Mears on target with bull's-eye at MIS.
BROOKLYN MI (6-14-03) -- Casey Mears, in Chip Ganassi's Target Dodge, hit a bull's-eye over the weekend in ARCA RE/MAX Series competition at Michigan International Speedway.
The Bakersfield, California second-generation racer dominated the Flagstar 200 Saturday afternoon after setting a new one-lap track record in qualifying the day before. In the end, Mears finished a healthy seven seconds-plus ahead of his closest competitor.
"I couldn't be more happier or excited about it," Mears said. "We're going to celebrate a little tonight, but not too much because I've got to go race tomorrow. I was driving hard the whole time and Hermie (Sadler) was actually doing a good job because he was running the same lap time we were so it was really important to get good starts and get that stretch on."
However, with Mears way out in front, the battle for second couldn't have been more intense. Hermie Sadler and Frank Kimmel fought back and forth for the runner-up spot for the final 25 laps before Sadler, in his own Total Non-Stop Action Wrestling Pontiac, pulled ahead at the final line to claim the second position by a half-length.
"When Frank (Kimmel) got by me on the last restart, he moved up and started running my line so it made it difficult to get back by him," said Sadler. "I think we were both tight and we were both slipping and sliding around. He could have made it more interesting, but he's running for a championship."
Even such, the battle was interesting enough with the two veteran drivers trading positions back and forth lap after lap including the final circuit when Sadler had to pass Kimmel twice to earn his second place finish in his first RE/MAX Series start. Kimmel, in the Advance Auto Parts-Pork Ford, finished third.
Matt Hagans, in his own Eagle Creek Aviation Dodge, rebounded from a penalty that sent him to the tail-end to finish fourth. Coopersville, Michigan veteran Tim Steele made his return to RE/MAX Series competition a successful one with a solid fifth place finish in the HS Die-Visi-Seco Carboloy Dodge.
Several machines failed to get through the ARCA tech line in the required amount of time before the race and had to start from the tail-end including Old Milwaukee polesitter Mears and outside polesitter Kyle Busch. With the front row shuffled back, Sadler and Kimmel stepped up for the start. Kimmel led at the onset, but a very determined Busch, with Mears in tow, quickly charged towards the front. By lap 17, Busch had replaced Kimmel as the leader and checked out. However Busch led just nine laps before he cut down a right rear tire causing extensive damage to his Hendrick Motorsports-prepared Chevy. With Busch out of the race, Sadler led a couple of laps before a round of pit stops shuffled the order putting Jason Hedlesky in the lead for nine laps. But with fresh tires under him and a really fast car, Mears quickly reigned supreme over the field and took control on lap 46 of the 100-lap, 200-mile race. And while there were several battles brewing in his mirror, Mears, who never relinquished the lead, steadily pulled away from the pack.
Even at Mears' torrid pace, six cautions for 37 laps kept the field bunched up enough that 14 machines finished on the lead lap. There could have been even more had it not been for a late-race, multi-car wreck off turn two triggered when Dan Shaver lost control. The incident eliminated several lead-lap drivers from competition including Shaver, Christi Passmore, Andy Ponstein and Keith Murt. Bobby Gerhart, also involved, was able to return to competition but the wreck put him three laps down. There were no injuries.
Brent Sherman continued to impress with a solid sixth place finish in the Serta Mattress-Hickory Farms Ford. Jimmy Henderson, in the JB Steel Chevrolet, hustled from the 27th starting position to seventh in the final running order earning the Hoosier Tire Hard Charger award for advancing the most positions. Eric McClure, making his career-first RE/MAX Series start in a Morgan-McClure Kodak-sponsored Chevrolet, finished eighth in front of Jason Jarrett who steered the Gladiator GarageWorks-Damon RV Chevrolet home in ninth. AJ Henriksen, in the Fastenal-Engineered Components Ford, completed the top-10 finishers.
In addition to his prize money, Mears picked up the National Pork Board Pole-Win Bonus. Bill Eversole, who finished 11th, won the ARCA Highest Finishing Rookie award. After some daring and determined pit work, the Gladiator of the Race award went to AJ Alsup's crew. Brian Conz, who got caught up in an early-race wreck when Ken Weaver spun, was awarded the Landrum Spring Hard Luck honors.
South Boston Speedway will be next to host the ARCA RE/MAX Series on July 2. Winston Cup veteran and defending race winner Ken Schrader has already filed an entry.
CURRENT TOP-10 ARCA RE/MAX SERIES POINTS: 1) Frank Kimmel 2900; 2) Jason Jarrett 2500; 3) Brent Sherman 2300; 4) Shelby Howard 2260; 5) Mark Gibson 2230; 6) Billy Venturini 2215; 7) Ron Cox 2150; 8) Christi Passmore 1905; 8) Todd Bowsher 1905; 10) Bill Eversole 1890.