by Don Radebaugh Brooklyn, MI, 6-10-00, -- If Tim Steele's commanding performance in Saturday's ARCA race at Michigan Speedway didn't silence the critics, nothing will. To further solidify his recovery from head injuries, the three-time ...
by Don Radebaugh
Brooklyn, MI, 6-10-00, -- If Tim Steele's commanding performance in Saturday's ARCA race at Michigan Speedway didn't silence the critics, nothing will.
To further solidify his recovery from head injuries, the three-time ARCA champion took charge at Michigan Speedway with a convincing victory in the FLAGSTAR ARCA 200, his third overall at the 2-mile superspeedway. The Coopersville, Michigan driver overcame transmission troubles and Kerry Earnhardt to score his career 35th ARCA Bondo/Mar-Hyde Series victory in his 100th start.
"We lost third gear on the second to last restart," said the all-time ARCA superspeedway winner (21 wins) in victory lane. "We definitely didn't need that caution when Shawna (Robinson) wrecked coming out of two, and I was talking to my spotter, my dad, and told him to make sure he told Kerry Earnhardt's bunch and David Keith's bunch, and whoever else is behind us, that we don't have third gear, and we didn't need a big pile up. Other than that, it was the kind of race you dream about. This is the longest I've gone without winning a race since I started racing at 4 years old. You don't know how good it feels to be back and win a race."
The caution that Steele referred to resulted from Robinson's contact with the turn two wall with less than 20 laps remaining. The mother of two from Des Moines Iowa was conscious and alert when she was transported to St. Joseph Mercy Hospital in Ypsilanti, Michigan where she was diagnosed with a fractured right shoulder blade and two fractured ribs. Robinson, who was held overnight for further evaluation, was released on Sunday morning.
When racing resumed, race leader Steele, having to shift from second gear to fourth, fell to third on the final restart behind new race leader Earnhardt and Keith. However, once Steele got his HS Die-Softech Ford wound up in fourth gear, he quickly disposed of Keith for second before setting his sights on Earnhardt who by now had built a 10-length advantage. With less than ten laps remaining, Steele, having already erased the deficit, maneuvered underneath Earnhardt off turn two and merely drove away from the competition. Earnhardt eventually gave up the second position to Keith who held on to the runner-up spot at the final stripe one and a half seconds behind the winner. Earnhardt held tight for third in the final running order ahead of Brian Ross who raced his Invisible Glass-Stoner Car Care Product Chevy from 35th to fourth at the finish. Point leader and veteran Bob Strait finished fifth from the 25th starting position in Mark Thompson's Midway Islands Ford.
Through the course of 5 cautions throughout the afternoon, the lead changed hands seven times among Steele, Earnhardt, open wheel driver Ryan Newman and Port Orange, Florida driver Dan Pardus but it was Steele who stole the show in that category as well. The all-time ARCA superspeedway lap-leader added 74 more circuits to his grand total now at 2,080 laps led in 39 races.
Trussville, Alabama rookie driver Marc Brenner hustled the Briggs Cunningham's Zep Chevrolet from 37th to sixth at the finish earning the Hoosier Tire Midwest Hard Charger Award as well as the Thermo-Tec Cool Drive honors, while Newman, in a Penske-prepared United Auto Group Ford, finished seventh in his first ARCA superspeedway start. Laurel, Mississippi driver Robert Burroughs finished eighth in front of California driver Rich Woodland and second generation driver Billy Venturini who completed the top-10.
Steele picked up $22,070 for his efforts which included the Auto Value Halfway Leader Award and the Quarter Master Coming Thru in the Clutch accolades. Earnhardt won the Prestone ARCA Highest Finishing Rookie honors as well as the Hawk Best Brake of the Race Award for keeping his Teresa Earnhardt Chevrolet under control after brushing the wall off turn two. Veteran Mark Gibson was the BSR Second Round Fastest Qualifier.
CURRENT ARCA TOP-10 POINTS: Bob Strait 1640, Brian Ross 1600, Frank Kimmel 1480, Andy Belmont 1410, Norm Benning 1360, Kirk Shelmerdine 1345, Shawna Robinson 1320, Bobby Gerhart 1310, Mark Gibson 1270, Tim Steele 1235.