Brian Keselowski Earns Career-First ARCA RE/MAX Series Win at Berlin MARNE MI (7-15-06)--Second-generation ARCA RE/MAX Series racer Brian Keselowski, in the no. 29 Holloway Motorsports-Dusty's Collision Dodge, held off late-races...
Brian Keselowski Earns Career-First ARCA RE/MAX Series Win at Berlin
MARNE MI (7-15-06)--Second-generation ARCA RE/MAX Series racer Brian Keselowski, in the no. 29 Holloway Motorsports-Dusty's Collision Dodge, held off late-races charges from veteran Frank Kimmel and rookie Blake Bjorklund to earn his career-first victory in the Sara Lee-GFS Marketplace 200 Saturday night at Berlin Raceway.
Ironically, Keselowski's father and 1989 ARCA RE/MAX Series champion Bob Keselowski, who crew-chiefed his son during the race, won his first ARCA race at Berlin in 1986, 20 years earlier.
"This is my first ever win ever in anything," said Keselowski. "I won a heat race a couple of times at Toledo in a Late Model when I won my track championship there but a feature win is always a special thing. We've come so close, yet it's always been so far away. I really have to thank Holloway Motorsports for helping me out this year and my dad and my mom. They were always there with me and it's always been a family thing for us, it continues to be a family thing. We're struggling with some sponsorship trying to make it a full time deal, just doing everything we can and to pull out a win here at Berlin is just amazing."
Kimmel's role in the closing laps was the result of some luck, both good and bad, in the opening laps.
"We had a little mishap on pit road early on, but we were able to correct the problem and get back in contention," said Kimmel, who finished second, two lengths away. "The car was a little tight in the corners, but we expected that with this race track. But I'm so happy for Brian (Keselowski) and the entire Keselowski family for the win tonight. They're a wonderful family and really worked hard for that win. We got lucky on some of those cautions."
During Kimmel's first pit stop, the crew mistakenly crossed the front tires putting the intended right-side tire on the left, and vice versa, which ultimately gave the car a bad push. Fortunately for Kimmel, the caution flag, which flew frequently throughout the night, came out shortly after the pit road miscue allowing the seven-time series champion to fix the problem without going a lap down.
In the later stages, Keselowski, on fresher tires, ran down Kimmel with 50 laps remaining and made the winning pass on the 156th lap of the 200-lap race. Soon thereafter, Justin Allgaier also drove around Kimmel for second as Kimmel, on older tires, continued to lose ground.
Then another caution came out on lap 162 when Kimmel's teammate Ryan Foster spun Tim Mitchell, who was already five laps down. That allowed Kimmel to come down pit road under caution and bolt on four new tires to make his final charge back to the front.
With less than five laps remaining, Kimmel had maneuvered his way into third behind Keselowski and Bjorklund. The three machines raced inches apart before one final caution appeared setting the stage for the thrilling three-lap green flag run to the finish.
On the final restart, Kimmel charged around Bjorklund for second before Bjorklund battled right back to challenge. Kimmel and Bjorklund then rubbed fenders on the final lap allowing Keselowski to strengthen his lead.
Although Kimmel settled for second, he gained enough points to pass Bobby Gerhart in the national championship points battle. Gerhart finished 15th, four laps down after changing a battery on pit road.
Rookie-of-the-Year contender Bjorklund, who earned his career first Pork Pole award earlier in the day, tied his career-best finish in third.
"We probably could have won," said Bjorklund. "We just needed a long run. Still, we're excited for this finish and with the Pork Pole award we earned earlier. The crew did a great job giving me a good car. The No. 32 Dodge was great on long runs and I had no problems driving through traffic."
The 20-year-old Isanti, Minnesota driver dominated the first half of the race, leading a total of 84 laps, and then battled back from a late-race spin to challenge for the win.
Lansing, Michigan's Gary Sherman finished a career best fourth in the No. 62 Bullett Motorsports-Cleary Motorsports Chevrolet.
"We're ecstatic," said Sherman. "The car was alright. It was a little bit better earlier but we were fighting a tight condition all night and it just got worse after that last pit stop."
Ken Weaver, in his own Phoneco/1-800-4-A-Phone Dodge, finished fifth after leading 38 laps.
"I had a great evening," said Weaver. "We did exactly what we wanted to do. We got a top-five finish and we brought the car home in one piece."
The race took one hour and 51 seconds to complete and was slowed by the caution flag 10 times for 72 total laps. A lap five incident on the front stretch early on collected Jim Hollenbeck, Bryan Silas, Billy Leslie, Billy Venturini, Ryan Howard, Chuck Weber and Norm Benning. There were no injuries.
Keselowski's father earned the SK Hand Tool Crew Chief of the Race award.
Rookie-of-the-Year contender Foster, who finished eighth after starting 22nd, earned Hoosier Tire Hard Charger honors. Bjorklund earned the Hurst Fastest Lap of the Race award and was the Highest-Finishing Rookie.
The next event for the ARCA RE/MAX Series is the Pennsylvania 200 at Pocono Raceway LIVE on SPEED Saturday, July 22 at 1 pm eastern.
TOP-10 ARCA RE/MAX SERIES POINTS AFTER BERLIN (7-15-06)
1) Frank Kimmel 2560; 2) Bobby Gerhart 2545; 3) Ken Weaver 2240; 4) Damon Lusk 2220; 5) Ryan Foster 2175; 6) Chuck Weber 2070; 6) Brett Rowe 2070; 8) Ryan Howard 2055; 9) Billy Venturini 2020; 10) Todd Bowsher 1990.