PENSACOLA, FL (Apr. 2, 2018) – Cole Anderson and his ATF & Gunslinger team bounced back from what could have been near disaster during the Allen Turner Pro Late Model Series opener at Five Flags Speedway on Friday night. Ultimately, the driver of the No. 97 Toyota ended the evening credited with a tenth place finish.
For the first time this season, the team led by Dustin and Jamie Skinner unloaded their World Series-winning car to compete on the abrasive half-mile at Five Flags Speedway. Before they could get Cole up to speed, mechanical gremlins reared their ugly heads. Cole felt something wrong in the car and quickly slowed in an attempt to minimize the damage. By that point, the left rear hub assembly had already failed, disconnecting from the car and leaving Cole with only three wheels to limp back to the pit lane. The team spent the majority of practice tending to the issue and checking the rest of the car to avoid another potentially catastrophic failure.
Once the problem hub had been replaced and all other components inspected, Cole quickly rocketed to the top of the speed chart, proving the speed of his No. 97 Toyota once again. After a handful of small adjustments, he and the crew readied the machine for time trials where they missed the pole position by less than three hundredths of a second.
“Because the left rear hub broke in practice, we pretty much missed the first two hours of practice,” Cole explained about his effort on Friday night. “The guys got it all fixed and we quickly shook it down and ended up fastest in final practice. I was a little disappointed to qualify second, barely missing the pole, because the crew deserved it after all their work to get the car ready after the hub issue.”
Upon the drop of the green flag, Cole settled into his rhythm, eyeing the trophy at the end of the 100-lap feature. Consistently, he clicked off lap times as fast as the leader, reeling him in at one point during the opening third of the race from nearly two seconds behind until a series of caution flags shuffled the No. 97 back towards the tail of the top ten. As the race continued toward the final laps, he once again began to reel in the leader after perfectly executing his tire management strategy.
A late-race restart once again shuffled the Minnesota driver back a few spots and he once again began to claw back forward. He took the white flag in contention for third, quickly reeling in his closest competitor and making an attempt to take the spot on the final lap. Contact between the two sent Cole spinning with the entire field bearing down on him in turn three. Fortunately, damage was minimal and he was still able to salvage a tenth place finish after the up-and-down day at the track.
“We pretty much rode around the top five until lap 70 or so, and then we started to pick them off one by one,” Anderson explained about his first pro late model race of the season in Pensacola. “The car just took a solid lap or so for it to come in, but when it did we were fast. We were passing for third on the last lap and I just misjudged the crossover and left-reared the 14 car. I don’t think the damage was too bad, but I felt bad for my guys because we had worked so hard to get to that point.
“I don’t think anyone had anything for (race winner Casey) Roderick, but I think we were a solid second place car, for sure,” he continued. “I know we definitely gained on our car and figured out some things we can apply elsewhere this season.”
Cole Anderson and the ATF & Gunslinger team will unload the No. 97 Toyota super late model in less than two weeks, April 14, at New Smyrna Speedway. It will be their first trip back to the high-banked half-mile since winning the World Series of Asphalt Pro Late Model Championship in February.
For more information and the latest updates about Cole Anderson visit his website at ColeAndersonRacing.com. He can also be found on social media such as Facebook (@ColeAndersonRacing), Twitter (@Cole_Anderson97) and Instagram (@Cole_Anderson97).
Led by NASCAR Camping World Truck Series champion Mike Skinner and Andrew Franzone, Daytona Beach, Fla.-based ATF & Gunslinger participates in a variety of motorsports ventures, building unique cars, trucks and experiences while in pursuit of speed.
Credit: Pit Row Media
Photo Credit: Cole Anderson Racing