SALEM IN (9-13-03) By Don Radebaugh -- Eighteen-year-old Shelby Howard survived a wild, wreck-infested short-track war and a late-race meeting with veteran Frank Kimmel to score his third-career ARCA RE/MAX Series victory Saturday night at Salem...
SALEM IN (9-13-03) By Don Radebaugh -- Eighteen-year-old Shelby Howard survived a wild, wreck-infested short-track war and a late-race meeting with veteran Frank Kimmel to score his third-career ARCA RE/MAX Series victory Saturday night at Salem Speedway and second consecutive at the renowned high-banked oval.
Racing for the lead 20 laps from the finish, Howard and Kimmel, three-wide with a lapped car, locked horns on the backstretch. Kimmel's machine veered hard-right into the wall while Howard's continued on. In the end, Howard beat runner-up finisher Jason Jarrett to the checkered flag by five lengths while Kimmel, who would not return to competition, went behind the pit wall with a mangled racecar.
"Just want to thank the crew for giving me a great car and standing by me," said Howard. "I'm really proud of all the guys; thanks to Mack Trucks and Beck Dodge for their support. After a dnf at Chicagoland last week, this was a good points day for us. We'll take it and go down the road to South Boston."
Before a packed house, which stood most of the way, very tight, fender-to-fender racing offset by nine cautions for an assortment of multi-car wrecks kept several crews in the repair mode for much of the race. One of the early cautions involved Kimmel, who was leading when he attempted to lap first-time RE/MAX Series starter Terry Jones who made contact with Kimmel in turn one. Mike Buckley also caught a big piece of the wreck eliminating him from competition while Kimmel steered for pit road with a torn up racecar. Under caution, Kimmel made five pit stops for a variety of repairs including a major realignment of the front end, which was beat up on both corners. With several more opportunistic cautions on the way, Kimmel would make more stops on pit road for necessary adjustments while Howard set sail out front.
Plymouth, Indiana driver Brian Ross, making a rare appearance on the RE/MAX tour, won the Old Milwaukee Pole but it was Kimmel who won the race into turn one at the onset. With Ross, Howard, Christi Passmore and seventeen-year-old Justin Allgaier in close pursuit, the front-runners began to work lapped traffic leading up to Kimmel's entanglement with Jones. After that, Ross took over the top-spot for 26 laps before Howard moved into the lead on lap 84 of the 200-lap race. An upcoming caution gave Howard the chance to pit for four tires and fuel while Randy VanZant took control up front. VanZant led the next 22 circuits before Howard, on a fresher set-up, passed VanZant for the lead.
From there, Howard, who led the remaining laps, continually pulled away from the pack, that is, until Kimmel somehow resurfaced as a threat in the late going. Kimmel, with a mangled machine wrapped in duct tape, raced his way back into second with 30 laps remaining and began searching for Howard who by now had built a straightaway advantage. With not a sole sitting, Kimmel, who so many had undoubtedly written off earlier, tracked down Howard just in time to set up the dramatic outcome.
"I've never been more proud of my crew in all my life," said Kimmel soon after the race-ending wreck. "The early wreck knocked the tow out more than an inch. To get this car back in the game as beat up as it was is truly amazing and a real testament to how talented and hard working this crew is."
With Kimmel out of the mix, a late-race caution, inside of ten laps, prompted the extension of the race by four laps so the ARCA-mandated green-white-checker finish could be procured. With Howard firmly in control, Riverton High School senior Allgaier, who had qualified sixth, was lined up second with Jarrett, Ross and VanZant in tow. When the green flag fell for the two-lap shootout to the finish, Howard pulled away in his Mack Trucks-Beck Dodge While Jarrett, in the Gladiator GarageWorks-Damon RV Chevrolet, replaced Allgaier for second. Allgaier, in only 9th start, finished a career-best third in the Hoosier Tire Midwest Chevrolet with Ross trailing in fourth in the Bailey Excavating Chevrolet. VanZant, in the Devers Truck Bodies-Mike's Body Shop Pontiac, finished fifth.
Alex Whitman, in his career-first start, finished sixth in the Wave Worms Chevrolet followed by Andy Belmont in the Verizon Ford in seventh, the last car on the lead lap. Norm Benning finished eighth, one lap down with Ron Cox trailing in ninth in the 1-800-SERVPRO Pontiac. Matt Hagans steered his own Eagle Creek Aviation Dodge to the finish in tenth.
Todd Bowsher, a serious threat to win, was running second late the race before his engine faltered relegating the second-generation driver to the 24th finishing position. As a result, Bowsher received the Landrum Spring Hard Luck award as a consolation. Bill Eversole, who finished 11th from the 26th starting position, won the Hoosier Tire Hard Charger award for advancing the most positions.
CURRENT TOP-10 ARCA RE/MAX SERIES POINTS AFTER SALEM (9-13-03)
1. Frank Kimmel 5055
2. Jason Jarrett 4380
3. Mark Gibson 4125
4. Shelby Howard 4035
5. Brent Sherman 3945
6. Billy Venturini 3940
7. Bill Eversole 3670
8. Todd Bowsher 3590
9. Ron Cox 3545
10. Christi Passmore 3525