Tuesday, August 7, 2012
'Monkey off of our Back' for Hackenbracht; ARCA Racing Series News & Notes from Pocono Raceway
TOLEDO, Ohio -- The final weekend of July in the ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards had Frank Kimmel breaking the longest winless streak of his career in a race dominated early by Chad Hackenbracht.
Hackenbracht (No. 58 CGH Motorsports Chevrolet) led 86 laps at Lucas Oil Raceway at Indianapolis, but finished a disappointing 25th after engine troubles ended his race with 44 laps remaining. Eight days later at Pocono Raceway, Hackenbracht drove to redemption.
The 20-year-old's win in Saturday's Pennsylvania ARCA 125 at Pocono Raceway was his first in 42 career ARCA starts, ending a streak shorter than the one Kimmel had just snapped but still long enough for a driver with no prior trips to Victory Lane in ARCA.
Hackenbracht put his trust into crew chief Kevin Reed, who made the decision to have his driver pit just eight laps in the 50-lap event, under the race's only caution flag.
"You've got to have a lot of trust in your crew and your crew chief and Kevin Reed definitely made the right call," Hackenbracht said. "It's such a short race where we knew that if we pitted early we could make it on fuel if we saved a little bit. It was the toughest thing there at the end. (Reed) said, 'We think, but just make sure you save more fuel, so I was letting off all the way. It's 100 car lengths before I would have if I was running all out.
"It's one of those things you have to do. You have to trust them like that and hope the strategy is right, and indeed it was. A lot of people say (I) won by strategy but it's not like we weren't knocking on the door for the past year and a half. We finally got the monkey off of our back."
Knocking on the door, as Hackenbracht said, is an accurate phrase. He had finished as the runner-up to Brennan Poole (No. 25 Cometic Gasket/Midas Toyota) - Saturday's second-place finisher - at Pocono in June, and also finished second at Mobile and third at Talladega early in the season. Last June, Hackenbracht held a sizable lead at Chicagoland Speedway before cutting a tire late in the race and just missing his first win.
Other drivers with similar start counts in the ARCA Racing Series who continue to search for their first win are Grant Enfinger (No. 09 Casite/Roush Yates Performance Products Ford), who also made his 42nd start Saturday, and Will Kimmel (No. 68 Knuth Machine Tools Ford), who made his 39th.
Feast or Famine: After finishing 14th in the season opener at Daytona, there's been nearly no middle ground for Chad Hackenbracht. In 13 races, he has not finished between 11th and 20th. If it hasn't been one of his nine top-10s - tied for fourth-most in the series - he has finished 21st (Salem and Michigan), 25th (Lucas Oil), or 26th (New Jersey).
Chevrolet Extends Manufacturer Advantage: Chad Hackenbracht's win was the fifth in the ARCA Racing Series for Chevrolet this season, but the first since Brennan Poole's win at Elko Speedway on June 2. Chevrolet leads Dodge, 5-4, while Toyota (three) and Ford (two) are the next to fall in line.
The difference is more pronounced in the pursuit of the year-end Manufacturer Award. Chevrolet leads with 91 points, and the other three manufacturers are tightly bunched. Poole's runner-up finish helped Toyota move into second with 75 points, one point ahead of Dodge and seven points in front of Ford.
Hackenbracht Sets Race Records: In 55 races for the ARCA Racing Series at Pocono Raceway, no race has finished with a faster average speed than Saturday's. Hackenbracht finished with an average rate of 144.046 mph, topping Mike Wallace's previous mark of 142.668 mph from June 10, 1995.
The race was the fastest by average speed in 45 races. The June 11, 2010 race at Michigan International Speedway finished at an average rate of 146.61 mph.
The race finished in 52 minutes and four seconds, so likewise, no race has finished in less time in nearly 11 full seasons. The October 2, 2001 race at Charlotte Motor Speedway ended after just 45 minutes and 55 seconds.
Hackenbracht's 13.453-second margin of victory was by far the largest in the ARCA Racing Series this season. The last margin of victory to top that was Justin Marks' 44.559-second win over Robb Brent at Palm Beach International Raceway on February 27, 2010.
Single-Caution Event a Rarity: Only one caution for six laps slowed the field Saturday at Pocono. No race in the series has had only a single caution since June 1, 1996, when Dave Weltmeyer won at Flat Rock Speedway. Saturday's Pennsylvania ARCA 125 was the 345th race since that event on the Michigan quarter-mile.
Poole Takes Rookie Award, Standings Lead: Brennan Poole's second-place finish helped him earn 30 points for Saturday's race in the Team Messina Rookie Challenge. That race award win was his third straight and his fifth of the season. Poole leads Alex Bowman (No. 22 St. Jude Children's Research Hospital Dodge), 364-342, but Bowman has six race award wins to Poole's five.
More importantly, Poole grabbed the lead in the overall series standings - and a series championship would preclude him from taking the rookie honors anyway. Poole led 30 of 50 laps to win the Aaron's Lap Leader Award for the race and earn two five-point bonuses (for leading and leading the most laps).
He finished three spots ahead of former points leader Chris Buescher (No. 17 Reliance Tool/BeavEx Ford), gaining 15 points there. That's not to mention Poole's Menards Pole Award presented by Ansell Friday. By qualifying first to Buescher's third, he gained 10 points then.
Poole has not won since June 9, but does have three runner-up finishes in his last six races. In the end Saturday, Poole went from a 20-point deficit at the start of the weekend to a 15-point lead exiting Pocono Raceway, 3325-3310.
"We couldn't take a chance on pitting that early and not being able to run all 50 laps," Poole said. "Chad was in a position where he was able to take that risk. We're in this points battle and we left here as the points leader so it's a valuable day. We just had to take it one lap at a time and run all 50. Unfortunately, we didn't have a caution there at the end and Chad's strategy worked out for him. I wasn't sure if you could make it all the way but that's how it goes sometimes. I'm proud of my guys that worked so hard."
Third through Tenth Positions Stay the Same: Frank Kimmel (No. 44 Ansell/Menards Toyota) finished fourth in the Pennsylvania ARCA 125 - his fourth consecutive top-five - to remain third in points, 80 points behind Brennan Poole.
"We ran as fast as we did all day the last few laps, and the car started to come around," Kimmel said. "We learned more this weekend and should be able to apply what we learned to this race car for the future. It's always nice to have solid top-five runs and stay in the thick of the points battle."
Bowman's third-place finish kept him fourth in the series standings.
"It's definitely frustrating after as good as we were Friday in practice," Bowman said. "Everybody at Cunningham Motorsports did a great job. We just came up a little bit short. We were really strong at the beginning of the race and got into the top three really soon, ran down the 25 (Poole) and passed him, and then backed up. We just got beat by the 58 (Hackenbracht) on strategy, I think. The 25 and I were definitely the fastest race cars on the track. They played strategy a little better than we did."
Hackenbracht remained in fifth place, meaning that the top five drivers in the series standings filled the top five positions on the race track at the checkered flag.
The sixth through 10th positions in the unofficial series standings also went unchanged: Matt Lofton (No. 16 Strutmasters.com Chevrolet) leads Tom Hessert (did not race at Pocono), Ryan Reed (No. 15 JDRF Ford), Spencer Gallagher (No. 23 Allegiant Air Chevrolet), and Nelson Canache (No. 66 Venezuela Tourism Toyota).
The 250-point bonuses for completing the third five-race leg of the season will kick in after Saturday's event at Berlin Raceway. Hessert will not earn the bonus after missing the Lucas Oil Raceway event, which will drop him several positions. Reed's usual No. 15 car is currently marked for Canache, which means Reed would also miss the bonus.
The full and official ARCA Racing Series standings will be released Tuesday.
Buescher Keeps Top-Five Lead: Chris Buescher's fifth-place finish Saturday was his series-leading eighth top-five of 2012.
Martel Wins CGS Hard Charger Award: Pennsylvanian Kyle Martel, making his first ARCA Racing Series start of 2012 and driving a special No. 43 The Breast Cancer Coalition Chevrolet for breast cancer awareness, started 24th but finished 11th. His 13-position gain was better than any other driver in the field, giving him the CGS Imaging Hard Charger Award for the race.
Martel's finish was one slot short of his career high, a 10th-place run at Pocono in 2009.
Career Highs for Gregory and Pompa: Aleks Gregory (No. 61 The Mosquito Patch Chevrolet) finished 14th in his first race for Coulter Motorsports, his best result in five career races.
"I'm really happy," Gregory said in a team press release. "To get this finish at Pocono, it just couldn't be any better. The car and the team were great today. Pocono is so tricky because you are going to be good in two corners and a little bit off in the third corner. I feel like we kind of sacrificed Turn 1 a little bit but the car was great in Turns 2 and 3. It just kept getting better and better as the race went on. The name of the game today was survival and finishing the race; we accomplished that mission. I'm going to remember this finish for a long time."
Ed Pompa's 17th-place run was his best in 12 ARCA starts. He drove the No. 10 Chevrolet with sponsorship from the Milwaukee Crusher Company and other businesses in support of the Double H Ranch, a New York camp for ill children.
Berlin Next on the Schedule: Michigan's Berlin Raceway will be the host for the next race on the ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards schedule in just five days. The Berlin ARCA 200 presented by Hantz Group will start at 8:30 p.m. on Saturday, August 11, with live timing and scoring and live audio coverage available at ARCARacing.com.
Points leader Brennan Poole did not race at Berlin last season, but attended the race with Venturini Motorsports.
"Berlin, last year I was able to go and watch and hang out with everybody so I was able to learn a lot of things," he said. "I'm excited about going to Berlin this week."
Like Poole, Alex Bowman has no prior Berlin experience but does have an outlook for the 0.375-mile track with no backstretch wall.
"I haven't ever been there before but it sounds like it's a big circle," he said. "It's, quite honestly, the type of race track we've struggled on all year, so I'm a little nervous. Hopefully, we'll get our flat track program together a little bit. We were good at (Lucas Oil Raceway), but that's a whole different deal. We'll just have to see; it's been kind of hit-and-miss for us on that type of race track."
Practice for the 200-lap race will take place Saturday afternoon from 2-2:45 and 3:15-4, with Menards Pole Qualifying presented by Ansell following at 5 p.m. ARCA Racing Series drivers will participate in an autograph session - open to all fans - at 6:15. The race will be the 15th of 20 this season.
2012 is the ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards' 60th Anniversary Season, featuring 20 races at 18 tracks. The complete 2012 event schedule is available at ARCARacing.com.
The ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards has crowned an ARCA national champion each year since its inaugural season in 1953, and has toured over 200 race tracks in 26 states since its inception. The series has tested the abilities of drivers and race teams over the most diverse schedule of stock car racing events in the world, visiting tracks ranging from 0.375 mile to 2.66 miles in length, on both paved and dirt surfaces as well as a left- and right-turn road course in its most recent season. This year, the series visited Alabama's Mobile International Speedway and Minnesota's Elko Speedway for the first time.
Founded by John and Mildred 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 three professional touring series and local weekly events.