Chicagoland: Tom Hessert race report

HESSERT AND THE NO. 20 TEAM PERSERVERE DESPITE PARTS PROBLEM IN CHICAGOLAND Joliet, IL (8/31/09) -- For the second consecutive week Tom Hessert and the No. 20 Cherry Hill Classic Cars Ford team traveled to the Midwest for the ARCA RE/MAX Series...

HESSERT AND THE NO. 20 TEAM PERSERVERE DESPITE PARTS PROBLEM IN CHICAGOLAND

Joliet, IL (8/31/09) -- For the second consecutive week Tom Hessert and the No. 20 Cherry Hill Classic Cars Ford team traveled to the Midwest for the ARCA RE/MAX Series Ansell Cut Protection 150 held Friday afternoon at Chicagoland Speedway where the team saw the chance for their first victory go up in smoke due to an early race parts failure which resulted in a disappointing 25th place finish.

The Cherry Hill, NJ native looked strong in Thursday's rain plagued practice posting 13th and 11th, respectively, on the speed charts in two of three weather segmented sessions. The Cherry Hill Classic Cars team opted not to make a run during the third half-hour segment on Thursday, instead choosing to focus on qualifying efforts before the 150-mile event. With one previous start on the 1.5-mile tri-oval in 2008 and a strong showing of fifth fastest overall at the Chicago test earlier this month, Hessert was confident and ready for Friday's qualifying.

With clouds still in the sky and rain early Friday morning, final practice would be cancelled. However, by the time midday qualifying rolled around the rain had finally cleared out. Going out last of the competitors, Hessert made a fast lap of 172.977 mph (31.218 seconds), good enough for a starting spot of 14th just inside the top-15.

Weather troubles behind them, the 23-year-old Hessert and the Classic Cars team were looking forward to 100 laps of action-packed side-by-side racing. When the green flag flew at the start of the race, Hessert and the blue and white Classic Cars Ford would only get a few laps of racing in before trouble began. By lap four, Hessert had radioed a problem to Crew Chief Keith Hinkein. Hessert brought the No. 20 Classic Cars Ford down pit road where the pit crew worked hard to identify the problem.

Hessert reported that he could not get any speed down the straight-aways and he did not hear any differences in the motor. Each trip down pit road under caution the Classic Cars crew worked to change two spark plugs before sending Hessert back out. Hessert was able to run in the top 15 to 20 the entire race until a caution with 15 laps to go caught the No. 20 Class Cars Ford on pit road, forcing them to go a lap down.

After successful testing and practice at the Chicago track, the No. 20 Classic Cars team would not be in contention for the win at the end, coming home 24th, three laps down to race winner Justin Lofton. When the race ended the No. 20 Cherry Hill Classic Cars team finally got a chance to look underneath the hood where they found out the source of their problems was a cracked header.

With 15 events completed on the ARCA RE/MAX schedule, Hessert remains 9th in the driver standings with 2985 points; 190 markers behind 8th place Steve Arpin.

"I knew there was a problem as soon as the race started," Hessert said. "All through practice we had a really good car and I was excited for the race. We qualified okay, not great, 14th wasn't too bad. But once the race started and we figured out there was a problem we knew why we hadn't qualified as well as we expected. The guys worked really hard, changing spark plugs trying to determine the problem throughout the race. We usually have a top-10 car so it was just a frustrating day for everyone."

Next up for the No. 20 Classic Cars team is the ARCA RE/MAX 200 by Federated & Belle Tire at Toledo Speedway. Hessert, who is happy to make his way to the 0.5-mile Ohio short track after two less than stellar weeks in Illinois, has three previous starts on the Buckeye State track with three top-10 finishes, including two in the top-five and his best finish of third coming earlier this season.

"Toledo is one of my better tracks," Hessert said. "I've always done well there in the past. Initially I wasn't sure about short track racing there in a stock car, but the track has definitely grown on me. I raced there in midgets and sprint cars before ARCA so it's always nice going back to a track you know and have raced well at. I'm looking forward to running there for the first time with RAB Racing this week."

-credit: rabr

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About this article
Series ARCA
Drivers Tom Hessert , Justin Lofton , Steve Arpin