Cedar Rapids, Iowa (September 21, 1996) - In three previous visits to Hawkeye Downs Speedway, Bob Senneker displayed an amazing ability to be in the right place at the right time.
Under overcast skies at Saturday’s American Speed Association Iowa 300, Tony Raines stole the title of Johnny-on-the-spot from the veteran Senneker.
Senneker had his Ford Thunderbird running on a rail toward victory before getting pinned-in by a lapped car late in the race, Raines took advantage and drove his Pontiac Grand Prix past Senneker and on to the win as an estimated 6,500 fans roared their approval.
The win was the first of the season for Raines, a nine-year AC Delco Challenge Series veteran from Milwaukee.
He stands a close second in the series’ points chase to fellow Milwaukee driver Scott Hansen (2,527 to 2,519) with only four races remaining, so it came at a very opportune time.
“We’ve needed a win all year,” Raines said. “We have our work cut out for us to get in that top spot in the points. Scott always runs good everywhere he goes, and we're going to have to come up with an extra effort to pull it off.”
Raines needed not only extra effort but extra luck as well Saturday.
Senneker, a two-time winner of the Hawkeye Downs 300, grabbed the lead from Hansen on lap 240 and poised to cruise to the win. But as he came out of turn three on lap 286, he found himself directly behind a lapped car driven by Paul Paine of Mound, Minn. Senneker tried to go underneath Paine while Raines opted for the outside.
“He wouldn’t pull down out of the way so I had to squeeze in beside him,” Senneker said. “(Paine) rubbed me when I was going by and hit me again before he left. That kind of upset the car a little a bit and gave Tony a chance to blast around and get along side.”
Raines watched it all unfold in front of him before making his winning move to the outside.
“It was kind of risky, but Bob is a good driver and I figured if everybody held their line, I’d have been safe even if I didn’t come up with the pass,” he said. “It paid off for us. Sometimes you just have to go for it.”
Gary St. Amant of Columbus, Ohio, followed Raines and Senneker through the fray and finished third in his Ford Thunderbird. He had a perfect view of the action in front of him.
“It looked like they came up on a bunch of lapped cars and Tony just stuck his chest out and put it up on the outside,” St. Amant said. “It stuck for him and he got by. Those guys raced hard all day.”
Pole-sitter Steve Holzhausen drove his Ford to a fourth-place finish and Brad Loney of Cedar Rapids picked up five positions in the last 38 laps in his Pontiac to finish fifth.
Once Raines took the lead from Senneker, a ferocious 14-lap battle to the finish ensued. Senneker, who went in for right side tires on lap 149 and didn’t pit again, stayed with Raines, who went in for fresh rubber with 200 laps in the books.
“We were concerned about pitting there with a hundred to go because track position is so important here,” Raines said. “Scott and Bob were pretty fast even though their tires were a little older than ours. We had a little better car there for awhile, and we had to use it up to get to the front.”
Senneker said he had plenty left even though his tires had 151 laps on them.
“The tires were perfect,” he said. “That was our strategy - to try to pit at about the halfway point and go the rest of the distance with what we had.’
Raines had to survive one last caution - the 10th of the race - when a spin in turn three brought out a yellow with two laps left. He held on, beating Senneker by just .922 seconds.
Holzhausen led the first 18 laps before tire problems caused him to drop back. Raines took over the lead for the next 10 laps but then gave way to Loney, who held the lead from lap 30 through lap 113. In all, there were eight lead, changes among six drivers.
1. Tony Raines, Milwaukee, Wis.
2. Bob Senneker, Dorr, Mich.
3. Gary St. Amant, Columbus, Ohio,
4. Steve Holzhausen, Bangor, Wis.
5. Brad Loney, Cedar Rapids, Iowa
6. Dave Sensiba, Middleville, Mich.
7. Buddy Schrock, Plain City, Ohio,
8. Scott Hansen, Milwaukee, Wis.
9. Ted Smokstad, Bloomington, Minn.
10. Kevin Cywinski, Lakeville, Minn.
11. Tony Roper, St. Louis, Mo.
12. Mike Eddy, Midland, Mich.
13. Harold Fair, Detroit, Mich.
14. Tim Sauter, Necedah, Wis.
15. Carl Miskotten, Fort Wayne, Ind.
16. Bill Baird, Sturgis, Ky.
17. Cale Conley, Vienna, W.Va.
18. Dennis Lampman, Oak Creek, Wis.
19. Brett Bell, Pittsboro, Ind.
20. Mike Miller, Marietta, Ga.
21. Paul Paine, Mound Minn.
22. Joe Noll, Grand Haven, Mich.
23. Sam Gollwald, Willmar, Minn.
24. Jack Landis, Edgerton, Ohio
25. Billy Turner, El Reno, Okla.
26. Johnny Spaw, Cedar Rapids, Iowa
27. Tom Jones, Gurnee, Ill.
28. Dave Anspaugh, Sturgis, Mich.,
29. Brandon Sperling, Mooresville, N.C.
30. Aaron Hough, New Palestine, Ill.
31. Kevin Nuttleman, La Crosse, Wis.
32. Rick Beebe, Merriam, Kan.
33. Chuck Hemmingson, West Des Moines, Iowa
34. Doug Mayr, Franklin, Wis.
35. Carroll Adamy, Bellwood, Neb.