ASA Free State 500...Two Years Later
The memories are still fresh of an event that happened two years ago today. It was on January 31, 2010 when ASA Racing did something that no other American racing sanctioning body has ever done. They organized and sanctioned an asphalt event at a one and a half mile oval in the Republic of South Africa.
The green flag flew around 1:15pm local time on a sunny, 80-degree day at the Phakisa Freeway Circuit located just outside of Welkom, Free State, South Africa. It was broadcasted live on Sirius-XM satellite radio.
24 cars took the green flag in front a large contingency of South African race fans at the oval that sat in the middle of four goldmines.
1986 Daytona 500 Champion Geoff Bodine had a comfortable lead with three laps to go, when he ran out of fuel going down the backstretch. As Bodine pitted, the lead was handed over to Toni McCray, a talented female driver from Southern California. Not far behind McCray was John Mickel, a winning stock car driver from the United Kingdom.
As McCray took the white flag, Mickel was looking for a way to get by her. The two went side-by-side going down the backstretch. Mickel would take over the top spot as the two battled in turns three and four. As Tom White waved the checkered flag, it was Mickel taking the win over McCray. Marc Davis was third with Rick McCray in fourth and South Africa’s very own Johan Spies rounding out the top-five.
"I can't believe it's been two years since such a memorable victory,” Mickel recently said. “It would be great to go back and race again! All the drivers, teams and mechanics loved the whole South African experience so much. We would like to go back and compete at Phakisa again."
It was truly an experience for just about everyone who was involved in this historic event. For many, it was their first trip outside of the United States. Over 300 people from around the world made the trip to the track located about two hours of Johannesburg and about 12 hours north of Cape Town. 16 drivers were from the United States along with six South Africans, one from the United Kingdom and one from Australia.
Rodney Schuette was the car owner of Steve Carlson’s #F-66 car that competed in the event. He wasn’t sure what to expect going over but hopes to go again. “When we were told that we were racing in South Africa, my first thought was, where do they have a track?" Schuette recalled. “The only thing I knew about that part of the planet was what I picked up from the Discovery channel or National Geographic. After being there, I have a whole new respect for the people and that area. They are very friendly, personable, and respectful. The racing facility is top notch. I could talk a long time about being there. It was quite an experience. ASA and Dennis Huth should be commended for thinking out of the box.”
The teams had a short period of time to prepare for the event. They put their time and dedication into preparing the cars and equipment for the 60-day boat journey to South Africa. In fact, the winning car didn’t arrive until the Thursday morning prior to the event.
Mike “Lumpy” Lemke was the Tech Director who put the rules together to make the race as equal as possible. “We had some unique situations with the different engine packages and cars coming to compete in the event,” Lemke said. “The teams understood our goal with this event and we all worked as one giant team to make this work. It was a privilege to be a part of this.”
The event was also the debut of the Schwanke ASA Transcontinental Series engine. A full electronic fuel injected engine. Johan Spies was the top finishing driver with the engine with his fifth place finish.
The event was replayed in 72 different countries reaching 110 million households.
“As we look back, this was a huge undertaking for ASA Racing and we were ecstatic with the results,” Dennis Huth, ASA President said. “In one week, 24 race teams from around the world came together for the ASA Free State 500. It was an incredible race with an exciting finish. The top-five alone showed how diverse this event was with three different countries from three different continents represented. Many of us still cannot believe that it has already been two years.”
The day after the race, everyone visited Savannah near Parys, Free State, South Africa where they enjoyed a safari, an up close encounter with a cheetah, and enjoyed the South African culture with music and dance. It was a great way to end their South African experience.
ASA has several YouTube videos from the 2010 ASA Free State 500 available on their YouTube page at www.youtube.com/Americanspeedassoc.
ASA Racing PR