During his victory lap Saturday night at Holland Speedway, Chuck Anderson triumphantly hoisted the checkered flag out the driver's window. His father, Tony, sat near the back window waving the American flag.
The patriotic moment came after Anderson outdueled Pete Fisher by one car-length to win the 20-lap feature race and the NASCAR Charger points championship in Holland's final racing night of the season.
Anderson, the polesitter, came into the race eight points ahead of Fisher, who started the race next to Anderson. They cleanly raced side-by-side for much of the race.
"I looked over my shoulder, left and right, because I knew he was there," Anderson said of Fisher, who painted his car to resemble an American flag to honor everyone involved in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. "I was looking for the red, white and blue, and it was there 15 of the 20 laps."
Anderson's successful bid for his third victory of the year was initially slowed by carburetor woes. He finished fourth in his heat, and his car took nearly two laps to get to full speed in the feature.
"We had gas-line trouble in the heat race, I think," said Anderson. "I think I picked up something in it from the gas tank. For a few laps in the heat it gave us some trouble, but the car woke up for the last five laps of that race. She woke up again a lap or two into the feature and stayed awake the rest of that race.
"We took the carburetor apart and cleaned some things up and blew some air through it to make things work. Whatever we did helped because it only acted up one lap or so in the feature, and the last 18 laps or so she was like a fireball."
Anderson's pit crew consisted of only one man, his father, who also was busy in the infield during the races working for Holland's race safety crew.
"My son did a great job," the elder Anderson said. "He held it together and ran a nice clean race. Pete ran a real good race, too."
Fisher tried everything to get by Anderson, including almost hitting against the outside wall a few times.
"The problem was that the low groove here is my groove," said Fisher, standing in a driver's suit adorned with stars and stripes. "I just can't run in the high groove, and he (Anderson) knew it. He pits right next to me so I talk with him. He knows my strategies. I told him that if I'm in the low groove, I'm a ball of fire, if I'm in the middle groove I'm OK but if I have to run the high side I can't do nothing. He stayed low most of the race."
Fisher and his crew decided to repaint their black car into the American flag scheme the night before the race. Fisher's outfit was provided by former NASCAR Charger driver Pete Kohler, who ran a patriotic scheme for a Fourth of July race a few years ago.
Fisher was not the only member of his family to finish as a bridesmaid in a Holland season points chase. His brother Damian placed second in Mini-Stock markers to Bob Martell.
"It is kind of bizarre that both of us would wind up second," Damian said.
Vern Bliss had the NASCAR Late Model Pro-Stock titled clinched before Saturday's event. It didn't stop him from leading every one of the 30 laps of the feature race for his 10th victory of the season. Holland officials also announced that Bliss is the winner of the NASCAR Northeast Championship, the first time in Holland history that one of its competitors has earned the honor.
Neal Dietz won the NASCAR Pro-Modified headliner, but Neil Hopkins parlayed a second-place finish into his third straight division championship.
"This year wasn't easy," said Hopkins, who beat Dietz by a scant four points. "It went right down to the last race."
Bob Manko and Brandon Metz came into the final NASCAR Pro-Truck event tied in points. The race was primed for excitement as both started on the front row, but the thrill was short-lived. Manko hit the wall in the first turn and was done. Metz won the race and the title.
The NASCAR Pro-Truck class has been a disappointment this season and its future is in jeopardy. Only seven to nine trucks showed up to race each week, and only three remained in the waning laps Saturday.
Cathy Sitarek led every lap to win the 40-lap Challenger/Enduro, but Luke Hallich snatched the season honors. Dennis Tybor was best in the Cup Lites event, with Shane Riffel claiming the points honors.