Tracy Leslie Triumphs in Winchester ARCA 200 by Don Radenbaugh Winchester, IN - Tracy Leslie's return to the ARCA Bondo/Mar-Hyde Series has been impressive to say the least but none more impressive than it was Sunday afternoon at Winchester ...
Tracy Leslie Triumphs in Winchester ARCA 200 by Don Radenbaugh
Winchester, IN - Tracy Leslie's return to the ARCA Bondo/Mar-Hyde Series has been impressive to say the least but none more impressive than it was Sunday afternoon at Winchester Speedway. The 1988 ARCA champion, in Jack Bowsher's Zinsser Paint Products Ford Taurus, refused a spirited late-race charge from Blaise Alexander to win the action-packed Winchester ARCA 200 posting his eighth top-10 finish after 11 attempts in 1999. "I can't tell you how good it feels to win again," said an emotional Leslie in victory lane. "I don't care what series you race in, it's hard to win. This ARCA series gets tougher all the time and it feels so good to bring it home to victory lane. Thanks to Zinsser Paints and Jack Bowsher for giving me the chance to drive again. He helped revive my career and I just really want him to know I appreciate it. I want to thank the crew chief Jeff Lemons who nailed the set up today. Fortunately, he figured out a set up that made us competitive on older tires, and it worked for us in the end. Jack told me this chassis was an old show car he had laying around that he built back in '79 or '80. I guess we showed 'em today." After leading 76 laps, Leslie found himself chasing leader Bill Baird with Alexander in tow with 20 laps remaining when the caution flag flew for the eighth and final time in the 200 lap contest, this time for a multi-car pile up in turn two involving Andy Belmont, Jeff Finley, Ken Schrader and Mark Gibson. Leslie, already on older tires, forfeited his chance to pit and took the lead when Baird charged onto pitroad for fresh rubber. Alexander and Belmont, who managed to drive away from the wreck, followed Baird into the pits, but it was Alexander who won the race off pit road. When racing resumed with less than 10 laps to go, Alexander mounted his charge, loosened up the eventual winner from time to time but in the end couldn't find a way around the former NASCAR Busch Series winner who held on for his eighth career ARCA triumph. "We're happy with our second place finish," said Alexander after the race. "We had newer tires than Leslie right there in the end, and we were sticking better but I didn't want to just turn him around. It's not really winning when you do it that way, and he deserved to win the race." Baird padded his point lead with his third place finish ahead of Andy Belmont, who battled back from a one lap deficit and a late-race spin to finish fourth in his America Online Ford. Naples, Florida driver, Cavin Councilor, who started outside pole, recovered from an early race spin to finish fifth posting his career-best ARCA finish to date. Alexander, who won the Talladega Pole Award in his Perkins Restaurants-Sunoco Lubricants Chevy, led at the onset but lost the lead to Leslie on the 31st circuit. Leslie flexed his muscle immediately and drove off to a half lap lead over Baird who had raced his way into second while Belmont, Finley and Schrader worked on Alexander for third. With the aid of several cautions, Baird got several opportunities to work on the leader and eventually got close enough to get Leslie loose off turn two. By the time Leslie gathered it back up, Baird drove underneath and took the lead on lap 73. But unlike Leslie, Baird couldn't shake his challengers and worked hard to hold off Leslie's continual charge up through the 128th lap before giving it up in favor of pit road service. Baird, who led 86 laps throughout the race, hustled his way back to the top-spot but gave it up with too few laps left to be able to challenge for the win. Defending ARCA champ Frank Kimmel struggled all day starting with a practice crash that prompted the Advance Auto Parts crew to unload the back up car for the main event. Kimmel hastily qualified the car in seventh and was racing towards the front before the Jeffersonville, Indiana driver cut a right front tire sending him into the wall and down pit road for continual service. With a badly wounded race car, the 17-time ARCA winner had to settle for a 20th place finish in the final running order. Joe Cooksey hustled his Maurtco Powder Coating Chevy home in sixth ahead of Muncie, Indiana's Wes Russell in seventh. Mark Voigt, Randy Churchill and Mike Buckley completed the top ten. Norm Benning, who started 29th, finished 11th in his Coachmen RV-Car Mate Trailers Chevy and won the Hoosier Tire Midwest Hard Charger award for advancing the most positions. Baird was also the Auto Value Halfway Leader and Alan Bigelow, in 19th, was the STP-Prestone Highest Finishing Rookie.
SERIES POINT LEADERS: Bill Baird 4395, Frank Kimmel 3890, Bobby Gerhart 3720, Joe Cooksey 3490, Mark Gibson 3460, Bob Schacht 3225, Cavin Councilor 3200, Andy Belmont 3155, Ron Cox 3065, Norm Benning 3020.