MARNE MI -- Hometown hero Tim Steele stole the show Saturday night at Berlin Raceway while Frank Kimmel, by virtue of a podium finish, locked up his third ARCA RE/MAX Series championship in four seasons. Steele, whose race shop and home are less...
MARNE MI -- Hometown hero Tim Steele stole the show Saturday night at Berlin Raceway while Frank Kimmel, by virtue of a podium finish, locked up his third ARCA RE/MAX Series championship in four seasons.
Steele, whose race shop and home are less than four miles from the track, delivered a crowd-pleasing, dominating performance by leading every lap to win the Pork The Other White Meat 200 earning his fourth RE/MAX Series victory of the year, and 41st of his career. Rookie Chad Blount, who was virtually the only other driver able to mount a challenge on Steele, turned in a career-best finish of second while Kimmel overcame tire troubles in time to finish third. Lansing, Michigan driver Jeff Finley, in the Bailey Excavating Chevrolet, finished a solid fourth with Jason Jarrett, in Mary Miller's Biomet-Damon RV Pontiac, trailing in fifth.
"As soon as we unloaded this afternoon, I told my crew chief Tom (Sokoloski) that the HS Die-SofTech Ford was going to be good," said Steele in victory lane. "This just feels extra good to win in front of my hometown fans. I really believe we're on track to get this team back to where it was when we were winning a lot. It's no doubt another step in that direction. This'll definitely help build momentum for Charlotte."
Kimmel, with three races left on the schedule, could literally stay home for the remainder of the year and still win the championship. "We were a little off at the start," said Kimmel. "The car was loose and then we had to make that extra stop for a new tire; but once we go that behind us, it seemed like we were starting to catch the leaders there at the end; but hey, no excuses; Tim (Steele) drove a great race and deserved the win. We locked up the championship so we've got plenty to celebrate over here. Just like to thank my car owner Larry Clement, ET Sharp, my brother and crew chief Bill, all our sponsors' Advance Auto Parts and the folks from the Pork Producers Council for all their support."
At the onset, Steele, in the HS Die-SofTech Ford, beat Old Milwaukee polesitter Kimmel around to lead the first lap and began to pull away while Blount battled Kimmel for second. With Blount at bay behind Kimmel, Steele charged out to a near half-lap lead and continued to pull away during a green-flag run that lasted the better part of 100 laps. Then the front-runners, all hungry for fuel and tires, finally made their way onto pit road when the caution flag flew less than 50 laps from the finish. Steele's crew won the race off pit road with Kimmel, Blount, Jarrett, Finley and Shelby Howard trailing. With the green flag back out, Steele charged out to a five-length advantage while Blount quickly disposed of Kimmel for second. Kimmel continued to back up until the caution flag waved again a lap later for Vern Slagh, who slid off the end of the backstretch. Although Slagh's Ford was badly damaged, the Zeeland, Michigan was not injured. Kimmel then dived onto pit road for an unscheduled pit stop to change a left-front tire that had been losing air. Back under green, Kimmel charged from sixth to third while Blount, in the Braun Mobility Products Pontiac, pressed Steele for the lead. Blount managed to make things exciting in the end and got his fender inside of Steele a time or two, but fell short at the final stripe by about a length with Kimmel tight behind.
Howard finished sixth in the Lucas Oil Chevy, the last car on the lead lap, with Ron Cox, one lap down in Wayne Hixson's Rick Worley & Sons Chevy, finishing seventh. Todd Bowsher, in the Gordon Food Service Ford, was in the hunt all night and finished eighth ahead of AJ Henriksen who steered the Fastenal-Engineered Components Chevy home in ninth. Local Grandville, Michigan driver Ray Clay, in the Screen Print Department Chevy, recorded his career-best finish in tenth in only his second RE/MAX Series start.
Steele's earnings for the night totaled $14,445, which included the Loctite Halfway Leader award and the Quarter Master Comin' Thru in the Clutch honors. Fayetteville, Tennessee driver Tim Mitchell won the Hoosier Tire Hard Charger Award with a 14th place finish after starting 27th. Jarrett was the ARCA Highest Finishing Rookie while Finley picked up the Thermo-Tec Cool drive award. Andy Belmont, who was running in the top-five for most of the race, was involved in a late-race wreck and dropped to 23rd in the final running order earning the Landrum Spring hard Luck award. Darrell Basham, who finished 19th, won the Hawk Best Brake of the Race honors while Blount picked up the RJS Safety award.
CURRENT POINTS: 1) Frank Kimmel 6225; 2) Jason Jarrett 5115; 3) Andy Belmont 4885; 4) Ron Cox 4415; 5) Norm Benning 4140; 6) Todd Bowsher 4060; 7) Chuck Weber 4050; 8) Donny Morelock 4030; 9) Tim Steele 3865; 10) Mike Buckley 2870.