Fallen friends and the finish line
By NICK SCHWIEN
BOONE, Iowa -- He needed to find something -- anything -- that would work.
That's what was going through Tyler Frye's mind Tuesday night at the 31st annual IMCA Super Nationals in Boone, Iowa.
Lo and behold, Frye found just what he needed in the waning laps of one of the night's Northern sport mod features.
And the Belleville driver who is a regular at tracks in northwest Kansas knew he had a little extra help from above in finding the right line to win the feature -- placing him on the front row for Saturday night's sport mod main event.
"Last time I was here, I was with my best friend Ryan White," Frye said. "We decided we were coming back this year. This winter, he passed away. Everything this week is for him. I know he's with us. There's a reason we found that bottom line with only a few laps to go. I've got to thank him for helping us find it."
White died in February at age 25 from complications of diabetes. He helped in Frye's pits on race days, and he helped again Tuesday night.
"He was there all the time," Frye said. "This one is his."
Frye won his heat, then drew the second starting spot for his 30-car feature. He led the first 11 laps before Jerry Hoffman, Oronogo, Mo., snuck by for the lead.
Then Matt Hoeft, Forest City, Iowa, passed Frye, and so too did Doug Smith of Rockwell City, Iowa.
Frye was in need of something, and quick. With five laps to go, the points leader at RPM Speedway in Hays made his charge.
He found the lowest line possible and stuck to it, working back to second behind Smith. With one lap remaining, he was side-by-side with the leader.
He bolted down the backstretch, beating Smith into turn three as the caution waved.
The race finished under caution, and Frye was declared the winner.
"It wasn't there," said Frye, who also won his Race of Champions heat and will compete in that feature Saturday. "The more their line went away, the better that line looked. I found it about seven (laps) to go, and then they kept using theirs up, using theirs up. I think I was the only one that could keep it on the nose around the bottom. We'll take it."
The final caution came at the expense of Beloit's Austin Carter. Carter started 10th in the feature after winning one of 20 heat races Tuesday.
And Carter worked masterfully to move into fourth with three laps remaining.
But Hoffman slid out of his line on lap 24, and his car pushed high into the line of Carter. That forced Carter over the berm in turns three and four as he tried to avoid an accident. He tried to save it, but it was too late.
Carter collected the tractor tire along the front stretch fence, leaving him watching the checkered flag wave.
"I was trying to save it at first, to maybe scrounge up a top-eight," Carter said. "We didn't have enough distance. I finally realized I couldn't save it, and I got on the brakes and tried saving the car. Then I hit the tire."
Carter was in a transfer spot when his race ended. Only the top eight in the feature qualified for Saturday's big show.
"It sucks," said Carter, who was credited with a 22nd-place finish. "That's how Boone is, though."