By James Spink
After finishing off his first Traxxas Silver Crown Series championship last season, Bobby East returned with the Tony Stewart/Curb-Agajanian Racing team with the focus of defending his own title while capturing the owner’s championship after narrowly missing it in 2012. By capturing the pole and finishing sixth in Saturday’s “4-Crown Nationals” at Eldora Speedway, they did just that as East held off race-winner Chris Windom by six points in the final tally.
“It honestly was just a little bit disappointing to not get the owner’s championship along with the driver’s championship last season,” East said. “We came back with the mindset of wanting to make sure we got both this year, and that’s part of what makes it so satisfying.”
East and his team completed the eight-race season without finishing outside the top-ten, a notable feat in that all other contenders failed to finish a race at some point in the season.
“With any championship, you can point to the work that goes on behind the scenes, but it’s especially true with this one. The preparation to get the car ready is the key. Brad Mariscotti has always done a great job at the shop, and our team definitely has a great mix of personalities and strengths for each person. When we’re scratching our heads a little, Jimmy Carr comes in and helps how he can, too,” East said.
After a quiet race at the Indiana State Fairgrounds that netted an eighth-place finish, East raced for the win at Gateway Motorsports Park in Madison, Illinois on June 1st before running out of fuel. After pitting, he came back to finish eighth on that day, as well. Shortly after, East’s teammate Levi Jones retired from racing, leading East to move from the #22 to the #10 for owner’s point purposes. The next race at Pike’s Peak International Raceway turned the tide for East, as he started eighth and dominated the final 75 laps to win the “Rocky Mountain Classic.”
“It was good just to get back in victory lane out at Pike’s Peak. We didn’t qualify well that day and could have dialed it out just because of that, but we stepped back and thought about it before we made any drastic changes. I was happy with the car in practice that day and we decided to stick with what we had. Ironically, it was deciding not to do anything that ended up being a big call for us,” East said of his one win on the season.
The win in Colorado moved him to second in points. He then finished seventh at Lucas Oil Raceway at Indianapolis before returning to the podium with a second-place run to point-leader Tracy Hines at Belleville. After finishing eighth yet again at Springfield in mid-August, East finally took the point lead with a strategic race in the “Ted Horn 100” at the DuQuoin (Ill.) State Fairgrounds, where he finished second.
Coming into Eldora with a five-point lead over Jerry Coons, Jr., qualifying became a very important part of the night. The three-point bonus for taking the pole went to East, as he blistered Eldora with a 16.517-second lap.
“For me, that pole at Eldora was huge. That was the first thing on my mind when we left Du Quoin and I told my guys that – we needed to go out and set quick time at Eldora. That’s as many points as one spot on the track in the race, and one spot is a big deal in a championship as close as ours was this year,” he said.
In the race, East led early before losing the lead to Windom on a restart. He lost a few more positions in the mid-portion of the race and the championship battle appeared it would tighten even more.
“I honestly got into defensive mode a bit early in the race. I don’t ever want to do that again. I finally got into a comfortable spot and could see Jerry up ahead of me and he was struggling a bit, too. I just told myself not to panic or try to do too much just yet. It ended up working out with them having problems and us holding our ground, but I definitely didn’t like coming so close to losing our advantage like that,” East said of closing his championship in the final race.
At the checkered, the Tony Stewart/Curb-Agajanian Racing – Chevy Performance #10 Maxim/Kistler finished sixth and escaped a last-race effort from Windom to steal the title. The second Silver Crown for East made it his third USAC National championship after winning the 2004 Midget title. The Stewart/Curb combination has now won three of the last four Silver Crown owner’s championships, while their drivers have combined to win the last four titles of their own.