Poquoson, VA – Better late than never is a saying that my mother always used to tell me growing up, and its something that I can relate to Mark Wertz’s performance at this years edition of the Denny Hamlin Short Track Showdown. Not to mention growing up I heard a lot of “never say never” or “don’t give up on something so easy.” Something that goes hand in hand with on of our awards we like to honor a hand-selected drive during our Touring Series events. The Weekly Racer Hard Charger Award is given to a driver who decided to not give up when the odds were not in their favor. Its given to the driver who gives it their all no matter what. A driver who essentially makes something out of nothing.
After running into some, well lets call it issues, during the first heat race, Mark Wertz was presented with the awesome job of starting shotgun on the field. Yup, that’s right Mark Wertz had to start thirty-sixth out of a thirty-six car field. Certainty not what he and his crew were expecting. During the test session the day before Wertz hung around the top ten all day in practice where more than thirty cars took time. “When we took off in that heat race there was a wreck in front of us that we just couldn’t miss,” Wertz told The Weekly Racer. “Luckily we were able to make the field and were able to make some adjustments when we could and when the green flag finally dropped the car was steadily moving forward.”
Come to find out the pitman arm ended up getting bent during after Wertz cars collided with the other. Not being able to change any hard parts on the car after qualifying the only other option was to adjust the toe to compensate. Wertz was able to steadily pick off positions while working his way to the lap 150 break where teams would be able to not only make more adjustments to the car, and change all four tires. “By half way we were like fifteenth or sixteenth just picking our battles,” Wertz said. “We just had to be patient and pick our battles and it worked out, we had a little luck and a lot of good things happen!”
With a little bit of luck and a whole lot of perseverance, Wertz was able to put himself in a position to be there in the end. After a few late race yellow flags, you could all but guarantee a top ten finish for Wertz until we had the big one! As the field was coming out of four to the checkered flag the leaders went wrecking. Wertz was able to work his way through the carnage and come home with a third place finish! “I saw a bunch of cars and a bunch of smoke but we were coming to the checkers,” Wertz told me. “I gassed her up and just tried to get through there, and here we are with a third place finish.”
After gaining thirty-three spots on the night in a field stacked with some of the best late model drivers, not to mention the cup drivers in attendance, you can see why Mark Wertz is the hands down winner of the Hard Charger. Wertz will be focusing on a track championship this year at Langley Speedway in Hampton, Virginia, with the occasional trip out of town to hunt for some trophies.