Menards ARCA driver Ed Pompa rolled into Talladega with an orange, purple and white Clemson football tribute car, thoroughly expecting hostility from the Alabama faithful. “I absolutely knew there would be ‘passionate responses’ from Alabama fans, but there are also a great many Clemson fans who attend the race, and watch on FS1, and this car was for them. I also had a lot of Auburn fans who stopped by: they loved it!”
ARCA practice began with starting issues on the #1 ‘Green Renewable Inc/Double H Ranch/Clemson Tigers’ Chevy. “Had a hard time starting the car. After the first run, the crew installed a new battery. Still was hard to start, so after the second run, they dropped in a new starter, which cured the issue.”
Next came group qualifying, and the games that go along with it. “ There was supposedly a qualifying plan worked out for our group. By the time we were strapped in on pit road, my spotter told me the plan had changed, and by the time our session started, the plan was right out the window: it was every man for himself.” Ed would wind up 22nd.
“I got booed during driver intro’s when they announced the Clemson car. Now I know what Kyle Busch goes through. It is fun though, stirring things up!”
Starting 22nd, Ed was right with the lead group, dropping to the inside line as quickly as possible. Shortly after, the ARCA cars were 3 wide, with the top 20 in the pack. “The car was great in the draft, unfortunately we had a little too much tape on the nose, and water temps rose quickly being in a tight draft. I lost the lead pack, and was running alone, just logging laps, hoping for a caution. The leaders put me a lap down, and then green flag pit stops started.” Caution flew, and Ed was the free pass recipient. “I finally caught a break.” The pits weren’t open yet, and we were over 40 laps on our fuel run. “ Waiting for the pits to open to get fuel, and the fuel pressure gauge started dropping as I was exiting turn 4. Had no choice but to come in for fuel.” That would cost Ed the free pass.
“We got fuel, went back out and were riding around under caution, when I lost fuel pressure and the car quit entering turn 3. I coasted in, still trying to cycle the ignition, but no pressure. I’m sure the Alabama fans were cheering as I rolled down pit road not running.” The Ilmor crew went to work, and found a blown fuel pump fuse. “A $1 part cost us 3 laps”. Ed would finish the race 3 laps down, disappointed in the results, but satisfied with the cars’ performance. “The car was strong, could close back up on a group, and handled very well. Best part was we finished the race and rolled it into the trailer unscathed. Andy (Hillenburg) has agreed to take the Clemson car to the first Pocono race in May. Have to see how many Alabama fans there are in PA.”