Random Lugnuts, ARCA Edition: The Sum of the Parts is a Championship for Patrick Sheltra
Topics: Patrick Sheltra, Sheltra Motorsports What is Random Lugnuts? It's random bits of stock car racing commentary written on an irregular basis by an irregular racing fan. The name is a reference to the lugnuts that go flying off a car during a pit stop: you never know where they are going to go, what they're going to do when they get there, they can be annoying, they're often useless after a race, and every once in a while someone gets hit and they don't know exactly where it came from.
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October 15, 2010
First, the obvious (in case you haven't heard): Patrick Sheltra is the 2010 ARCA Racing Series Champion. Woohoo!
Then, the less well known: I am a Patrick Sheltra fan.
Of course, I should say that being a fan has nothing to do with him winning a championship. After all, I still haven't gotten around to liking Jimmie Johnson, and I like him even less with each Cup trophy he takes. Being a Sheltra fan has to do with the type of driver he is, the type of team he drives for, and how he won that championship.
For me it all started in 2007, when my online Library was tiny and new and few would answer my e-mails. Chris Knight did, and I will always be grateful for that. Chris did the public relations work for multiple ARCA teams, and his drivers became the ones I followed on race day. Among the many drivers he wrote for were Phil McGilton, Dexter Bean, and Patrick Sheltra.
Chris Knight would go to work for Sheltra Motorsports full time for the 2008 season. Sheltra Motorsports was a relatively small dirt-and-asphalt racing operation based in the Sheltra's hometown in Indiantown, Florida. They had operations in Indiana and their ARCA team was based in Whitesville, Kentucky. More on them later...
Reading about a driver doesn't always mean you're automatically a fan, but then most drivers don't have PR guys like Chris Knight. A bigger factor was Sheltra himself. When I first read the releases, referring to the driver as "Mr. Showtime" I dismissed it as marketing. After all, what I was reading about him was written by his PR guy! That, and the nickname reminded me of Jimmy Spencer's "Mr. Excitement" tag, and to me the only thing Spencer did in his career that was exciting to me was retiring. But Patrick Sheltra knows how - and when - to put on a show. He took a horrific hit in the season opener at Daytona last year, and (thanks in part I'm sure to a six-week break until the next race), bounced back to score his first ARCA win. And while I don't remember exactly where and when it was, I do remember Sheltra pulling up behind a three-wide battle at a track where three wide didn't leave a lot of room to run, and since it was slowing those cars down Mr. Showtime used his momentum to pull up alongside, and finding some room somehow somewhere at the very top of the track he passed all three at once. It was a move that took guts to attempt and skill to pull off.
I had the opportunity to meet both Chris Knight and Patrick Sheltra in 2009 at a local Buffalo Wings & Rings. Chris Knight is one of the best human beings I know, finding optimism in the worst of adversity and giving the smallest of small-time writers (me) advice and encouragement. Any team that hires him in the future is more than OK in my book, and any driver he writes for has my respect. And Patrick quickly topped my list of nicest stock car drivers I've ever met, but I should say that haven't met a lot of them in person. That's why I brought along my father-in-law. He has met just about all the greats of the sport in the 80's and early 90's, and he's not afraid to tell certain people in private exactly what he thinks of many of them. That he was impressed by the young driver, and is now a Patrick Sheltra fan himself, is a credit to the kind of person he is.
2010 began in Daytona with a broadcast that was all about Danica Patrick's attempt to go stock car racing for the first time. The sixth row of the field was all Patrick, with Danica starting to the outside of Sheltra. Sheltra's car, however, featured a sticker that said, "Sheltra #60 … the other Patrick" which instantly drew attention in the media circus. Sheltra would go on to finish the race one position ahead of Danica, scoring a Top 5 to start the year and upstaging The Danica Patrick Show.
|2010 Messina Wildlife Animal Stopper 200|
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The Sheltra Motorsports #60 is one of the easiest cars to keep an eye on in the broadcasts. Even when it's in the background, you can't mistake or miss the rainbow sherbet paint scheme of green with orange accents and yellow numbers. That and the number 60 are about all that stays the same from week to week, however. While Sheltra Motorsports made the move in the 2009-2010 offseason to Mooresville, North Carolina to work alongside the big-time NASCAR teams, their record shows a cobbled-together mix of cars and sponsors, reminding fans that even in ARCA, Sheltra Motorsports plays the role of David against the Goliaths of ESR and Venturini Motorsports. After scoring his 5th place in Daytona in a Dodge, he used a Chevrolet at the road course in Palm Beach, and a Toyota in just the fourth race of the season. Counting his ride in RAB Racing's Nationwide Ford at Talladega, Sheltra had driven all four makes in major league stock car racing by April 25th! The sponsors likewise changed frequently, the team constantly working hard to fund their operations without the comfort of a cushy big-dollar yearlong deal.
But they didn't just make it to the track, they won two races (one on dirt, another on the asphalt, both in Illinois) and took a razor-thin 10 point lead to the final race at Rockingham. It was thin, but they were in the lead. The fact that they accomplished this in a variety in cars, combined with the variety in tracks, and the fact that the team won on dirt in a Dodge and at Chicagoland Speedway in a Toyota is simply incredible. As I'm someone who always tries to give credit to the crews, now would be a good time to mention that the team's crew chief is former NASCAR crew chief Jon Wolfe.
In the end at Rockingham Mr. Showtime put on a show again, building a six-second lead on the field before fading back to finish 4th in the race in suspenseful fashion just ahead of second-place points finisher Craig Goess charging ahead from back in the pack. The fade at the end of a race was overshadowed by the victory in the championship points by a slightly less thin 20 point margin and forgotten in the cloud of smoke created when Sheltra parked his car against the wall and burned the tires off of it.
Sheltra Motorsports, in their defining style, started the season in Daytona with the PowerTrac Machinery Dodge and finished at Rockingham in the Tequesta Road and Bridge of Florida/Jones Group International Toyota. In between they won races in the Recycling Services-Ferguson Pipe Dodge, a Recycling Services-Ferguson Pipe Toyota, had second places in a Boatwerks Waterfront Restaurant-Speed Media Dodge and a Buffalo Wings & Rings-Ferguson Pipe Dodge. There was even a 10th place road course finish in a Recycling Services-Sheltra & Son Construction Chevrolet. But all the cars were the familiar rainbow sherbet #60, all the points earned added up together, and Patrick Sheltra got to take the championship trophy home.
Congratulations Patrick Sheltra, and thanks for the show!
Patrick Sheltra's website is at http://www.patricksheltra.com/
More on the final race of the season and the significance of the championship in the article, Patrick Sheltra Caps Off Stellar Season With First ARCA Championship What is Random Lugnuts? It's random bits of stock car racing commentary written on an irregular basis by an irregular racing fan. The name is a reference to the lugnuts that go flying off a car during a pit stop: you never know where they are going to go, what they're going to do when they get there, they can be annoying, they're often useless after a race, and every once in a while someone gets hit and they don't know exactly where it came from. Read more at http://randomlugnuts.blogspot.com/
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