Memphis race report

MILLINGTON, TENN, by Don Radebaugh - Billy Bigley, in his career-first ARCA RE/MAX Series start, survived a bout with Frank Kimmel's bumper and a last lap battle with Rick Carelli to win the action-packed Memphis ARCA 150 Friday afternoon at...

MILLINGTON, TENN, by Don Radebaugh - Billy Bigley, in his career-first ARCA RE/MAX Series start, survived a bout with Frank Kimmel's bumper and a last lap battle with Rick Carelli to win the action-packed Memphis ARCA 150 Friday afternoon at Memphis Motorsports Park.

Bigley, in the Spears Manufacturing Pontiac, was leading the race with less than 50 laps remaining when Kimmel, who was trying to get back on the lead lap, tapped Bigley down the backstretch causing the 2000 NASCAR All Pro champion to spin. With the caution flag waving, Kimmel got his lap back while Bigley headed to pit road for four new tires. Back under green, Bigley, having already led more laps than anyone, was apparently in no mood to give it up now and charged from the tail-end catching race leader Carelli with ten laps remaining. Then Bigley got the opportunity he was looking for when Cavin Councilor spun in turns three and four on the last lap as the leaders were bearing down to negotiate the final corner. While Carelli was forced to work the brake peddle to avoid Councilor, Bigley mashed the gas and steered for a lane that opened up on the bottom. Bigley, with more momentum off the fourth turn, drew alongside Carelli and powered ahead to win the race by less than a length.

"I knew my chance to pass Carelli was in three, because his car seemed to get a little loose there late in the race," Bigley said. "He slid up a little and then he got on the brakes to keep from hitting the 19 (Councilor). My car was turning real good through there, so I hit the gas and drove for the bottom of the track. This is a great victory for the Spears crew. They've worked so hard and deserve every bit of it. We just need to keep the momentum going and utilize it next time out whether it be in the Craftsman Trucks or the RE/MAX Series."

Carelli, who had not raced at the Memphis ¾-mile oval since a near-fatal accident there more than two years ago, won the Old Milwaukee Pole Award and led 49 laps, but, in the end, had to settle for second. "It's just racing," said the Arvada, Colorado driver. "The circumstances were there and Bigley took advantage of them. Our RE/MAX Int'l Chevy ran good for 199 and ¾ laps."

However Bigley, who was also competing in the next-day NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series Memphis 200, wasn't the only driver to overcome adversity. Kimmel, who was making his 200th career RE/MAX Series start, was leading at the halfway point and beginning to pull away when the lapped car of Larry Hollenbeck made contact with the leader causing Kimmel to spin as his left front tire went flat. After four trips down pit road for tires and left-side sheet metal modifications, Kimmel put on a show all his own to get back on the lead lap. "I was driving kind of emotionally at that time," Kimmel said in reference to the mishap with Bigley. "It was just a stupid error on my part. He checked up a little and I got into the back end of his car. I'm just glad I didn't ruin his run because of that." Kimmel, who also won the Loctite Halfway Leader Award, salvaged a solid third place finish in Larry Clement's Advance Auto Parts Chevy.

Stanton Barrett, in Mark Thompson's Riverside Environmental Disposal Ford, was up front all afternoon and finished fourth after leading three laps while rookie Jeff Falk, in the Superior Logistics Services Chevrolet, finished a respectable fifth. Brookville, Ohio driver Randy VanZant was the only other driver to finish on the lead lap while posting his career-best finish of sixth in the Mike's Auto Body Pontiac. Ann Arbor, Michigan veteran Mike Buckley steered his Midwest Mall Fronts Chevy to a solid seventh place finish from the 20th starting position earning the Hoosier Tire Hard Charger Award for advancing the most positions. Scott Kuhn, driving a Petty Enterprises Pontiac, finished a career-best eighth while Centralia, Illinois driver Joe Cooksey survived his share of on-track altercations to finish ninth in his own Chevy. Kevin Belmont, younger brother of series regular Andy Belmont, finished a career-best tenth in the Ford.

A variety of spins and fender banging brought out 16 cautions, while 11 lead changes among six drivers kept the crowd busy chasing the continual action throughout the 200-lap, 150-mile race. Regardless of the abundant caution periods, there were no injuries and only one driver, Donny Morelock, did not finish because of an accident.

Three-time RE/MAX Series champion Tim Steele led the first ten laps before brake troubles forced the Coopersville, Michigan driver behind the wall for repairs. Steele, after losing several laps while the HS Die-Softech Ford crew made repairs, soldiered home in 14th. Robert Burroughs also led laps and was in contention for the win near the end until mechanical problems relegated the Laurel, Mississippi driver to 12th in the final running order.


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Series ARCA
Drivers Mike Buckley , Frank Kimmel , Andy Belmont , Billy Bigley , Kevin Belmont , Tim Steele , Rick Carelli , Larry Hollenbeck , Stanton Barrett , Mark Thompson