Michigan: Race report

Chad Blount charges to victory at MIS. BROOKLYN MI (6-15-02), by Don Radebaugh - Chad Blount pulled off a bold three-wide pass with less than three laps remaining en route to victory lane in the thrilling FLAGSTAR 200 Saturday at Michigan Int'l...

Chad Blount charges to victory at MIS.

BROOKLYN MI (6-15-02), by Don Radebaugh - Chad Blount pulled off a bold three-wide pass with less than three laps remaining en route to victory lane in the thrilling FLAGSTAR 200 Saturday at Michigan Int'l Speedway. Blount, who started from the Old Milwaukee Pole, led the most laps, and in the end, would not be denied his career-first ARCA RE/MAX Series victory in only his 14th start.

"This was really special," said the 22-year-old Walkerton, Indiana rookie. "When it happens, you go numb. Michigan is its own track. There's nothing you can compare it to. There's nothing I can compare this win to. This is as big as it gets. I can't thank the Braun family enough for the chance they gave me."

Blount, racing side-by-side with Damon Lusk inside of five laps to go, planted his unsponsored Todd Braun Dodge in the middle of Lusk and Bobby Gerhart as they raced off turn four. Three abreast for the second position, Blount inched ahead of Lusk at the line and promptly chased down AJ Henriksen for the lead. Blount then made his move to the inside of Henriksen in turns one and two with Lusk following. From there, the eventual winner kept the field at bay and raced under the checkered flag .884 seconds ahead of Lusk who finished second in the WP Motorsports Chevrolet.

"Chad was a little better than us," said Lusk. "He was able to turn it down lower and get by me. It got pretty hairy on the backstretch on that final restart. He's (Blount) a great racecar driver. I can race side by side with him lap after lap and feel comfortable."

However, the final laps were anything but comfortable. After running first and second for most of the race, Blount and Lusk, after pit stops, found themselves 6th and 7th on the final restart with six laps to go. When the green flag waved, Henriksen, with Gerhart, Chase Montgomery and Andy Belmont in tow, led the field to turn one while Lusk passed Blount to the outside off turn two. While Montgomery and Belmont began to fall back, Lusk, Blount, Richard Mitchell and Dutch-born driver Michael Vergers charged ahead. With the healthy crowd on its feet, three and four-wide racing became commonplace before Blount secured the top spot for good becoming the third first-time winner in 2002 after nine events.

Bruceton Mills, West Virginia driver Mitchell, in the Coach USA-Mountaineer Gaming Pontiac, posted his career-best finish in third with Henriksen, in the Fastenal-Engineered Components Ford, trailing in fourth at the finish. Vergers, in Bob Schacht's Bruich Laddich Ford, rebounded from a variety of problems throughout the 100-lap, 200-mile race to finish a solid fifth.

Matt Hagans, in the Eagle Creek Aviation Dodge, finished sixth in only his second RE/MAX Series start and first-ever at Michigan. Gerhart finished seventh in his own unsponsored Chevrolet with Garfield, Minnesota driver Rick Thoennes finishing a career-best eighth in the Glenwood Bridge Chevrolet. Dan Shaver, in his own Petro Express Pontiac, finished a career-best ninth with Mt. Juliet, Tennessee Rookie of the Year candidate Montgomery completing the top-ten finishers in his father Ray Montgomery's Chevrolet. Shaver, who started 29th, also won the Hoosier Tire Hard Charger honors for advancing the most positions.

In all, there were ten lead changes among six drivers and three cautions for 22 laps. Blount, who also won the Loctite Halfway Leader award as well as the Pork Pole/Win Bonus, led 73 laps while defending champion Frank Kimmel led nine. Both Henriksen and Paducah, Kentucky driver Keith Murt each led seven. Hagans led three and Lusk led one.

Kimmel, who led early on, experienced his share of troubles during the race including a flat tire that forced an unscheduled pit stop under green before his engine finally went sour halfway in relegating the Jeffersonville, Indiana driver to 32nd in the final running order. Kimmel, who held the point lead going in, dropped two positions to new point leader Lusk while Blount moved into second. As a consolation, Kimmel picked up the Landrum Spring Hard Luck award. RE/MAX Int'l driver Rick Carelli charged from the tail-end of the pack to challenge the frontrunners before ignition woes sidelined the Arvada, Colorado driver after 42 laps. Jason Jarrett was also in the hunt before transmission failure stopped his run 36 laps from the finish. Brent Sherman finished a career-best 11th in Cavin Councilor's Serta Mattress-Hickory Farms Chevrolet with Michigan favorite Tim Steele, on the come-back trail, finishing 12th.

-arca-

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Series ARCA
Drivers Frank Kimmel , Andy Belmont , Chad Blount , Richard Mitchell , Chase Montgomery , Jason Jarrett , Rick Thoennes , Tim Steele , Rick Carelli , Damon Lusk , Brent Sherman , Dan Shaver , Matt Hagan , Bob Schacht