great night,” he says. “But, I have to kick myself in the butt for not doing better in the heat race. I would have liked to have started up a little further.”
Keep an eye on Kaley’s progress this week and beyond at www.KaleyGharst.com!
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Kaley and car owners Randy and Lori Plath would like to thank Sebastian Powder Coating and Sandblasting, Holtkamp Truck and Trailer Repair, Nelson’s Catering, Pieper Inc., Lange Chiropractic, Rockstar Graphics, Scott Performance, Midland Performance and GPC Race Products.