Sunday, June 17, 2012
VanDoorn Fights off Rebecca Kasten in a Thrilling Finish for the Win at Springport
by Glenn Luckett
SPRINGPORT, Mich. -- It had been almost nine months since two-time ARCA/CRA Super Series Champion; Johnny VanDoorn had found victory lane in the Salem, Indiana based series. The Coopersville, Michigan drivers’ last visit to the “promised land” came back on September 5th, 2011 at the legendary high-banks of Winchester Speedway in Winchester, Indiana.
Fast Forward to the ARCA/CRA Super Series first ever appearance at the fast 3/8s (0.375) mile high-banked paved oval of Springport Motor Speedway, located northwest of Jackson and south of Lansing in Springport, Michigan for the running of the Central Michigan Ford-Kenworth 125 featuring NASCAR Sprint Cup Series veteran, Kenny Schrader. VanDoorn, the points leader going into the event was looking for that coveted first win of 2012.
It finally came for the 24-year-old but not without challenges and some late race dramatics as he fought a very loose racecar and a hard-charging rookie in Rebecca Kasten as the two drivers swapped the lead numerous times over the last 10 laps before VanDoorn used a lapped car as a pick to drive back by Kasten and hold her off to score the popular win in front of a large crowd in Southern Michigan.
“We had a wicked loose racecar those last 30 or so laps and I knew Becca was back there and man that was a fight for sure.” Stated the exhausted VanDoorn in victory lane as he reflected on his win. “She gave everything she had, she was going for her first one ever in the series and I was going for my first one in awhile. I saw the lapped car with a couple to go and decided that was my move and it worked.” He explained.
19-year-old Boyne Machine Rookie of the Year title contender, Brett Robinson and Nick Gullatta would bring the 23-car field down to Chief Starter Scott Menlen’s green flag for the series’ first ever race at Springport Motor Speedway, and with the crowd still on their feet from the vocal wave lap and music playing over the public address system. It would be Gullatta leading the field into the first corner, but Robinson hung tough on the inside and the two front row starters remained side by side.
Gullatta finally jumped into the lead for himself early on in the event before Robinson regrouped and on lap 10, the CRA Late Model Sportsman Series graduate worked his way back around Gullatta to lead his first ever laps in ARCA/CRA Super Series competition in his freshman season. Johnny VanDoorn, who started fifth, was working the outside lane to his advantage and so was another Boyne Machine Rookie contender, Rebecca Kasten.
Kasten slipped by VanDoorn and was challenging Robinson for lead when VanDoorn made a daring move to the inside of both Kasten and then Robinson to take the lead for himself on lap 25. Kasten slid down the track into the inside lane and followed VanDoorn by Robinson to reclaim second place for herself and together, both VanDoorn and Kasten pulled away from the rest of the pack.
The final caution, only the third of the night, flew on lap 37 when Brent Jack and Gullatta made contact coming out of turn four and heading down the front stretch. In what would be the final restart of the night, VanDoorn elected to choose the outside lane in the double file restarts forcing Kasten to the bottom groove and it would be VanDoorn pulling away from her and the rest of the pack on that restart.
Kasten would follow VanDoorn’s tire tracks all over the Springport, Michigan speed plant and then with nine laps to go made the move to the outside to take the lead to the roar of the crowd on hand. VanDoorn fought back though and reclaimed the lead just three laps later. Kasten hung tough though as the two drivers battled side by side rubbing fenders several time with Kasten briefly retaking the lead with four to go.
VanDoorn saw an opportunity on the next lap with heavy traffic approaching and used the last car on the lead lap as a pick to pin Kasten behind it, and reclaim the lead one last time. From there, VanDoorn’s #61 Michigan Kenworth / Chevrolet would fight off one last late charge from Kasten and would cross the start/finish line first to bring home the win!
“Becca was fast no doubt about it, but I saw a chance to possibly get back in front of her and I took it,” VanDoorn explained in victory lane. “I’m sure she would’ve done the same thing if she were in my place. But we’ll definitely take this win. It was a good points day for sure and I can’t say enough about this entire team. They gave me a good race car and I’m just so happy for everyone that we’re back here in victory lane.” He ended. With the win, VanDoorn extends his already healthy points lead heading into the Rowdy 251 at Berlin Raceway, a non-points race, and the Winchester 100 at Winchester Speedway on Saturday, June 23rd.
As Kasten climbed from her #51 Rowdy 251 at Berlin Raceway / Chevrolet, the big crowd on hand gave her a standing ovation for her efforts. “The fastest car didn’t win today. Drove a dream race tonight, but still came in second.” The Mequon, Wisconsin driver said. “Congrats to Johnny, he won the race with a car that wasn't the best. Thought I finally had one in the bag. A big Thanks to everyone on the crew for all the help and support. We’ll win one of these here real soon.” She ended. As the highest finishing rookie in the race, Kasten would also collect the Boyne Machine Rookie of the Race as well as the VDL Fuel Systems, K&N Filters, & Crane Cams freshman awards as well.
Lost in the battle between the top two was the career high finish for another 2012 Rookie title contender as Ames, Iowa freshman Nate Caruth was also standing on the podium in third after starting 18th in his #76 Brella Sports Group / Ford. “I wish I was up there battling with those two, but we’ll definitely take this. It really means something to be one of three rookies in this series finishing in the top four” The 18-year-old Hawkeye State driver stated. “Really need to thank everyone at Lorz Motorsports for this opportunity, really means a lot.” He added. For his efforts, Caruth also earned the Lane Automotive/ISKY Racing Cams & Racing Electronics Hard-Charger Awards.
A third Rookie, 18-year-old Travis Braden finished fourth while Kenzie Ruston fought her way up from 13th to finish in the top five in fifth. Tommy Cook started 21st and finished sixth while 16-year-old Erik Jones, who earlier in the afternoon won the EDCO Welding Fast Qualifier Award was seventh after running in the top five for most of the evening. Robinson finished a career high ninth and 1997 ARCA/CRA Super Series Champion Kenny Tweedy finished off the top 10.
Earlier in the afternoon in EDCO Welding Qualifying, Jones established the ARCA/CRA Super Series Track Record in Springport, Michigan as the reigning 2011 JEGS/CRA All-Stars Tour Presented by GM performance Parts turned in a 14.957 around the 3/8s mile which measures out to 90.259mph. He then drew a seven for an inversion to place Robinson and Gullatta on the front row for the Central Michigan Ford-Kenworth 125.
One of the biggest races of the season for the ARCA/CRA Super Series will be happening at Berlin Raceway, located west of Grand Rapids in Marne, Michigan on a special Tuesday, June 19th as the Rowdy 251 featuring NASCAR Sprint Cup Series star, Kyle Busch as well as world-wide star, Travis Pastrana and future superstars Chase Elliott, Ross Kenseth, and Erik Jones will do battle against the top Berlin stars such as Brian Campbell, Johnny VanDoorn, Tom Thomas, Terry VanHaitsma and more.
Then just four days later, the ARCA/CRA Super Series will complete the marathon three races in eight days slate with the Winchester 100 at the famed ½ (0.500) mile high-banked paved oval of Winchester Speedway in Winchester, Indiana. Joining then will be the premier series within ARCA, the ARCA Racing Series Presented by Menards who will Qualify on June 23rd before racing in the Herr’s Chase the Taste 200 on Sunday Afternoon, June 24th.
For more information, go to the next two events’ tracks websites at: www.springportmotorspeedway.com and www.berlinraceway.com For more information about the ARCA/CRA Super Series, click on the link provided: www.craracing.net