When Ray went to the Las Vegas race at the end of 2005 he was the points leader in Super Gas. "We had regained the lead when I went a couple of rounds in Dallas and I knew going into those final races that there were about two dozen racers who had a mathematical shot at winning the championship. I just had to go out there and do my best and see what happens." His best included going a couple of rounds at the Las Vegas national event before losing to former world champion Danny DiVita, and even though the red hot Robert Coleman won the race Ray was still the points leader. When Coleman went to the final round the next week at the Lucas Oil race in Vegas he closed the gap but he still needed to make the final round in Pomona if he wanted to catch and pass Ray. "There were still four of us who had a shot going into Pomona but the other guys basically needed to go to the final round." And while you like to think you can take care of things yourself, the final race of the year didn't exactly go as Ray and Michael had planned. "I blew my engine in the first round and then we put the other motor in and just missed the dial for round two." After losing that round to Mark Beuhring, one of the four who could still win it all, Ray couldn't do anything but wait and watch and hope. "I was back in the staging lanes talking with Al Kenny who was getting ready to run Super Comp when the other guys raced in the third round." Ray said. "I didn't want to watch and I figured that if one of the other guys went on and won it that they deserved it. I listened in the staging lanes and when they were all gone at the end of the third round I knew I had won it. It was quite a relief. That knot in my stomach was finally gone"
The competition in all of the sportsman classes is brutal and to win a round, a race, a divisional title and a national championship really does require everything to fall perfectly into place. "All of the racers in this class are so good that you need a break every now and then," Ray said. "And you need to win those close races." That's exactly what Ray did this year. Throw in the fact that he was very good himself and you have a winning combination. "At the Maple Grove points race I won three 'Perfectly Strange' hats including one on the final round." For the novices out there that means that Ray made three runs exactly on the 9.900 dial-in during eliminations. Now that's the stuff that champions are made of. "I had Tommy Stalba in the final round and he went 9.904 and I went 9.900." I guess that's what Ray means by having all the stars and planets line up just right. A runner-up finish at the national event in Atlanta and a win at the Englishtown national event gave Ray the incentive to make the chase for the championship. "We really felt good after the Englishtown race," he said. "Michael and I talked it over and we figured that we had two final rounds at the national events and four races still to claim. And with the win at the divisional race we had a good points total and decided to make the run for the championship."
During the off-season Ray will spend a lot of time on the banquet circuit, attending the upcoming Division 1 affair in Hershey, Pennsylvania along with several meetings of the local racers in his New England area. "We get together and talk racing and we have a group that runs some events that are basic drag races, you know, no delay boxes, no throttle stops and all off the bottom bulb. I like that kind of racing but haven't really had a lot of time for it lately." I don't imagine he'll have much time in the new year, either, as he sets out to do something that's never been done before and that is repeat as Super Gas national champion. "I'm looking forward to the new year and it will be fun to race with the number 1 on the car," he said. And it will be fun to watch as Ray, Michael and the rest of the Sawyer family hopes that those planets and stars all line up properly again in 2006.
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