More engine trouble for Andy Belmont. Winder, Georgia veteran Mark Gibson capitalized on the late-race misfortunes of Frank Kimmel to win the Atlanta ARCA 400 Saturday afternoon at Atlanta Motor Speedway. Gibson, in his own Williams Brothers ...
More engine trouble for Andy Belmont.
Winder, Georgia veteran Mark Gibson capitalized on the late-race misfortunes of Frank Kimmel to win the Atlanta ARCA 400 Saturday afternoon at Atlanta Motor Speedway. Gibson, in his own Williams Brothers Lumber Chevrolet, cruised around Kimmel's ailing machine with just over 10 laps remaining to score his fourth career ARCA RE/MAX Series victory and first-ever at the 1.54-mile superspeedway. The win was an especially popular one for the likeable, local Georgian who led the final 13 laps while his hometown fans cheered him on. Kimmel, who dominated the race most of the way with 145 laps-led of 162 total, appeared to be well on his way to another victory before his Advance Auto Parts-Pork Ford began to slow inside of 20 laps from the finish. Shelby Howard, in the Celadon Trucking-Mack Trucks-Beck Dodge, finished second just over two seconds behind Gibson. It was Howard's career-best superspeedway finish.
Jason Jarrett, in the Damon RV-Biomet Chevrolet, beat Kimmel out of the pits in the last round of pit stops and led four laps before falling back to third in the final running order. Brent Sherman, who started 30th in the Serta Mattress-Hickory Farms Ford, passed Kimmel in the closing laps to finish a career-best fourth while Kimmel nursed his machine to the finish in fifth. With qualifying rained out the day before, the field lined up by last year's car owner points putting defending champion Kimmel on the pole for the start.
Kimmel immediately jumped out into the lead and began pulling away while Cha se Montgomery, Howard and Gibson raced for position behind. Then the first of 5 caution flags appeared on lap five for a multi-car wreck off turn four triggered when Doug Stevens made contact with Vern Slagh racing through the corner. The incident also collected Bob Strait, Norm Benning and Dan Shaver. There were no injuries however all five machines were through for the day.
When racing resumed, three-time Atlanta winner Tim Steele, who started 31st, was soon running fifth and quickly tracking down the leaders including Kimmel. However, Steele's machine developed electrical troubles early on and fell off the pace. The Coopersville, Michigan driver would later receive the Landrum Springs Hard Luck award as a consolation after retiring from competition well short of the finish.
As the race progressed, Kimmel appeared to be on cruise control steadily distancing himself from the other front-runners before his engine went sour. Tandy Marlin, a first cousin to Winston Cup driver Sterling Marlin, delivered a solid sixth place finish in his career-first RE/MAX Series start with 18-year-old Spartanburg, South Carolina driver Jeremy Clements trailing in seventh in the Broadway Motor Company Chevrolet. Soddy Daisy, Tennessee veteran Ron Cox steered Wayne Hixson's Gladiator GarageWorks Chevrolet to the finish in eighth, the last car on the lead lap. Billy Venturini, in the Sports Authority Chevrolet, finished ninth while Chelsea, Michigan rookie Bill Eversole raced Brad Kemp's Chevrolet from the 40th starting position to 10th in the final running order. Eversole's solid effort earned the former dirt late model driver the ARCA Highest Finishing Rookie of the Race award and the Hoosier Tire Hard Charger honors for advancing the most positions in the race.
Andy Belmont was one of the fast cars with a real chance to win the race in the Verizon 1-800-Use The VZ Ford Taurus. "Before the first caution, we were the fastest car on the track, 2/10ths of a second faster than Frank Kimmel. I passed Jason Jarrett for second just before the yellow flag. We had a great pit stop going and then one of the air hoses popped apart. The guys recovered nicely but I was 7th coming off pit lane. I talked to Mark Gibson after the race. He said that we were faster than he was after 10 laps, and he won the race." And then it all went South. On lap 68, a valve spring broke and Andy parked the car, being credited with a 31st place finish. "It was the same problem we had at Daytona where we were also fast. You can't blame the engine builder, he is using brand new parts. It seems that he received a bad batch of valve springs. We just have to find them and get them out of the race engines before it happens again."
Andy continued, "We just have to keep at it. This is the best race tam I have ever had. The cars look better, the preparation is better, and I have a great crew chief in Bryan Smith. There are no issues which should keep us from winning races. Mark Smith, the engine builder at TriStar Motorsports, is beside himself and working 24/7 to solve this problem. It's not like we overstressed the engine. We never ran it past 9000 rpm."
Andy's second car, the Number 4 St.Leo University Southern Pan Ford Taurus, was driven by Brack Magard who started 28th and finished 15th completing 155 of the race's 162 laps.
Andy's brother, Kevin, who was spotting for Christi Passmore at Daytona, got a ride in the #38 Horsepower Development Pontiac Grand Prix, a car that the team purchased from Joe Gibbs Racing. Kavin started the race 15th and finished 28th. He completed 96 laps before a rear end failure took him our of competition.
Christi Passmore has her own race team this year. She was driving a race car her team purchased from Robert Yates that had been raced by Dale Jarrett. Passmore started the race 23rd and finished 13th, her best ARCA race so far, completing 156 laps. Both she and Magard were running at the end of the race.
This coming weekend, Andy will be driving a Craftsman Truck in Friday's race at Darlington. it is owned by TriStar Motorsports Mark Smith and the two are partnering in the effort. "Mark is providing the truck and motor and I am providing the team, transport, lodging, fuel and tires. And, of course, the driver. It is a yellow truck, Number 25 and we hold out a lot of hope for the effort."
The next action for the ARCA RE/MAX Series will be under the lights April 11th at Nashville Superspeedway where live coverage on SPEED Channel begins at 9 pm eastern.
-Rich Romer, Guest Writer