Gasko finishes season with St. Louis Factory Showdown win
David Barton won the war when he clinched the 2017 SAM Tech Factory Showdown title in St. Louis but Barton’s engine customer, Pete Gasko Jr., won the battle when he earned his second win of the season at the AAA Insurance NHRA Midwest Nationals. Gasko a 20-year old newcomer to the sport, drove his COPO Camaro past Kevin Skinner’s Cobra Jet Mustang in the final round. Gasko drove to an 8.162 to beat Skinner’s 8.243-second run. It was the second win for Gasko, who also scored earlier this season in Charlotte.
“This is a great race; I love this car and I love this event,” said Gasko. “We played around a lot with power management and trying to get down the track. We had a great time, it was just amazing.”
The last of five events in the popular new series, the SAM Tech NHRA Factory Stock Showdown in St. Louis was arguably the best of the bunch. A total of 20 drivers attempted to compete for just eight qualifying spots and with just two runs on the schedule, the competition was extremely tough. Thankfully, next year’s schedule will feature 16-car fields, a welcome addition to the class.
Surprisingly, it was Gasko, not David Barton, that led the field. Gasko drove to an 8.097 for the top spot, just ahead of Stephen Bell’s 8.108 and Barton’s 8.110. Seven of the eight qualifiers were in the 8.1s while Scott Libersher was on the bump with a very competitive 8.233, 164.85. Gasko reached the final with wins over Joesph Welch and Barton. Gasko ran an 8.140, 166.72 after Welch got timed out on the starting line. Gasko’s biggest win came in the semifinals when he stopped Barton’s GMPartsNow.com Camaro. Gasko remained consistent with an 8.169, 165.50 after Barton spun the tires on the starting line, something he rarely does. Earlier in the weekend, Barton wrapped up the title when he won his first-round battle.
“This is what we’ve worked for all year long,” said Barton. “Actually, I thought I had the championship locked up before I got here but I found out that Chuck Watson could still catch me. I just wanted to get it over with. We had a great season and I think this is just the beginning of good things for this class. I’m happy to be a part of it.”
In the final, Skinner had to wait while his lane was cleaned and its possible that he was distracted because Gasko left first and never looked back.
“The clean-up messed with me a little bit but it didn’t get too crazy,” said Gasko. “I looked over and saw what they were doing. I realized what was going on and then just got back into my routine.”
Skinner, a runner-up earlier this year at the Summit Racing NHRA Nationals in Norwalk, reached his second final of the season after driving his Cobra Jet Mustang to a semifinal win against Libersher’s COPO in the semi’s, 8.182 to 8.260. Skinner won his round one race with an 8.169 after opponent Stephen Bell got loose and hit the retaining wall. Bell was not hurt in the incident.
Good news for fans of the class came after the race when NHRA announced that the SAM Tech NHRA Factory Stock Showdown would return in 2017 with an expanded seven-race schedule. The new events, held in Bristol and Dallas, will join the existing events in Gainesville, Charlotte (spring), Norwalk, Indy, and St. Louis.