Belmont Third in ARCA Points After Memphis Billy Bigley, in his career-first ARCA RE/MAX Series start, survived a bout with Frank Kimmel's bumper and a last lap battle with Rick Carelli to win the action-packed Memphis ARCA 150 Friday afternoon...
Belmont Third in ARCA Points After Memphis
Billy Bigley, in his career-first ARCA RE/MAX Series start, survived a bout with Frank Kimmel's bumper and a last lap battle with Rick Carelli to win the action-packed Memphis ARCA 150 Friday afternoon at Memphis Motorsports Park. Bigley, in the Spears Manufacturing Pontiac, was leading the race with less than 50 laps remaining when Kimmel, who was trying to get back on the lead lap, tapped Bigley down the backstretch causing the 2000 NASCAR All Pro champion to spin. With the caution flag waving, Kimmel got his lap back while Bigley headed to pit road for four new tires. Back under green, Bigley, having already led more laps than anyone, was apparently in no mood to give it up now and charged from the tail-end catching race leader Carelli with ten laps remaining. Then Bigley got the opportunity he was looking for when Cavin Councilor spun in turns three and four on the last lap as the leaders were bearing down to negotiate the final corner. While Carelli was forced to work the brake peddle to avoid Councilor, Bigley mashed the gas and steered for a lane that opened up on the bottom. Bigley, with more momentum off the fourth turn, drew alongside Carelli and powered ahead to win the race by less than a length. Carelli, who had not raced at the Memphis -mile oval since a near-fatal accident there more than two years ago, won the Old Milwaukee Pole Award and led 49 laps, but, in the end, had to settle for second.
However Bigley, who was also competing in the next-day NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series Memphis 200, wasn't the only driver to overcome adversity. Kimmel, who was making his 200th career RE/MAX Series start, was leading at the halfway point and beginning to pull away when the lapped car of Larry Hollenbeck made contact with the leader causing Kimmel to spin as his left front tire went flat. After four trips down pit road for tires and left-side sheet metal modifications, Kimmel put on a show all his own to get back on the lead lap. Kimmel, who also won the Loctite Halfway Leader Award, salvaged a solid third place finish in Larry Clement's Advance Auto Parts Chevy.
Stanton Barrett, in Mark Thompson's Riverside Environmental Disposal Ford, was up front all afternoon and finished fourth after leading three laps while rookie Jeff Falk, in the Superior Logistics Services Chevrolet, finished a respectable fifth. Brookville, Ohio driver Randy VanZant was the only other driver to finish on the lead lap while posting his career-best finish of sixth in the Mike's Auto Body Pontiac. Ann Arbor, Michigan veteran Mike Buckley steered his Midwest Mall Fronts Chevy to a solid seventh place finish from the 20th starting position earning the Hoosier Tire Hard Charger Award for advancing the most positions. Scott Kuhn, driving a Petty Enterprises Pontiac, finished a career-best eighth while Centralia, Illinois driver Joe Cooksey survived his share of on-track altercations to finish ninth in his own Fuelvend.com Chevy. Kevin Belmont, younger brother of series regular Andy Belmont, finished a career-best tenth in the Racecakes.com Ford.
Andy Belmont had a Top 10 race car coming off the truck at Memphis and turned in a good qualifying run, but his engine "laid down" during the race relegating him to a 19th place finish. Andy said, "Jason Jarrett also had engine problems and finished behind us so we were able to extend our lead over him in the points. Tim Steele is expected to sit out the Watkins Glen race and perhaps one or two others giving us a chance to gain on him for second. The very best part of the Memphis race was seeing my brother, Kevin, crossing the finish line ahead of me with a 10th Place finish. I am so proud of him and of the effort of the AOL Race Team. It has been back breaking on those guys getting two race cars ready to run every week and turning them around after the race. There is always something to do on a car after it runs, sheet metal to be straightened, engine work to be done, paint to be touched up--and that's even if you haven't been hit during the race."
The ARCA RE/MAX series takes a weekend off before taking on their first road race at Watkins Glen where they will be running in support of NASCAR'S Busch Grand National Series. Andy is giving the race team the weekend off and locking the doors on the shop in Bristol Township, Pennsylvania. "I am loading the family in the van and taking them down to the shore for the weekend. We will hit the ground running on Monday." Asked about preparations for Watkins Glen, Andy said, "With only one road race on the schedule, it just doesn't make economic sense to build or buy a dedicated road track car so we are converting one of our short oval cars. ARCA is going to run the Hoosier bias ply tire on the car that we used at Winchester, Indiana. Our effort involves changing the A frames at the front of the car to get balance between right turns and left. We are moving some of the coolers around to get a better balance and tweaking the rear end. The Jerico transmission is going to be used hard so we are making sure that the oil cooler gets plenty of air."
Andy has never driven in a road race before. "I had plans to attend the Bertil Roos driving school to learn some road racing techniques but we went through some personnel changes at the race shop and the additional workload of preparing two cars every week just ate up any time I might have had. I have always believed that real race cars don't turn right and that you should race in the dirt and just stand on the gas so this should be a real experience. I understand that Lyndon Amick is showing up at the Glen with one of Ken Shrader's road course cars so he might be considered the pre-race favorite." <pre> CURRENT POINTS: 1) Frank Kimmel 2990 2) Tim Steele 2875 3) Andy Belmont 2460 4) Jason Jarrett 2305 5) Ron Cox 2250 6) Chuck Weber 1995 7) Norm Benning 1990 8) Todd Bowsher 1970 9) Donny Morelock 1900 10) Joe Cooksey 1345