Stuart Kirby Solid In ARCA Return JOLIET, Illinois (August 31, 2009) - - When ARCA RE/MAX Series (ARS) took the green flag in Friday night's Ansell Cut Protection 150 at Chicagoland Speedway, it didn't looked like he missed a beat in his four...
Stuart Kirby Solid In ARCA Return
JOLIET, Illinois (August 31, 2009) - - When ARCA RE/MAX Series (ARS) took the green flag in Friday night's Ansell Cut Protection 150 at Chicagoland Speedway, it didn't looked like he missed a beat in his four year absence of competition after the Bowling Green, Kentucky native wheeled the Hendren Motorsports Chevrolet Monte Carlo SS to an impressive 11th place finish.
The former Chicagoland Speedway pole winner joined the long-time Hendren Motorsports several weeks ago aiming to put the team's famous No. 68 back on the map while also revive Kirby's racing career as he gears towards making the full-time return to stock car racing.
A week before tackling the Joliet, Illinois race track, the team opted to participate in the open-test session for the ARCA RE/MAX Series and after an aggressive day of changes, Kirby left the track confident about coming back for race weekend.
Mother Nature played havoc with the ARCA schedule on Thursday forcing a solid one hour and twenty-minute of practice to become three half-hour sessions late in afternoon carrying over into early evening. In the first two sessions, Kirby placed his sponsorless entry 16th on the run-down sheet before posting a noteworthy 10th place run in the final session of the night.
The team's had planned on participating in one more practice session Friday morning before qualifying but Mother Nature thwarted those plans with Kirby having to rely on what he learned on Thursday to maneuver his way through time trials.
In qualifications, Kirby nailed down a competitive lap of 31.105 seconds at 173.606 miles per hour which awarded the Walter Giles-led team to a 12th place starting position.
"I'm pretty happy with the car," said Kirby. "From the looks of qualifying, it's going to be a very intense race. The field is pretty close with the top-20 cars. I'm just grateful for the opportunity to be here and surely want to make the best of it."
From the start of the 15th race of the season, Kirby progressively worked through the competitive field ahead of him and found his No. 68 Chevrolet into the top-10 when the first series of pit stops occurred approaching the first quarter mark.
Restarting solidly in the top-15, Kirby began charging back through the field but his machine would develop a serious tight condition in the center of the corner which slowed Kirby's lap times.
Trying to adjust his line around the Chicagoland Speedway appeared to help at times but the longer the race ran the deeper Kirby's problem would become. With a short race on tap, Kirby knew that his options were limited.
With a solid amount of cars on the lead lap closing in on the finish of the race, Kirby and crew chief Giles knew that ducking down on pit road to adjust the handling of the team's machine would hinder their efforts of potentially finishing in the top-10.
With coaching and cheerleading from Giles, Kirby buckled down for a green-white-checkered finish which saw him climb up on the wheel and drive from 13th to 11th in the final lap to bring home a solid finish in his ARCA RE/MAX Series return.
"We had a pretty good car," commented Kirby after the race. "We had a issue with the car getting extremely tight in the center of the turn. It turned out that the duct work for the radiator somehow had a large hole in the bottom and was letting air come in from under the car. Still, I'm real proud of this Hendren Motorsports team. Everyone worked hard. I think we can go to Kansas in October and be a lot better."
The chance for the duo to connect together for the final intermediate track of the season won't come without help as the team needs funding to move forward.
"We're hoping to go to Kansas but time will tell," explained Kirby. "They are working hard on trying to obtain some sponsorship to see if we can close out their year with a strong run. I'll be anxiously waiting for the call."
In his 16 ARCA RE/MAX Series starts, Kirby has mounted six top-five finishes and posted eight top-10 runs. He has posted two career-best runner-up finishes at Lowe's (N.C) Motor Speedway ('01) and Kansas Speedway ('02) respectively. He has controlled the ARCA field five times for 39 laps.