DARE STOCK CHAMPIONSHIP CHASE COMING DOWN TO SHOWDOWN BETWEEN CLIFF SAUNDERS AND AUSTIN BESSETTE
(Stafford Springs, CT)---The 2012 DARE Stock season has seen an extraordinary battle for the track championship. Kyle Casagrande won the season opening CARQUEST Tech-Net Spring Sizzler feature and he was hoping to carry on the tradition of the DARE Stock season opening winner going on to win the championship, which was accomplished in three out of the last four years. But while Casagrande has gone on to win 5 more races to set a single season DARE Stock record of six victories, he has been plagued by three finishes of 13th or worse this year. Current point leader Cliff Saunders has finished in the top-10 in every race this season to go along with 2 feature wins, which has him at the top of the standings.
Casagrande and Saunders swapped the point lead back and forth between themselves throughout the first 8 weeks of the season before a new championship contender emerged in week 9 in the form of Austin Bessette. After a 13th place finish in the season opener left Bessette in a 24 point hole to Casagrande, he proceeded to finish in the top-4 in each of the next 9 races to move into the points lead by 6 points over Saunders. But a 15th place finish on August 3rd dropped Bessette 34 points behind Saunders. Bessette has clawed back 16 of those points during the remainder of August to trail Saunders by 18 points heading into this Friday night’s feature event. The month of August was not kind to Casagrande, who has fallen to 54 points behind as a result of two wrecks.
Saunders and Bessette offer their thoughts on the final three-race stretch that will determine the 2012 DARE Stock track champion.
Saunders: “It’s been kind of back and forth, I would lose the points lead for a week or two and then I would get it back. I really haven’t been paying much attention to the points most of the season. I would look to see where I am and how many I’m out or ahead, but I wouldn’t really look into it much. Up until the last couple of weeks, I kind of started to pay closer attention because it’s getting close to the end of the season. With it only being 18 points, I really can’t race any different. A lot of people think you have to be cautious and go for points, but Austin has been finishing right with me every week, so I have to be more aggressive and make sure I finish good because if I finish too many spots behind him, he’s going to keep gaining points. There’s times where I might be able to make a move but I’ll think I don’t want to take a chance on wrecking or getting into a guy and losing spots. We have to be aggressive, but not too aggressive where we’ll get a penalty, but aggressive enough because Austin is in the top-5 every week. I’ve been second in points twice before, so I know from the mistakes I’ve made the last 2 years where I have to gain and not lose points. Maybe towards the end of the season I’ll think about it a little more, but I can’t really let it affect my racing now.”
Bessette: “Our strategy is to watch out for the wrecks, avoid them and get the best spot that we can. I’ll still try to go to the front like I do every week, nothing is going to change much. Winning this championship would mean a lot. We’ve been close in the past but we’ve always hit a bad luck streak. We’ve never won a championship before. We’ve been close in the Wild Thing Karts, I ran in the Tigers, Junior Outlaws, and Senior Outlaws, but haven’t won a championship yet.”
Saunders has won twice and has been on the podium 8 times, while Bessette has won once but been on the podium 10 times this season. The difference thusfar is that Saunders has yet to finish outside the top-10 while Bessette has a 13th and a 15th place finish on his 2012 docket thusfar. Whether it’s Saunders or Bessette who emerges as the 2012 DARE Stock champion, the final three races promise to provide a thrilling duel.
For more information, contact the Stafford Motor Speedway track office at 860-684-2783 or visit us on the web at www.staffordspeedway.com.