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Fall Classic: Harding drives through pain

October 03, 2011

Fall Classic: Harding drives through pain

October 3, 2011 by Scott Spruill  

Veteran passes cars, kidney stone on way to third place ||

YAKIMA, Wash. — If Pete Harding didn’t convince everyone he could still mix it up with the young guns by winning this year’s Apple Cup, then he settled the question completely Sunday night.

That he fought his way into third place at the Fall Classic’s 200-lap season finale at Yakima Speedway was impressive.

That he was even there was amazing.

 

 

Having trekked down from Surrey, British Columbia, on Thursday for the 24th annual event, which he won in its inaugural year, the 60-year-old Harding was primed for a great weekend as a driver and father of the defending champion, Shane.

Primed, this is, until his insides doubled him over in pain on Saturday. As an ambulance was summoned to the Speedway during the qualifying sessions, some feared the fan favorite was having a heart attack.

But Harding knew the problem all too well.

“It’s kidney stones,” he said. “I’ve had six or seven and I knew the pain. I didn’t want people to worry about me, but it did bring an end to my day, that’s for sure.”

But not to his weekend.

After being treated and released from a local hospital on Saturday, Harding was weighed down with pain medication but not wanting to give up on the race.

“I love racing here and the people have been so good to us. It wouldn’t have felt right not racing,” Harding said. “I was a little shaky this morning, but I still wanted to race.”

 

Problem was, with no qualifying session he was forced to start in the back of the 31-car field. And with the Northwest’s top drivers coming in chasing a $7,500 winner’s check, that’s some field.

But Harding has 40 years of racing savvy and a ton of success here on a half-mile oval he calls his home track. It took just 92 laps for him to take the lead.

After a mid-race break for tires and fuel, Harding’s machine was then noticeably off the pace and he drifted back to eighth with 50 laps to go. So, given the circumstances, time to just ease off and wheel it in, right?

Not Pete.

Still out of serious contention when racing resumed following a red-flag stoppage on lap 188, Harding’s familiar yellow machine suddenly gained spots at will over the final 10 laps and put him into the trophy circle with winner Naima Lang and runner-up Kelly Mann.

“I was hanging on for dear life, but those yellows near the end helped tightened things up,” Harding said. “It’s been a long day and boy do I feel weak. Today the car was way better than the driver, that’s for sure.”


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