Monday, October 29, 2012
Levi Mansfield Survives Lake County and is Your 2012 ARCA Truck Series Champion
PAINESVILLE, Ohio -- The first race of 2011, Ken Kirsch Jr. and his father Ken Kirsch Sr. won their first ARCA Truck Series event since joining the series three years prior in the first race of the season and led the points and were viewed as a title threat. However, as the year went on, the team had three DNF’s and they eventually ended fourth in the standings. During the off season, dad and son had a difference of opinion on issues and Sr. decided to look elsewhere for a driver and the search began and surprisingly ended on a driver who in 18 starts had a best finish of fourth – and that last came in 2008. The driver was Levi Mansfield – not a stranger to the series as he would show up from time to time and help crew or whatever the case may be, but not impressive credentials nonetheless. And, to top it off, Ken Sr. stated the team would run a partial schedule, so no one’s eyes were on the #54 Kirsch Automotive team as a title threat.
During the winter, Kirsch said, “we feel we have the best driver! Levi’s a good young man and we feel he can get the job done,” and Mansfield was equally as complimentary about his owner! “They’re all behind me! Driving for Ken and (his wife) Linda has been great for my confidence! He calls me during the week, pumps me up! It’s an honor to drive this truck!”
The first race of the year, Toledo, Mansfield led two laps and placed fifth; the next one, Flat Rock, they were fourth; Lake County sixth, then Winchester, third. With such solid results, Sr. reconsidered and decided to make a go of the title chase and the next race at Kil-Kare, Mansfield took it all. They followed that up with another victory at Angola, then another at Lorain County and went for four in a row back at Kil-Kare in August and placed third. Then came Kentucky. Point leader Danny Jackson had engine problems in qualifying and with the day’s tight schedule didn’t have to change and they were forced to start another truck, but Mansfield went out and won again and took the top spot in the standings by 20.
Since a driver can earn 25 points for pre-entering, five spots per finishing position, 15-10-5 in qualifying, five points to lead a lap and five additional for leading the most circuits, the last event of the year on October 21st at Lake County Speedway’s “Halloween Speed-Tacular” weekend was sure to be a nail biter. Jackson had problems in practice again which limited his on track adjustment time, and Mansfield won the pole and took the available 15 while Jackson salvaged third and five points, but the separation had now grown to 30. Mansfield rolled an eight on the dice for that starting spot while Jackson would begin sixth!
Cody Quarrick’s S347JR Ford V8 jumped into the early lead but three cautions before lap 13 would slow the rhythm of the event. However, once the driver’s settled in, the race began to unfold and Jackson was running second by lap 14. Mansfield, though, was mired in fifth. He moved into fourth on lap 25 and ran there until John Gearhart got around him for the position. Up front, Jackson began to put the heat on Quarrick and was on his inside down the backstretch on lap 47 but Stephen Cox and Brandon Huff spun together off turn four which prompted the caution which forces the field to the last completed lap, putting Jackson in the outside lane for the restart – not the preferred line around Lake County. When the green waved, Jackson was glued to Quarrick’s rear deck and finally on lap 71, made the pass and began to pull away. Behind him, Mansfield knew he had to try and make ground. He, Szep and Gearhart began a spirited duel for fourth but on lap 85, bounced off of each other coming off of turn four, forcing the caution: Szep lost half of the right side of his truck, Mansfield peeled back his right front fender and Gearhart pitted with a flat left rear but Szep and Mansfield stayed on the track and Levi was sixth. When Mike Bridge restarted the race, Mansfield got past Quarrick and he remained in fifth until the end with Jackson winning the race but Mansfield taking the title!
“We’ve been good all weekend and really good to start the race. But then about halfway through the race we picked up a bad push and it was all I could do to hang on and finish where we did. We didn’t really have anything for the win and we had to hope that everything would work out! So then we started points racing because we knew about where we had to finish and just went for that! And glad Danny won it there, he’s a great racer and had a really good year but just had some bad breaks in a few races,” said the new champion by just five points!
“This is definitely a tough place to pass on and we had a top five truck – maybe even a top three truck but just could not seem to get a break on the restarts and kept getting stuck on the outside. Definitely a little rougher racing than I like so we’re glad to get out of here with the championship. Sorry to the guys I got into, we knew it was going to be tough when we came here. It got interesting there at the end especially on some of those restarts!
“I’ve got to thank all these guys on the team standing over here and anyone who came by and helped out! I’ve got to thank Ken and Linda Kirsch for letting me drive their truck! Just happy for all them that we finally got the championship!”
The ARCA Truck Series just completed its third full season presented by the Phoenix Management Group of Ohio, LLC, (or PMG) of Millersport, Ohio, under a licensing agreement with the Automobile Racing Club of America (ARCA). The ARCA Truck Series ran its first full season under ARCA’s direction in 1999, after evolving from the Pro-4 Series, which was sanctioned by ARCA for the previous nine years. Today, the series has grown into one of the most versatile series in short track racing, having taken popular four cylinder, V-6 & Ford V-8 crate powered trucks to asphalt tracks of many sizes under one mile, road courses, and numerous dirt tracks in its history.
Founded by John Marcum in 1953 in Toledo, Ohio, the Automobile Racing Club of America (ARCA) is recognized among the leading sanctioning bodies in the country. Closing in on completing its sixth decade after hundreds of thousands of miles of racing, ARCA administers over 100 race events each season in two professional touring series and local weekly events.
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