Berlin: Round 12 preview

Berlin Raceway's a "Blast"; ARCA RE/MAX Series Returns to Saturday Night Short-Track Racing MARNE MI (7-23-08) -- Berlin Raceway is the shortest track on the ARCA RE/MAX Series schedule, and, ironically, it's sandwiched in between two of the...

Berlin Raceway's a "Blast"; ARCA RE/MAX Series Returns to Saturday Night Short-Track Racing

MARNE MI (7-23-08) -- Berlin Raceway is the shortest track on the ARCA RE/MAX Series schedule, and, ironically, it's sandwiched in between two of the biggest -- Kentucky last week and Pocono the next. In the world of high-tech aerodynamic stuff, wind tunnel time going to Berlin is a waste of time. Less than a half-mile around, its unique configuration, complete with sweeping corners, is more or less one giant corner - a little circle that puts it all right back in the driver's hands.

And if you ask many of the drivers, it's also a blast to drive.

"Berlin's a blast; that's all there is to it," said Dexter Bean. "Never had good luck there but I absolutely love the track. It puts it completely in the driver's hands and makes it fun. You still gotta have a car that handles, but it's one of those tracks where the driver can really make the difference."

It's also the only track on the series schedule that doesn't have a backstretch wall. So a way-too-loose car off turn two will result in a slide through the grass rather than a bang with a wall.

Nine-time series champion Frank Kimmel feels right at home at Berlin. In nine starts on the storied short-track, he's won three times and only finished out of the top-five once.

"Berlin's been really good to me," said Kimmel. "We've had a lot of success there. It's such a fun little racetrack. It reminds me a lot of Louisville where Bill (Frank's brother/crew chief) and I used to race so much. It's got a goofy little shape. But it's these little short-tracks on our schedule that are so much fun. Like when we raced at Cayuga -- it was really rough without a lot of grip -- but that's the sort of thing that makes it so much fun.

"Berlin's just a blast. The car's gotta be good, but you still have to get behind the wheel and drive the thing. You have to work hard every lap. Berlin's very challenging, but it's so much fun too."

It's no wonder that Kimmel thinks Berlin's 'a blast'. The only time he's failed to finish out of the top-five at the renowned Michigan short-track was in 2007, when he still finished seventh.

Justin Allgaier finished fifth last year at Berlin. He's also the only driver who has more than one win on short-tracks this season -- at Salem in April, and most recently at Cayuga.

"It's definitely a lot of fun to drive," said Allgaier. "I think it's a momentum track. You have to get into a rhythm, but once you get there, it's really a lot of fun. Our short-track program is as good as anyone's. We definitely have a shot to pick up a win there."

Series veteran Patrick Sheltra finished fourth at Berlin last year. This year, the Indiantown, Florida driver is coming with a new sponsor -- Boatwerks Waterfront Restaurant.

"I am so looking forward to Berlin," said Sheltra. "Last year was my first every experience at Berlin and I really wasn't sure what to expect. The track is very unique, very different. Some of the dirt-track characteristics come into effect at Berlin. Racecar drivers are used to walls; Berlin's backstretch doesn't have a wall, much like some of the dirt tracks I compete on. I had to arch my corner better and pretend I was racing dirt. I also learned to adjust my line a lot last year in the race and that's what put us up front. We're coming back with the same car we finished second with at Toledo and led laps at Cayuga, so we know we're coming back with a good racecar."

Current ARCA RE/MAX Series national championship point leader and SunTrust Rookie of the Year leader Ricky Stenhouse has never seen the place.

"I have no idea what to think; I've never been there," said Stenhouse. "I know I love the short-tracks. Hopefully, I'll figure this one out in time."

Matt Carter, currently third in national championship points, has also never been to Berlin.

"Never been there, but I'm not too concerned," said Carter. "Our short-track set-up is pretty similar everywhere, so we'll just go off what we've done and work off that -- biggest thing is forward bite. We did pretty good at Toledo (won the race) and finished sixth at Cayuga on six cylinders, so we're fairly confident. I like the short-tracks -- feel like we've got a definite chance to win."

Cherry Hill, New Jersey driver Tom Hessert III is sixth in championship points. He's also one of the few rookies in the line-up that have actually raced at Berlin.

"I've actually run there three times -- twice in a midget and once in a supermodified," said Hessert. "It's definitely a unique little layout. (Turns) One and two are pretty straight forward, and it really opens up off two and the backstretch is slightly rounded, so you can carry quite a bit of speed down the backstretch. And there's no wall back there, which really kind of strange. Biggest thing is, is that you gotta get slowed down through three and four because turn four pinches off. But as slippery as it is, it always provides a very racy surface. I like the short-tracks; we're going real good on the short-tracks. My new crew chief Dave Leiner grew up at Berlin, so that's his stomping grounds. We should do very well there."

Practice for the ARCA RE/MAX Series at Berlin is scheduled from 2:30 -- 4:00 PM ET Saturday, July 26th with SIM Factory Pole Qualifying following at 5:00. The Berlin ARCA 200 is scheduled to go off at 8:30 Saturday night.

Tickets for the ARCA RE/MAX Series at Berlin Raceway are available by contacting the Berlin Raceway Ticket Office at 616-677-5000, or through www.berlinraceway.com.

- Credit: arca

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Series ARCA
Drivers Frank Kimmel , Tom Hessert , Justin Allgaier , Dexter Bean , Patrick Sheltra