Bill Baird shines in ARCA short track war Flat Rock, Michigan, by Don Radebaugh - After wrecking his primary short track car the night before at Kil-Kare Speedway, current ARCA Bondo/Mar-Hyde Series point leader Bill Baird bounced back to...
Bill Baird shines in ARCA short track war
Flat Rock, Michigan, by Don Radebaugh - After wrecking his primary short track car the night before at Kil-Kare Speedway, current ARCA Bondo/Mar-Hyde Series point leader Bill Baird bounced back to finish out the double header ARCA short track war with a very rewarding victory in the Jasper Engines & Transmissions 150 Saturday night at the mile Flat Rock Speedway bullring.
Baird, in his own Saturn Machine-Eagle One Chevrolet, raced around Joe Cooksey in traffic with less than 50 laps remaining and stretched his advantage to 3 lengths at the final stripe to take his fourth win of the season. "We got wrecked by a lap car last night leading the race so we had to make a decision if we were going to fix this one or unload the back up," said Baird in victory lane. "But the car we wrecked is the best short track car I've ever driven, and my crew knew that, and they refused to go the easier route with the back up and stayed up all night to put this one back together. My crew chief Keith Strunk and the whole team sacrificed any chance for sleep last night to get me back in this car. That's why we're in victory lane. That's why we're going to win this championship." Cooksey, in his Maurtco Powder Coating Chevrolet, finished a strong second recording his career-beat ARCA finish and moved to fourth in the series standings. Frank Kimmel, aboard Larry Clement's Advance Auto Parts Chevrolet, beat Bobby Dotter to the checkered flag by a fender to finish third and veteran Bob Schacht steered his Engineered Components Ford home in fifth.
Baird started the night off with his fourth Talladega Pole Award of the season and led the first 57 laps before Bobby Gerhart maneuvered his Kewadin Casinos Chevrolet inside of the former leader when Baird got hung out to the high side trying to race around lapped traffic. Leading ARCA STP-Prestone Rookie of the Year contender Ron Cox also sneaked by in the exchange shuffling the eventual winner to third ahead of Cooksey with Mark Gibson, who had hustled his JaniKing Ford from the 18th starting position, trailing in fifth.
Seven cautions, all for minor short track bumps and spins, slowed the event considerably allowing several opportunities for the front-runners to use lapped traffic on restarts to gain positions. On one of those restarts, Cooksey found an opening on the preferred inside line when Gerhart, like Baird a short time earlier, got caught on the high side. Cooksey took full advantage of the opportunity and charged into the lead while Baird used the same line easing Gerhart back to third. By now, Cox, who was clearly a contender for the victory, fell out with engine trouble while Gibson got spun in lapped traffic. Dotter then took over the fourth position with Kimmel, who had recovered from an earlier pitstop for a wedge adjustment, lined up in fifth. Cooksey showed the way for the next 20 rounds and appeared to be on his way to his first ARCA win until another caution flag changed the complexion again. This time, the advantage fell in Baird's direction when the lapped car of Andy Belmont pinned Cooksey to the high side giving Baird the bottom end, and the lead, one he never relinquished. Gerhart had to settle for the 14th finishing position after getting spun late in the race.
Jeff Finley finished sixth in Ed Rensi's Dura Lube Chevrolet ahead of Tracy Leslie in Jack Bowsher's Zinsser Paint Products Ford with Dill Whittymore, in his Mt. Olive Pickles Chevrolet, finished eighth. Seymour, Indiana driver Richard Hampton, in his Hoosier Online-Voyager Communications Chevrolet, was strong all night and finished ninth with Randy VanZant in tow in tenth. Mike Buckley, the electrical engineer out of Ann Arbor, Michigan, was the last car on the lead lap in 11th.
Baird also won the Bondo/Mar-Hyde Pole/Win Bonus while Cooksey picked up the Auto Value Halfway Leader award. VanZant, for the seco consecutivend night, was the STP-Prestone Highest Finishing Rookie and Finley, who started 17th, earned the Hoosier Tire Midwest Hard Charger award for advancing the most positions.
Series Point Leaders: Bill Baird 3410, Frank Kimmel 3035, Bobby Gerhart 2900, Joe Cooksey 2665, Mark Gibson 2655, Bob Schacht 2510, Cavin Councilor 2430, Ron Cox 2365, Andy Belmont 2360, Dill Whittymore 2300.