Steady Steele Holds Off Rookies For Pocono Pay LONG POND PA, by Don Radebaugh - Equipped with the knowledge of seven previous Pocono wins, ARCA RE/MAX Series veteran Tim Steele held off rookies' Josh Richeson and Stuart Kirby to win the ...
Steady Steele Holds Off Rookies For Pocono Pay
LONG POND PA, by Don Radebaugh - Equipped with the knowledge of seven previous Pocono wins, ARCA RE/MAX Series veteran Tim Steele held off rookies' Josh Richeson and Stuart Kirby to win the anticlimactic, yet thrilling Pocono ARCA 200 Saturday afternoon at Pocono Raceway.
Just as Richeson, less than a length away, was ready to strike the leader with less than five laps remaining, rain started pelting the Pocono triangle bringing out the final caution. From there, Richeson, a nephew of Winston Cup driver Brett Bodine, could only watch as Steele, still under caution, coasted his HS Die-Softech Ford under the checkered flag to secure his eighth victory on the 2.5-mile superspeedway and 39th RE/MAX Series win of his career. Richeson, in only his second start, got credit for second with Kirby, in Bob Schacht's Athens Mobil Speed Park Ford, trailing in third. It was Kirby's fourth top-five superspeedway finish in just five starts. Mike Swaim, Jr, in his back-up car, charged from the tail-end to finish fourth ahead of Frank Kimmel who finished fifth.
"We went down into one and my windshield got wet, so I checked up a little bit," Steele said. "Then when we got off one, it wasn't raining so I took off and ran it hard down into the tunnel turn. But you get a little nervous when you see the raindrops there, but it worked out for us. My hats off to the whole crew; they've come a long way since Daytona. They've been practicing a lot and getting up to speed where they need to be. I'd rather be lucky than good any day, but you have to be in position to win, and we kept ourselves there all day long."
However Steele's win wasn't purely luck as the Coopersville, Michigan driver led five times for 50 laps during the 80-lap event. And while the final caution undoubtedly snuffed away what was building up to be an exciting finish, 14 prior lead changes among seven drivers kept things plenty interesting for the fans throughout the 200-mile race. In addition, six cautions, mostly for minor incidents, slowed the event for 29 laps; the most serious of which involved Malcolm Bennett and Tim Mitchell who made contact in turn one. Mitchell checked out okay while Bennett was transported, conscious and alert, to the Geisinger Wyoming Valley Medical Center where the Worcester, Pennsylvania driver was diagnosed with a fractured right shoulder blade and later released that afternoon.
At the onset, outside polesitter David Keith, in Ted Campbell's CLR Ford, beat Old Milwaukee polesitter and new track record holder Kirby down into turn one. Keith quickly stretched his advantage to five lengths before Steele, who also got by Kirby on the start, tracked down Keith in time to take the lead on lap seven. Steele led up through lap 22 before Keith snatched it back on lap 23. However, Keith's lead would become short-lived when Steele charged back around to lead the next 14 laps. Then after a flurry of pit stops, both Jason Jarrett and Andy Belmont spent their turns leading just before Keith overhauled both. But Keith led just one lap before Steele took over for two laps while current point leader Kimmel raced Richeson and Kirby for the remaining top-five positions. Then Kimmel, who had to start at the tail-end because of a motor change, charged ahead to lead lap 46. One lap out front would be all Kimmel would get before Steele maneuvered back into the lead for three circuits before Keith overhauled the eventual winner to lead the 50th lap. Once Keith finally shook his closest challengers, the Mooresville, North Carolina resident stretched his lead to ten lengths until engine trouble cut his day short 18 laps shy of the finish. With Keith gone from the equation, Steele was left squarely in control with Richeson and Kirby trailing five lengths back. With laps winding down, Richeson, with Kirby in tow, got within inches of Steele's back bumper before the final caution eliminated any chance for the win.
"I learned a heck of a lot," said Richeson, "which I'm sure I can file away and use later. We just tried to keep our cool and not make any mistakes. I felt like we could have gained a little more on him (Steele) had it not been for the rain but I don't know if we could have got around him or not."
Local favorite Bobby Gerhart, who led three laps, finished sixth in the Garden Spot Auto Auction Chevrolet with veteran Ed Berrier in seventh in the Target Saws & Blades Chevy. Hesston, Pennsylvania driver Tom Eriksen posted his career-best RE/MAX Series finish in eighth while Blaise Alexander, with sponsorship from Pennsylvania-based Middleswarth Potato Chip maker, finished ninth. Belmont finished tenth in the AOL-Racecakes Ford while rookie Richard Mitchell, in only his third start, finished 11th in the Coach USA-Forest River Pontiac. RE/MAX Series regular Ron Cox won the Thermo-Tec Cool Drive honors as well as the Hoosier Tire Performance Hard Charger award for advancing the most positions, from 28th to 12th in the final running order. Steele, in addition to the winner's purse, picked up the Loctite Halfway Leader award.
TOP-10 POINTS: 1) Frank Kimmel 2750; 2) Tim Steele 2695; 3) Andy Belmont 2325; 4) Jason Jarrett 2195; 5) Ron Cox 2100; 6) Chuck Weber 1840; 7) Todd Bowsher 1830; 8) Norm Benning 1815; 9) Donny Morelock 1805; 10) Mike Swaim Jr 1320.