Equipped with the knowledge of seven previous Pocono wins, ARCA RE/MAX Series veteran Tim Steele held off rookies' Josh Richeson and Stuart Kirby to win the anticlimactic, yet thrilling Pocono ARCA 200 Saturday afternoon at Pocono Raceway. Just...
Equipped with the knowledge of seven previous Pocono wins, ARCA RE/MAX Series veteran Tim Steele held off rookies' Josh Richeson and Stuart Kirby to win the anticlimactic, yet thrilling Pocono ARCA 200 Saturday afternoon at Pocono Raceway. Just as Richeson, less than a length away, was ready to strike the leader with less than five laps remaining, rain started pelting the Pocono triangle bringing out the final caution. From there, Richeson, a nephew of Winston Cup driver Brett Bodine, could only watch as Steele, still under caution, coasted his HS Die-Softech Ford under the checkered flag to secure his eighth victory on the 2.5-mile superspeedway and 39th RE/MAX Series win of his career. Richeson, in only his second start, got credit for second with Kirby, in Bob Schacht's Athens Mobil Speed Park Ford, trailing in third. It was Kirby's fourth top-five superspeedway finish in just five starts. Mike Swaim, Jr, in his back-up car, charged from the tail-end to finish fourth ahead of Frank Kimmel who finished fifth. However Steele's win wasn't purely luck as the Coopersville, Michigan driver led five times for 50 laps during the 80-lap event. And while the final caution undoubtedly snuffed away what was building up to be an exciting finish, 14 prior lead changes among seven drivers kept things plenty interesting for the fans throughout the 200-mile race. In addition, six cautions, mostly for minor incidents, slowed the event for 29 laps; the most serious of which involved Malcolm Bennett and Tim Mitchell who made contact in turn one. Mitchell checked out okay while Bennett was transported, conscious and alert, to the Geisinger Wyoming Valley Medical Center where the Worcester, Pennsylvania driver was diagnosed with a fractured right shoulder blade and later released that afternoon.
At the onset, outside polesitter David Keith, in Ted Campbell's CLR Ford, beat Old Milwaukee polesitter and new track record holder Kirby down into turn one. Keith quickly stretched his advantage to five lengths before Steele, who also got by Kirby on the start, tracked down Keith in time to take the lead on lap seven. Steele led up through lap 22 before Keith snatched it back on lap 23. However, Keith's lead would become short-lived when Steele charged back around to lead the next 14 laps. Then after a flurry of pit stops, both Jason Jarrett and Andy Belmont spent their turns leading just before Keith overhauled both. But Keith led just one lap before Steele took over for two laps while current point leader Kimmel raced Richeson and Kirby for the remaining top-five positions. Then Kimmel, who had to start at the tail-end because of a motor change, charged ahead to lead lap 46. One lap out front would be all Kimmel would get before Steele maneuvered back into the lead for three circuits before Keith overhauled the eventual winner to lead the 50th lap. Once Keith finally shook his closest challengers, the Mooresville, North Carolina resident stretched his lead to ten lengths until engine trouble cut his day short 18 laps shy of the finish. With Keith gone from the equation, Steele was left squarely in control with Richeson and Kirby trailing five lengths back. With laps winding down, Richeson, with Kirby in tow, got within inches of Steele's back bumper before the final caution eliminated any chance for the win.
Andy Belmont's America Online Racing Team entered three cars at Pocono: the number 1 for Andy, number 51 for Kevin Belmont, and number 4 for engine builder Scott Ritter. Andy described his weekend. "We had a good car but never got to show it. I had a brand new oil cooler in the rear end with split open and dumped oil all over the rear of the car. I was running in my oil all day long and had to tiptoe through the corners. Pocono is such a momentum track that you want to carry speed through and off the corners. I couldn't because of the oil and had to load up the motor to try to get back up to speed on the straights. We had a top five car and were lucky to finish 10th. In happy hour I was 8th quick and turning 56 second laps. The race pace was 57 seconds so we should have done much better. Kevin's car had a giant oil leak when we pulled it off the truck. We yanked the engine and took it to a dyno thinking that we had found and fixed the problem, but he started dumping oil as soon as the green flag fell and was the first car out of the race When it started raining at the end of the race, I had to give up another 15 points worth of places to save the car for the next race."
Andy spoke about Tim Steele sho won the Pocono race and is only 55 points behind defending ARCA RE/MAX champion Frank Kimmel. "Tim's team is really in a groove. We park next to them every weekend in the garage area and get a real sense of the confidence that prevails in that race team. It is the same as you see in Jeff Gordon's number 24 team this year. They are a well funded team with 15 full time employees and that really makes a difference. I really think that they could make the move to Winston Cup and be successful--they are that professional. It certainly helps that Tim has no fear."
The America Online team was in their Bristol, Pennsylvania at 6:30 A.M. on Monday getting the cars ready for Friday night's race at Nashville. "We have to hit the road on Tuesday night for a trip of more than 1000 miles and that doesn't give us much time to turn the cars around. These are the joys of being an owner/operator."