Tough Weekend For Tom Hessert; ABR Team At Michigan BROOKLYN, Michigan (June 17, 2008) - - Hoping to recover from a tough weekend at Pocono Raceway the week before, Andy Belmont Racing (ABR) and SunTrust Rookie-of-the-Year candidate Tom Hessert...
Tough Weekend For Tom Hessert; ABR Team At Michigan
BROOKLYN, Michigan (June 17, 2008) - - Hoping to recover from a tough weekend at Pocono Raceway the week before, Andy Belmont Racing (ABR) and SunTrust Rookie-of-the-Year candidate Tom Hessert headed towards the Irish Hills of Brooklyn, Michigan to change their luck in the Racing for Wildlife 200 at Michigan International Speedway.
Looking to improve on the team's open test at the two-mile oval last month, Hessert and mentor and crew chief Andy Belmont invaded the legendary Michigan race track looking for their first top-five or fourth top-10 in nine races this season.
In the single practice session of the weekend, Hessert mounted the 23rd fastest lap time with a quick time of 40.398 seconds or 178.227 mph. Before the conclusion of practice, the team diagnosed a problem with the primary motor forcing a switch before the start of ARCA SIM Factory pole qualifying.
"Practice went okay," noted Hessert. "We never give up. We're changing a lot of stuff including the motor hoping to put our No. 1 Maaco America's Bodyshop Ford Fusion on the map. Michigan International Speedway is a neat place so I would like to be in contention for the win."
One of the final cars to qualify for the ninth race on the 2008 ARCA RE/MAX Series schedule, Hessert would only be allowed one lap after missing the in-line tech time due to the engine change. With the disadvantage, the Cherry Hill, New Jersey stepped up to the plate and performed.
Hustling around his Jennifer Belmont owned Ford Fusion around the two-mile speed plant in 40.067 seconds at 179.699 mph awarding the freshman driver with a very solid 18th place qualifying effort.
"We'll take that," noted Hessert, a former USAC driver. "We would have been faster on our second lap if we would have been allowed to make it. I'm proud of the bunch on the ABR team for their never give up attitude. We bounced back from adversity and hope we can move forward in the race."
Mother Nature had other plans for the start of the Racing for Wildlife 200. Persistent rain forced the cancellation of the triple header weekend at Michigan International Speedway. The race was rescheduled for Saturday morning.
As team prepared for their first of two races in the Great Lake state this season, teams were faced yet with another challenge, a complete change of weather.
Hoping to persevere, Hessert was ready for anything.
At the start of the 100-lap event, Hessert quickly found himself in the top-15. Despite an extremely competitive race, the freshman driver tackled the track smoothly and remained solidly in the top-15 when the first caution flag waived on lap 21.
The yellow flag allowed a trip down pit road to the attention of the Maaco America's Bodyshop race team for a set of tires, fuel and a chassis adjustment to improve Hessert's negotiating of Michigan International Speedway.
Back on course and comfortably in the top-20, Hessert remained calm and collective on the radio on the restart.
Settling into a zone, Hessert would find himself locked into the top-20 before radioing his team that he felt a vibration on his Ford Fusion.
Belmont elected to bring his driver down pit road for a four tire change and fuel. Unfortunately, the caution flag flew a few laps later putting the ABR team off-sequence and two laps off the pace.
Out of contention for the win, Hessert remained out of trouble for the remainder of the event to cross the line 23rd.
"It was a tough day for the ABR team and Maaco America's Bodyshop," explained Hessert. "We had some tire issues and I thought we might emerge okay but we got trapped. It sucks that it happened but we tried to make the best out of it after the misfortune. I learned a lot out there and hope with what I learned, I'll be able to apply it down the road in the ARCA RE/MAX Series. We were better than a 23rd place finish, we just have to move on and get ourselves back on track and look for a win in Canada."
Belmont offered, "Tom did his job today. We just couldn't overcome the tire problem we were having. The cords on the tires were showing after twenty laps and we could not take any chances. The caution flag waived and our day was done. It's a shame. We'll move to Canada and put our No. 1 Maaco America's Bodyshop back in the top-10 where it belongs."
With the finish, Hessert slipped to eighth in the ARCA RE/MAX Series championship standings just five points behind seventh place runner Patrick Sheltra. 10 markers separate Hessert from sixth place competition Justin Allgaier. 60 credits keep Hessert from moving back into the top-five.
Exiting Michigan, Hessert, in Jennifer Belmont owned Ford Fusions controls eighth in the 2008 ARCA RE/MAX Series championship standings just 345 markers from the lead. In nine races this season, Hessert has claimed three top-10 finishes including a very stout sixth place run in the season opener at Daytona International Speedway followed by top-10 performances at Rockingham Speedway and Toledo Speedway respectively. He has controlled the ARCA field for once for 21 laps. The former USAC star made his 11th career ARCA start at Michigan International Speedway.