There’s the old saying in auto racing that sometimes a finish doesn’t equal your performance.
That’s spot on for Gus Dean and his Win-Tron Racing team after finishing ninth in Friday night’s Montgomery Ward 200 at Madison International Speedway.
After practicing inside the top-10 during the one-day show, Dean busted out the seventh-quickest lap in qualifying and in typical Dean fashion quickly from the drop of the green flag began marching his way forward.
Through his climb through the field though — Dean’s night would take an abrupt detour when while passing for fourth, the rookie car beneath him locked up his brakes and slid into Dean’s No. 32 GREE Cooling Products Toyota, sending him into a solo spin.
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Even though Dean didn’t hit anything, the Bluffton, S.C., native was hard on the brakes trying to avoid the wall forcing his Win-Tron Racing to change all four tires much earlier than they anticipated.
On a charge through the field, Dean easily found himself back in the top-10 a few laps after the restart.
The field was paused a short time later by another incident on the track. While the rest of the lead lap cars opted to pit, Dean, having to alter his pit strategy, stayed out on the racetrack and inherited the lead on Lap 76.
With older tires, Dean did a masterful job keeping Austin Theriault from claiming the top point, but with better grip at the time, Theriault eventually took the lead from Dean roughly five laps after the restart.
Slipping back to fourth during the stage of green flag racing, Dean’s Toyota stayed consistent on older tires, which guided him back past some of the competitors that passed him earlier.
Riding in second and hunting down race leader, the last thing the Mooresville, N.C., team wanted to see was a caution.
With 42 laps remaining, however, the yellow flag waved again, putting the team into a corner knowing that while most teams had four fresh tires, it only had two because of the early race spin.
Trying to make most of the situation, Dean left pit road on two tires and again the race lead.
Racing resumed with Dean’s car no match for the two additional fresher rubber tires behind him.
Still, Dean found himself tasked with trying to race hard and hang on to a top-10 finish.
He did, finishing ninth and claiming his seventh straight top-10 performance in ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards competition. He also led 16 laps.
“Man, we really had a bad fast No. 32 GREE Cooling Products Toyota,” said Dean. “It’s very unfortunate and extremely frustrating at the same time that we got taken out running fourth.
“That’s the second time this year we’ve been running good and had to alter our pit strategy because of being spun out. Just a bad deal.
“I feel like if we would have had those four tires at the end, we had a shot at Victory Lane. We still have 11 more chances to do it this year and I want to thank Todd (Myers), Kevin (Cywinski) and all the guys on the Win-Tron Racing team for continuing to bring me fast cars.
“Also, thanks to GREE and all of their vendors and supporters for their faith in me to pilot this race car. I’m having a blast and I’m determined to get them a win before the end of the year.”
After a stretch of four consecutive races where Dean posted three top-fives and four top-10s, the series will take a week off from competition before returning to tour on July 8 at Iowa Speedway for the running of the Fans with Benefits 150.