By Christian Koelle, Staff Writer
Todd Souza left Sonoma Raceway Saturday with the points lead after an eventful 51 lap race.
Souza started off the day with the best career qualifying effort starting from the second position. Souza started from second but ARCA Menards Series officials posted the No. 13 for jumping the initial start.
“I made a bonehead move there on the initial start and jumped the start,” said Souza. “I think the 9 car that was next to me, I think he backed out of the throttle or something because we both jumped at the same time and then he just backed off it. I don’t know if he backed off but that’s what causes pile-ups too and I had somebody on my ass and I just can’t back off the throttle and stack up a field at the start-finish line. I jumped on the throttle and he was right there and I grabbed the gear and I don’t know when he grabbed his but he dropped back a little bit. To me though, it looked like he got out of the throttle.”
Souza fell to the rear but was on the lucky end of things as the first caution of the afternoon came out for Rodd Kneeland, who came to a stop on the track. On lap four of the race, Souza restarted from the 19th position. Souza saved his car but also made moves to get back to the front of the field.
“We didn’t want to burn up the car in that first half,” said Souza. “We were trying to save it but when you get back in a position like that and your sitting 22nd or so, you don’t want to start the second half in 10th or something you know and you don’t want to have to wear your car out to get into the position at the end. I pushed a little harder than we needed to in that first half, really used up the brakes but they were still good. We did what we had to to get back up there. I think we possibly could’ve got second maybe and that may have been about it I’m not sure. We might’ve had a chance to win it but the cramping was a done deal. I didn’t have any throttle control and it was a done deal finishing fifth.”
Souza sat third as the white flag was displayed but when his No. 13 entered the first turn, he missed the corner resulting in the loss of positions and even dirt tracked it through the dry Sonoma soil. He managed to hold fifth from the No. 51 of Dean Thompson and earn his first top-five finish since Placer County Speedway last season. An impressive feat to say the least considering Souza was dealing with major cramping.
“To be truthful, I started cramping really bad,” said Souza. “My leg, my shin, my foot, and I couldn’t get my foot off the throttle. I had like zero throttle control with my whole ankle and foot locking up on me and my left arm and fingers did the same thing and I’ve never cramped in a car before. I’m okay, I started panicking there at the end because I couldn’t control my foot, hand, or arm.”
As noted above, Souza takes the points lead by one point over Paul Pedroncelli Jr.. The ARCA Menards Series West takes 28 days off before returning at Irwindale Speedway for the NAPA Auto Parts 150 on July 3rd.
Photo: Randy Lanning