Belmont Second In ARCA Points After Pocono by Rich Romer When it comes to Pocono, Tim Steele will find a way to win. Steele, in his own HS Die-Softech Ford, capitalized on quick pit service, and then tracked down Blaise Alexander in the final...
Belmont Second In ARCA Points After Pocono
by Rich Romer
When it comes to Pocono, Tim Steele will find a way to win. Steele, in his own HS Die-Softech Ford, capitalized on quick pit service, and then tracked down Blaise Alexander in the final laps to win the Pepsi ARCA 200 Saturday afternoon at Pocono Raceway. It was Steele's ninth ARCA RE/MAX Series win on the 2.5-mile Pocono triangle and 40th career triumph overall. If the victory lane glory was all Steele's, the Pocono pain belonged to point leader Frank Kimmel. Kimmel, who led the most laps by an overwhelming majority, lost the lead near the end after a lengthy green flag pit stop cost the Jeffersonville, Indiana driver too much time on pit road. And while Kimmel's crew struggled during the last stop, Steele's Coopersville, Michigan-based crew excelled enough to get the eventual winner out in front of Kimmel, and within 20 lengths of new race leader Alexander, who beat Steele off pit road. Steele, with fresh tires and a perfectly adjusted car, quickly erased Alexander's advantage, made the winning pass at the start-finish line with ten laps remaining and, in the end, pulled away by nearly three seconds.
Alexander finished second in the Middleswarth Potato Chips-Lisa Express Pontiac while Kimmel, after leading 61 of 80 laps, had to settle for a disappointing third. Mike Swaim, Jr finished fourth in the Dynatek Communications Chevrolet with Laurel, Mississippi driver Robert Burroughs trailing in fifth. It was Burroughs' fifth top-five finish in 11 starts this year on tour. Tracy Leslie, in the Target Saws & Blades Chevrolet, charged from last to a sixth place finish earning the Thermo-Tec Cool Drive award while Damon Lusk passed Jason Jarrett on the final lap for seventh. Jarrett, in the Biomet-Damon RV Pontiac, finished eighth winning the ARCA Highest Finishing Rookie award for the second consecutive week. Rookie Dion Ciccarelli recorded his career-best finish in ninth in Rich Williams' Ford Taurus, one lap down while Mooresville, North Carolina driver AJ Henriksen finished tenth in the Fastenal-Engineered Components Ford.
Pocono is the home track for Penndel, Pennsylvania's Andy Belmont, and race weekend became a big family affair. Andy's mother, Sandy, was cooking all weekend in the hauler's kitchen feeding the crew, family, visitors and the occasional grateful journalist. Andy's father, Chic, was everywhere from the garage area to the hauler to the top of the pit box where he coordinated the efforts for the second America Online car in the race, the number 51. Brother Kevin Belmont is Andy's crew chief and had a particularly busy weekend working on two cars. In addition, Kevin started the 51 car in the race before turning the driving over to engine builder Scott Ritter during an early race pit stop. Kevin's son, Kevin, Jr., works for the race team during his summer vacation and never stopped hustling all weekend long. Kevin's twin daughters, Jessi and Becki, helped their grandmother with the hospitality, and Jessi was in charge of selling RaceCakes and 1/64 scale collectible cars from the side of the hauler. Kevin's wife, Toni, was everywhere helping out where ever she could. Andy's father in law, John Dicken, works in the race shop and is an essential member of the pit crew.
Andy started the race 16th and finished 12th. "We had a fast car. I was ninth quickest in Friday's practice session and we dialed a couple of adjustments into the car which made it even quicker around the track. The front straight at Pocono is so long that you have to shift to overdrive at the start/finish line or risk over revving the engine so we installed a brand new Jericho transmission. I don't know what happened but 20 laps into the race, I lost all the gears except third. We had installed a chip that limited the revs to 8800 to save the engine so I was hitting the rev limiter well before the first turn and again on the straight between turns one and two. It got us some TV time because the crew had to push me out of the pits after our stops but I would rather have had 1st, 2nd and 4th gears and been easier on the guys. Pocono is hard on cars and the attrition was high at this race. We hung in and finished two laps down to the winner."
Andy comes out of Pocono 2nd in the ARCA RE/MAX points. "Jason Jarrett finished only four spots ahead of us so he didn't gain much on us in the points. We picked up a 250 point bonus from ARCA for running the past five races. Tim Steele did not compete in two of the races (Watkins Glen and Michigan) while he reorganized the race team after buying it from his father last month so he was not eligible for the bonus. We're now ahead of him by some 35 points."
Two cautions, one for a Jason Hedlesky accident, and another for debris, slowed the race for nine laps while green flag racing was the norm for the majority of the afternoon. Hedlesky, in Junie Donlavey's Hills Brothers Coffee Ford, was not injured and picked up the Landrum Spring Hard Luck award as a consolation.
The ARCA RE/MAX series takes a weekend off before resuming the racing schedule although Andy will not. Next weekend, he will be conducting a racing school. Car chief Scott Warchol was looking forward to the final 10 races of the season ending in November at Atlanta, the weekend before Thanksgiving. "There's a seven day period in September where we run three races, two in Illinois and one in Indiana on three different types of race tracks. We will load up the hauler and hit the road with three race cars, not returning home to Pennsylvania until after the third race."
CURRENT POINTS: 1) Frank Kimmel 4210; 2) Andy Belmont 3375; 3) Tim Steele 3340; 4) Jason Jarrett 3225; 5) Ron Cox 3135; 6) Norm Benning 2840; 7) Chuck Weber 2820; 8) Todd Bowsher 2755; 9) Donny Morelock 2735; 10) Billy Venturini and Robert Burroughs 1690.