Earns his fourth ARCA victory driving a Dodge Charger
Tom Hessert earned his fourth ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards career victory Saturday, winning the International Motorsports Hall of Fame 200 by leading the most important lap of the race - the final one.
Hessert brought his No. 77 Caregard-AxiomWarranty.com Dodge to victory lane with a big push by teammate Austin Wayne Self, who finished third behind John Wes Townley. Mason Mitchell finished fourth and Spencer Gallagher fifth in the Allegiant Travel Chevrolet.
"We had a really good car, but we were sort of bound up for most of the day," Hessert said. "I finally got a chance to lead at the end and I took it. I got a great push from Austin (Self) to get around the 5 car. I wouldn't be here without Austin."
The victory was Hessert's fourth all-time ARCA win and first on a superspeedway. He's won before at Iowa Speedway and twice at the half-mile Salem Speedway short track. Inside of five laps to go, Hessert pushed to the front and was one of three cars to lead in the final stretch.
"My car was good on the outside, but I couldn't get much help out there," Hessert said. "Once we got around the 25 (Justin Boston) and the 5 car (Bobby Gerhart) jumped out. He was fast, but I still felt like I needed to lead."
Self, who won the SCOTT Rookie Challenge of the Race award for the second consecutive week, made his superspeedway debut a memorable one.
"People told me that if you finish Talladega you've done a good job," Self said. "We came home third and our teammate won the race."
Self, in the No. 22 AM Technical Solutions Dodge, said he was zeroed in on his teammate at the end of the race.
"I don't think I've ever had to work with someone like that before," Self said. "I locked in on the 77 and followed him through everything. He did a great job out there."
Townley, in the Zaxby's No. 15 Toyota, led 19 laps, including laps 54 through 71 and again on lap 73 before Hessert passed him with three to go. It was an exciting finish to the race with several cars jockeying for position inside the final 10 laps.
Fifteen cars were on the lead lap after the one and only caution ended with 13 laps to go. Mitchell, in the No. 98 Thermal Technology Services Ford, took the lead on the restart, but was shuffled back.
"Things started heating up out there; guys were pushing and banging off each other," Mitchell said. "I had the lead, but unfortunately I got caught up behind a lapped car and lost it. But, those things happen."
Gerhart, in the Lucas Oil-MAVTV American Real Chevrolet, moved out of a single file line that was hugging the bottom and, with Hessert and Self behind him, pushed into the lead inside of 10 laps from the finish.
"I had to go when I had to go," he said. "It may have been a little bit too early as it turned out, but that's racing."
On the first round of green flag pit stops, 16 cars were penalized for speeding either into, on or out of pit road. Until then, Menards Pole winner Grant Enfinger had led every lap.
"I felt like we had the car to beat; I just made a mistake on pit road," Enfinger said. "It was my own fault. I started slowing down, then I saw cars going beside me and I didn't want to lose track position and I sped up. It was my error, my mistake."
Enfinger battled back and was in the lead pack with 10 to go, but came up short in a bid to become the first driver in series history to win the first four races of a season.
"Track position meant so much today and there at the end, while I was happy with the car, I just couldn't get any momentum," he said. "I'm still happy with the day."
Frank Kimmel also took home a ninth-place finish after starting 22nd. He was at the back of the lead lap cars when the race restarted after its only caution.
"I got a little greedy at the end," Kimmel said after extending his top 10 finish streak to 36 races. "I got up to fifth, but lost it a little there. It was a good finish for the kind of day we had."
Derrick Lancaster finished sixth, his career best finish.
"This was only my second superspeedway race," Lancaster said. "I learned a lot about the car. We're going to build a new car over the winter and we'll be even better."
Buster Graham, in the Jwire-Don Mashburn Ford, finished 10th .