Competitive ARCA Racing Series Championship Nearing Finish (TOLEDO, Ohio) - Twenty points in a single ARCA Racing Series presented by RE/MAX and Menards race can be as simple to calculate as thedifference between four positions on the track....
Competitive ARCA Racing Series Championship Nearing Finish
(TOLEDO, Ohio) - Twenty points in a single ARCA Racing Series presented by RE/MAX and Menards race can be as simple to calculate as thedifference between four positions on the track. With Patrick Sheltra, Craig Goess, and Tom Hessert all within that range at the top of theseries standings, the American 200 presented by Black's Tire and Auto Service at Rockingham Speedway can be classified as a true championshipevent.
Sheltra (No. 60 Ferguson Pipe/Jones Group International Toyota), whoentered Thursday's Kansas Lottery 150 as the series points leader,finished fifth to maintain a 10-point advantage over Goess (No. 81 Greenville Toyota of N.C. Toyota), who gained some ground with a third-place finish at Kansas Speedway. Sheltra's 4495 points top Hessert (No. 77 Cherry Hill Classic Cars Dodge), in third place, by 20.
Hessert's deficit to the lead may have been more, if not for a key decision. The Cunningham Motorsports driver took two fresh tires insteadof four on the final pit stop at Kansas Speedway, gaining severalpositions to finish sixth. Hessert had been running outside the top 10for the majority of the 100-lap event.
Though the last two seasons have been among the most competitive in ARCA's history, 2010's finale will occur under even tighter conditions. Justin Allgaier's thrilling championship in 2008 is famously rememberedfor his dash from 110 points out of the lead with one race remaining,but even then, incoming points leader Scott Speed held an 85-point advantage before the final race. Last season, Justin Lofton edged ParkerKligerman by the smallest margin possible without using tiebreakers - five points. Lofton's lead entering the final race? 15.
Drivers stress the importance of "staying up front" or "racing clean," and say that recording "top-fives or top-10s" will help everything fall in place for a championship. Given the high level of competition in the ARCA Racing Series, that's not necessarily true.
For example, Sheltra, who has finished in the top five 11 times in 2010 - more than any other driver - will likely need more than just atypically strong finish. If Hessert were to win while Sheltra finishes fifth without leading a lap Saturday, Hessert would overcome the points leader in the standings. That's a scenario that doesn't even includeGoess, and it's far from the only combination of possible events.
Consider that 15 points are given to the Menards Pole Award presented by Ansell winner, and that the second and third qualifiers earn 10 and five points, respectively. Goess leads the series with three Menards Pole Awards, earning 45 points along the way; Sheltra and Hessert, meanwhile, have not qualified in the top spot this season.
Again, with a championship race this close, picking a champion before the final checkered flag flies is far too difficult a prospect. With no room for error - and hardly any space for anything outside of a drive toVictory Lane - the American 200 is set to be a race for the ages.
One More Winner for a Record: Ty Dillon's win in the Kansas Lottery 150was the first of the 18-year-old's ARCA Racing Series career, and contributed to a key statistic for the series as a whole. Dillon (No. 41Karl Chevrolet/Richard Childress Racing Development Chevrolet) was the 12th first-time winner in the series this season, and the 14th different winner overall.
The first-time winner mark is a record for the series. If Saturday'swinning driver at Rockingham Speedway is one without a 2010 win to his credit already, the series will match the record of 15 different winners in a single season, set in 2007.
Notable drivers without a win this year include: nine-time ARCA champion Frank Kimmel (No. 44 Ansell/Menards Ford), a victor 74 times in his career; Tim George Jr. (No. 31 Richard Childress Racing DevelopmentChevrolet), who has twice finished in the top five this season; Bryan Silas (No. 11 Rockingham Speedway/Palm Beach Grading Ford), who will berunning a home race of sorts for car owner and track operator Andy Hillenburg; and Chad Finley (No. 29 Air Lift Company/Auto ValueCertified Service Centers Chevrolet), who finished third at Pocono in June and won the pole at Rockingham last season.
Green Flag Racing Common: For the second consecutive race, the ARCARacing Series experienced just three caution periods. The yellow flag slowed the Kansas Lottery 150 for only 17 laps. With an average speed of 126.139 mph, the race edged Scott Speed's 2008 victory at the track for a new race record. Speed's 124.855 mph win in 2008 featured fourcautions for 19 laps.
The race was the sixth of the season in which there were no more thanthree caution periods. The series has averaged only 5.26 per race this season, down from 8.67 in 2008 and 7.67 in 2009.
Awards Serve as Consolation for Kile: Mikey Kile (No. 25 Venturini Motorsports Toyota) won the Menards Pole Award for the second time this season and led the first 63 laps, but could not return to the pointposition after losing the lead to teammate Steve Arpin (No. 55 Mike's Hard Pink Lemonade Toyota) on Lap 64. Nonetheless, Kile won the Aaron's Lap Leader Award for most laps completed in the race, as well as the Messina Halfway Leader Award for leading at Lap 50, the race's midpoint. Both awards pay $500 for the event.
Kile is the third driver this season to sweep Menards Pole Award,Aaron's Lap Leader Award, and Messina Halfway Leader Award honors in a single race. Craig Goess completed the trifecta at MichiganInternational Speedway in June - in a race Kile won - and Justin Marks(No. 32 KartSport North America Toyota) did the same at New Jersey Motorsports Park in August.
Tom Hessert remains the chief lap leader for 2010, with 387 laps led over eight races. Arpin passed Chris Buescher for second; he trailsHessert by 125 with 200 laps at Rockingham remaining.
Dugger Improves in Third Appearance: Russ Dugger (No. 12 Accell Construct Chevrolet) made just his third ARCA Racing Series start in the Kansas Lottery 150, but notched his second consecutive top-10 finish byending the race in 12th. Dugger, who qualified 19th, drove a car ownedby three-time ARCA race winner Mario Gosselin.
Matt Lofton made his series debut by starting 13th and finishing 13th inhis own No. 97 Strutmasters.com Chevrolet.
On to the Finale: The ARCA Racing Series presented by RE/MAX and Menards visits historic Rockingham Speedway on Saturday, October 9 for what promises to be a thrilling championship finale. The 200-lap American 200presented by Black's Tire and Auto Services airs live on SPEED at 1:30p.m. Eastern, with live timing and scoring and live audio coverage presented by ARCA Nation and the ARCA Racing Network at ARCARacing.com.
Practice begins at 11:30 a.m. Friday and lasts for 90 minutes, and Menards Pole Qualifying presented by Ansell takes place at 2:30 p.m. that day. Live timing and scoring and live audio coverage of both events will be available at ARCARacing.com.
The race will be the fourth for the series at the track. Championshipcontender Parker Kligerman won last season, but Justin Lofton finished third to edge Kligerman by five points for the series championship.