Slate finishes third in caution-filled event

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During a practice session ahead of last week’s Thursday Thunder race, Rafe Slate drives his car through the corner and tries to catch up to another driver.

PHOTO: Justin Hubbard

By Justin Hubbard

justin@lakeoconeenews.us

 

For the first time this summer, Rafe Slate had to deal with a caution-filled race.

Slate, a U.S. Legends Pro series driver who drives the No. 8 Vizitech USA car for Solid Rock Performance Racing, competed in the sixth Thursday Thunder race of the summer. The 10-race summer series is held at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

Cautions are regular occurrences during Legends races, given the inexperience of many drivers and the highly competitive racing. Slate and the rest of the Pro series drivers had their share of cautions leading up to last week’s race but, for the most part, their races had been relatively clean.

The yellow flag flew multiple times last Thursday. At the end of the 25-lap event, Slate was in third place.

“I'm feeling really good,” Slate said. “I'm feeling really confident about how last week went.”

Slate got all the way up to second place behind pole sitter Dawson Fletcher on a couple of occasions. Unfortunately for him, another wreck occurred every time he pulled his car up to Fletcher’s rear bumper.

The cautions stifled Slate’s momentum. To make matters worse, he was stuck restarting on the outside line, which is typically the slower lane around AMS’s “Thunder Ring.”

As a result, Slate was passed by Cody Hall, who kept Slate behind him through the end of the race.

“I didn't really get much time behind [Fletcher] to really go to work on him,” Slate said. “There were a few times where, right when I was about to start putting up a pass, a caution would come out and I'd have to restart on the outside and have to race with Cody Hall. Me and Cody raced really hard and I wasn't able to get past him. Near the end, I got hung up on the outside after I passed him. It's an inside-dominant track.”

Slate was negatively affected by cautions multiple times last week. It’s happened to him several times in the past, too. Slate said it’s just a frustrating part of racing.

“It really messes things up,” he said. “You're not planning for that. As soon as you pass a car and go run down the leader, you get a caution and that always stinks.”

Although he did not get a great shot at overtaking Fletcher, Slate still earned as many points as he did.

The Pro series drivers are allowed to pick their starting positions based upon their qualifying order. Drivers are awarded bonus points for each position they gain during the races.

Last week, Slate qualified fifth but chose to start seventh. He sliced his way through the pack. He lost the bonus point he would have gained by finishing second but, because he picked up four positions, Slate garnered 100 points.

It matched Fletcher’s points earnings for winning the race. That was Slate’s second consecutive week matching the winner.

Entering this week, Slate is third in the points standings. He remains within striking distance of the leader, Fletcher, because of his strong work the past two weeks.

Slate said he hopes to finally break through this Thursday and win his first Thursday Thunder race of the year.

“The car was great last week,” he said. “I'm really confident that I had the fastest car on the track. I know I could've passed Dawson if I had the time. I'm feeling really good about this week. Hopefully, this week's going to be our week.”

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