17-year-old Chad Finley wins the pole at Rockingham, finishes 15th in the ARCA RE/MAX Series season finale and looks ahead to 2010. DeWitt, Michigan (Tuesday, October 13, 2009): When 17-year-old Chad Finley looked around the famed one-mile oval...
17-year-old Chad Finley wins the pole at Rockingham, finishes 15th in the ARCA RE/MAX Series season finale and looks ahead to 2010.
DeWitt, Michigan (Tuesday, October 13, 2009): When 17-year-old Chad Finley looked around the famed one-mile oval of Rockingham Speedway in Rockingham, North Carolina, for the first time, he never dreamed that he would be the one leading the field to the green flag for the 2009 ARCA RE/MAX Series season finale, the ARCA American 200.
Finley, whose part of the Brad Keselowski Racing (BKR) Driver Development program, was just looking to close out his limited 2009 ARCA schedule with a solid finish on Sunday, October 12th. Little did he know that the day before would turn out to be pivotal and career changing for the DeWitt, Michigan teenager.
Finley's Rockingham weekend couldn't have started any better as he won his first career Menards Pole Award presented by Ansell on Saturday afternoon, October 11th on Qualifying Day for the ARCA American 200 over the 46-car field as he posted a new track record of a 24.494 around the one-mile oval, which measured out to 146.975 mph.
"What a weekend. Never been here before or even seen this place. We unloaded and got on the track and this place is real slippery. Made a few adjustments and got a ton better," He explained. "(Crew Chief) Wayne Setterington is just awesome, we made a long run in practice and he talked me through the car just getting so loose because this place just eats up your tires."
As Finley was preparing to head out for one more practice session, Mother Nature intervened and forced cancellation of the rest of Practice. "Before the rains hit, Wayne just kept fine tuning it and we were getting ready to make a sticker run to see what we had and the rain came in, so to sit on the pole was huge for us and just shows what everyone at BKR is capable of." Finley remarked.
In his three previous ARCA appearances in 2009, his last start prior to Rockingham, was way back on July 25th at the famed Berlin Raceway, located West of Grand Rapids in Marne, Michigan for the Wolverine Power Systems 200 Presented by Generac, Finley proved he belonged with an impressive third place finish.
His podium finish came on the heels of a sixth place showing in his ARCA debut at Toledo Speedway in Toledo, Ohio back on May 17th and a ninth place showing at the Iowa Speedway in Newton, Iowa on July 11th. Now he was going to be leading the field to the green in only his fourth career start and at Rockingham no less!
"I didn't think we had enough to get the pole, but it was definitely a pleasant surprise." He continued. "I finished ninth in an ARCA race at Iowa earlier this year and that is the biggest track I've been too so far other than Rockingham in ARCA. I ran the Milwaukee Mile and Bristol Motor Speedway last season though in an ASA Late Model Series race."
Finley started on the pole next to 2009 ARCA title contender, Parker Kligerman, who's been the man to beat this season in ARCA competition and was in a fight of his own for the 2009 ARCA RE/MAX Series Championship with Justin Lofton, who was scheduled to start second, but went to the rear of the field at the start due to an engine change.
After Kligerman paced the field for the first two laps, Finley drove around the eight-time race winner on the outside coming out of turn four to complete lap three and retook the point. From their, Finley set a torrid pace around the Tar Heel State oval and would lead the next 42 laps until Steve Arpin took the lead using lapped traffic on lap 45.
Throughout the afternoon and even after pit stops, Finley maintained a top five standing during the first 3/4s of the 200-lap feature. Then a chain reaction incident on a late restart forced Finley into the back of eight-time ARCA Series Champion, Frank Kimmel, who was trying to avoid a slowing Arpin, who broke a transmission on lap 161.
Finley fought an ill handling race car the rest of the day and finished 15th. "To lead that many laps and run as well as we did all day is great. That last restart something happened up front that caused a chain reaction and we got into the back of Kimmel and hurt the front down force on the car." Finley explained.
"The car just wouldn't turn those last 25 laps or so, so we were just hanging on there to get to the end of the race. I honestly thought we had a chance at it or at least a Top Three finish. I am not disappointed though just heart broken for every one at BKR."
As for the race itself, Kligerman won the ARCA American 200, his ninth victory of the year, but it would be Lofton who would clinch the 2009 ARCA RE/MAX Series Championships after starting 41st and finishing in third!
Finley's impressive showing throughout the weekend didn't go unnoticed as Car Owner, Brad Keselowski himself made the trip to North Carolina after finishing fifth the night before in the NASCAR Nationwide Series race at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California. "It was great to have him here and have him talk to me a little bit on the radio." The appreciative Great Lakes State driver added. "It meant a lot to me.
"I'm very grateful for the opportunity presented to me this year with these guys. Hopefully we can find some sponsorship to carry on next year. I believe we have showed that we can do it with this race team, we just need some financial backing to make it happen." Finley ended.