Berlin: Pre-race notes

Competition Too Close To Call; Request Foods-GFS 200 Next at Berlin MARNE MI (6-29-07) -- Picking a winner in ARCA RE/MAX Series competition is, without question, getting more and more challenging with each tick of the clock. The ...

Competition Too Close To Call; Request Foods-GFS 200 Next at Berlin

MARNE MI (6-29-07) -- Picking a winner in ARCA RE/MAX Series competition is, without question, getting more and more challenging with each tick of the clock.

The series, coming off its most competitive season in 2006 when 17 different winners posted victories in 23 events, is on the same track in 2007. In 11 events so far, there have been nine different winners.

After back-to-back superspeedway adventures at Pocono and MIS, the 55-year-old tour is again steering for its short-track roots with the Request Foods-GFS 200 Saturday night, July 7 at Berlin Raceway in Marne, Michigan. The 100th lap of the 200-lap race marks the exact halfway point of the 23-race schedule in '07.

Series veterans' Frank Kimmel and Bobby Gerhart are one-two in points respectively. However, each has won only one race this year. It's been that kind of season. In fact, from the current top-10 in points, Kimmel and Gerhart are the only '07 winners among the group.

That leaves a healthy combination of choices still quite capable of parking in victory lane at Berlin, including Westby, Wisconsin's Dexter Bean, currently third in national championship points. Bean's already been as close to victory lane as one can get with two runner-up finishes this year at Salem and Pocono.

Springfield, Illinois's Justin Allgaier, fourth in points, is also knocking on the door with solid performance across the board. Phoenix, Arizona's Michael McDowell, fifth in points, has been fast everywhere in Eddie Sharp's cars, earning four SIM Factory Pole Awards this year and a season-high second place finish at Iowa. McDowell was a few laps from victory at Toledo when his teammate Ken Butler III spun him out to win the race. Butler, not running for the championship, is also entered for Berlin.

Sixth in points is Rookie of the Year contender Phillip McGilton, of Marion, Illinois. McGilton, who drives for the renowned NASCAR Busch Series Brewco Motorsports team, is tied in rookie points with McDowell. McGilton's coming off a solid sixth place finish at Michigan, where he led eight laps. His season-best finish this year was fourth at Iowa.

Justin South, from the Cunningham Motorsports stable, and Justin Marks, who drives for RAB Racing, are seventh and eighth respectively. Both drivers come to the table with top-notch equipment and the ability to win. Indiantown, Florida's Patrick Sheltra and Clinton, Michigan's Jason Hedlesky round out the top-10, and like eight of the top-10 drivers, they're looking for their first win of 2007.

Defending race winner Brian Keselowski, entered for Berlin, is running a partial schedule in 2007 but has already been to victory lane at Salem Speedway back in April. Keselowski's father Bob Keselowski was the 1989 series champion. Both are from Rochester Hills, Michigan. Other '07 winners entered for Berlin include 17-year-old Plano, Texas driver James Buescher and second-generation ARCA driver Billy Leslie. Buescher, just two days shy of his 17th birthday, became the youngest winner in series history at Lakeland in March. Leslie, from Algonac, Michigan, followed in his father's (1988 ARCA national champion Tracy Leslie) footsteps with a victory at Winchester Speedway back in early May.

Other Michigan drivers entered include Billy Shotko (West Olive), Brad Smith (Shelby Township), Jim Hollenbeck (Kalamazoo) and Gary Sherman (Holt). In two previous Berlin ARCA starts, Sherman has two top-five finishes.

Phoenix, Arizona's Gabi DiCarlo is the only female driver entered for Berlin. DiCarlo, who drives the Great Clips-sponsored Chevrolet, is 16th in national championship points. Her best finish this year was 11th on the Winchester short-track.

ARCA RE/MAX Series teams begin converging at Berlin at 10:00 am on Saturday, July 7 for registration and hauler parking. The garage area also opens at 10:00 am. Cars take to the track from 2:30-4:00 pm for a practice session, followed by SIM Factory Pole Award Qualifying at 5:00 pm. The Request Foods-GFS 200 rolls off at 8:30 pm on Saturday night.

Berlin Raceway is located five miles west of Grand Rapids on Interstate 96, exit 23. Then, go .3-mile south on 16th Avenue, then west to the Berlin Fairgrounds.

Tickets are available by calling Berlin Raceway at (616) 677-5000.

-credit: arcaracing.com.

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Series ARCA
Drivers Frank Kimmel , Bobby Gerhart , Jason Hedlesky , Michael McDowell , Justin Marks , Ken Butler III , Justin Allgaier , Phillip McGilton , Dexter Bean , Justin South , Billy Leslie , Patrick Sheltra , Brian Keselowski , James Buescher , Gabi DiCarlo