WATKINS GLEN NY, by Don Radebaugh - Experience is always the best teacher; and it showed when veteran road racer John Finger, in the Racer Carol Enterprises Ford, won the wild Bet On USA ARCA 150 Saturday afternoon at Watkins Glen ...
WATKINS GLEN NY, by Don Radebaugh - Experience is always the best teacher; and it showed when veteran road racer John Finger, in the Racer Carol Enterprises Ford, won the wild Bet On USA ARCA 150 Saturday afternoon at Watkins Glen International.
Finger took the lead for good with less than two laps remaining and then survived a late-race run-in with Robert Burroughs to earn his career-first ARCA RE/MAX Series victory in his first start.
"I'd get out and jump on the roof but it's the only ARCA car we have, Finger said in victory lane. "But it was a ball. It was the first ARCA-type race I've ever run. I've run some big cars before in vintage racing, but nothing quite like this. We just ran our own race pace and it kind of came to us. Finger, a veteran of IMSA and SCCA road racing, passed Old Milwaukee polesitter Blaise Alexander less than two laps from the finish after Alexander's transmission stumbled, and then got spun heading for the white flag when Burroughs, who was trying to get his lap back, made contact with the eventual winner. Both machines spun in unison collecting Alexander and Lyndon Amick, who had just overhauled Alexander for second. Both Amick and Alexander received extensive front-end damage while Finger and Burroughs eventually got back on course in time to receive the white and caution flag together. By now Finger, after receiving the white flag, was on the lead lap all by himself and would coast across the finish, under caution, as the winner. Alexander, in the Middleswarth Potato Chips Pontiac, limped home second having not completed the last lap, with Frank Kimmel, who also had to steer through the wreck, trailing in third. Burroughs, making his first road course start, would be scored in fourth one lap down posting his career-best RE/MAX Series finish while Tampa, Florida driver Art Cross, in Bobby Gerhart's Northeast Ford, finished a career-best fifth two laps back. Amick completed enough laps before the mishap to finish sixth.
Alexander, who had been nursing a crippled transmission much of the afternoon, passed Finger less than three laps from the finish and began to pull away before his transmission troubles returned to haunt the Montoursville, Pennsylvania driver. "My crew did their best to fix the transmission on that last pit stop," said Alexander. "They kind of doctored it up the best they could hoping it would last until the end, but it ended up breaking as soon as I got the lead back. From there, I could only run in second gear. Second-generation driver Todd Bowsher, in his father Jack Bowsher's Ford, finished a career-best seventh earning the ARCA Highest Finishing Rookie honors while St. Petersburg, Florida veteran Dale Kreider finished eighth. Jerry Churchill, making his first ARCA RE/MAX Series start in more than ten years, finished a respectable ninth with series regular Andy Belmont in tenth. Belmont, who started 27th in the AOL Ford, also earned the Hoosier Tire Performance Hard Charger award for advancing the most positions in his first road course start.
In all, three cautions slowed the event for nine laps while ten lead changes among five drivers kept things exciting up front throughout the 150-mile race. Outside polesitter Amick led the most laps showing the way for 20 circuits around the 2.45-mile road course while Damon Lusk led 17. Lusk, who was never out of the top three, was a victory lane threat all afternoon until engine difficulties stopped his impressive run nine laps from the finish. Alexander, who won the Loctite Halfway Leader award, led 14 laps while Finger led nine. Jason Jarrett also led two laps and was in the top-five continually before his engine expired with 21 laps remaining. Finger's efforts also netted the Greenville, South Carolina driver the Thermo-Tec Cool Drive award, the Quarter Master Comin' Thru in the Clutch honors as well as the Hawk Best Brake of the Race award.