Andrew Ranger's debut in the ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards was not a typical first race for a new driver in the series, but then again, Ranger is not simply a typical driver.
The road racing ace with two championships in the NASCAR Canadian Tire Series added an ARCA win to his résumé, pulling off a daring pass of Australian George Miedecke - also in his ARCA debut - on the final turn before the white flag. Ranger (No. 53 Waste Management/RRT Dodge) held on to the advantage over the last of 67 laps around New Jersey Motorsports Park's 2.25-mile Thunderbolt Raceway, winning the ModSpace 150 by 2.059 seconds.
Ranger had won the Menards Pole Award presented by Ansell Saturday, but after changing his engine following his qualifying lap, he was forced to drop to the rear of the field on the pace laps and start in the 31st of 35 positions when the green flag dropped.
"It's unbelievable," said Ranger, a 24-year-old from Broxton Pond, Quebec. "I credit my team. We blew that engine last night after qualifying, and they prepared me this morning and gave me a perfect car. It's amazing. We worked smart, and had good pit stops and great strategy, and when we came side-by-side with the leader it was something unbelievable."
Miedecke (No. 25 iSeek Communications/Venturini Motorsports Toyota) had led nine consecutive laps after passing Tim George Jr. (No. 31 Richard Childress Racing Development Chevrolet) for first place at the start of Lap 57. With Ranger in second and George in third after the race's final restart to begin Lap 61, Miedecke maintained an advantage of about a quarter-second as the final laps ticked away.
Ranger caught up to Miedecke, though, as Lap 66 wound down, and under the bridge over the final turn, the two encountered Sean Corr, at the time the 16th and final car on the lead lap.
"I tried to put a lot of pressure on (Miedecke), and (Corr's) car came," said Ranger, who led eight laps. "He tried to pass him on the outside and I put my nose on the inside, and we came out of the corner side-by-side. We hit a little bit, and I came sideways, but got to the front. It's amazing. It's the first time I appreciate a lapped car like that. I'm really happy."
The 24-year-old Miedecke, of Port Macquarie, New South Wales, had led 40 laps to that point after assuming the de facto first starting position when Ranger dropped to the tail, but was not able to catch Ranger's lead over the final turns.
"I hate when it comes down to lapped traffic," said Miedecke. "Ranger was obviously faster than us, but I thought my crew was doing a good job of just being strong and looking after where we were. That was good, but it just comes down to a guy getting in the way. It looked like he was letting me through. I drove up beside him, and that put me on the outside in that slow corner coming back to the straight. He just stayed there. He sat on my door and let Andrew get up beside me. After that, it was all over.
"I still think Andrew would have had a real go at it there at the end, but I don't like to have a good, clean battle like that destroyed by someone who was down."
Chad McCumbee (No. 1 ModSpace Ford) started fifth and moved into second on the first lap. He ran in the top five all day - as one of the top ARCA Racing Series regulars - and finished third after passing George for a podium position on the final lap of the event sponsored by his car sponsor. The result was McCumbee's third consecutive top-10 finish and his first top-five in his second stint with Andy Belmont Racing, which dates back to last April.
"That's what you've got to do," McCumbee said. "When it's time to step up, you've got to step up. I'm just pumped because it's a road course, and we got our first podium for the length of time we've been with Andy Belmont Racing. The guys are doing a great job and we're getting fast cars every week, but this is different.
"It's more on me this week to make sure I was prepared, and to be in the top five is so special. I'm not a road racer so this was a challenge for me. Everybody was able to step up and we got this finish. I've got to thank ModSpace for helping out on this event. It's great to have a partner that is that involved in racing and involved in seeing you succeed."
Ranger's climb to the finish was not his first of the day. After starting at the back of the field, Ranger - who was more than a half-second better than any other driver in qualifying - moved to 13th in two laps. Four laps later, he was 11th, just over 14 seconds behind Miedecke.
Miedecke and the other leaders started to encounter traffic by Lap 10, and the Australian handled it better than most, opening his lead over McCumbee to more than six seconds. Miedecke's only true chance at trouble had come several laps earlier, when he and Tom Hessert (No. 52 Federated Auto Parts Chevrolet) split the No. 10 car of Robin Bonanno near the start/finish line, giving a temporary advantage to Hessert, a New Jersey native.
McCumbee closed the gap to three seconds by Lap 14, but was passed for second three laps later by Chris Buescher (No. 17 Roulo Brothers Racing Ford). The battle between McCumbee and Buescher gave Miedecke a chance to run away, and he extended his lead back to five seconds. Meanwhile, Ranger was lurking.
Ranger moved to fourth on Lap 19, and soon after, the race's first caution flag flew to clear oil left on the track. Neither Miedecke nor McCumbee pitted, and Miedecke maintained the race lead. The green flag flew over Lap 25, and Miedecke again built a sizable lead.
Ranger, who had entered the pits fourth and left seventh, moved back into position within five laps, passing Jason Holehouse and George for fourth on Laps 29 and 30.
McCumbee pitted on Lap 31 and Miedecke opted for service on the next lap, and it was at that time that Ranger passed Buescher for position and, ultimately, the lead. Ranger led at the halfway point, pulling Buescher, George, Hessert, and Frank Kimmel (No. 44 Ansell/Menards Ford) in his wake. Miedecke and McCumbee, the former leaders, drove 12th and 13th.
Bob Schacht's No. 75 car lost power in the "Jersey Devil" section on Lap 36, bringing out the race's second caution flag. This time, Buescher and George stayed out while Ranger pitted and fell back to 12th. With 15 cars on the lead lap through 35 laps, ARCA regulars Buescher, George, and Matt Merrell (No. 32 Champion Brands Dodge) filled out the top three, while Miedecke had fought his way back to fourth and McCumbee to fifth.
The race went green again on Lap 40, and Buescher drove away. In the nine laps Ranger needed to move back to the top five, Buescher had opened a lead of 3.776 seconds over George. Ranger then passed McCumbee for fourth in the first turn on Lap 52, but Buescher still appeared to be running away and in total control of the race.
It was not to be for Buescher, who made contact with Bonanno on Lap 54 and suffered a flat left front tire. Forced to pit for repairs, Buescher lost the lead to George. George had led 19 of 67 laps at New Jersey last season before being spun out of the way by eventual winner Casey Roderick, and appeared to have a second chance at the victory that had eluded him.
Miedecke and Ranger didn't need much time to catch George, as both passed him on Lap 57; Miedecke took the lead and Ranger took second. A caution flag for debris then flew, setting up the final restart and showdown for the ModSpace 150 win.
Miedecke and Ranger drove away from the field as racing restarted on Lap 61, and the two fought over the next six laps before the encounter that gave Ranger the advantage and his first ARCA win.
George finished fourth, and Hessert was fifth. Kimmel finished sixth, and Josh Williams pulled off his second top-10 result in ARCA, finishing seventh.
ARCA Racing Series points leader Ty Dillon came home eighth in his road course debut. Chad Hackenbracht finished ninth, a career high, and Grant Enfinger was 10th.
Bryan Silas, Tim Cowen, Holehouse, Merrell, and Buescher completed the top 15.
The three cautions slowed the race for just 11 laps, and the race finished in one hour, 52 minutes, and 27 seconds. Ranger's winning average speed was 80.433 mph, and four drivers led laps.
The ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards returns to action Saturday, June 4 in the Messina Wildlife Animal Stopper 150 at Chicagoland Speedway. The event is scheduled as the sixth of 19 on the 2011 ARCA Racing Series schedule.
2011 ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards Event #5 New Jersey Motorsports Park, Millville NJ, 5-22-11 Unofficial Race Report, ModSpace 150 May 22, 2011 / 3:04 PM FINSTRNODRIVER/HOMETOWNLAPS STATUS 1153Andrew Ranger/Roxton Pond Quebec67Running 2325George Miedecke/Port Macquarie Australia67Running 351Chad McCumbee/Supply NC67Running 4631Tim George Jr./New York NY67Running 5252Tom Hessert/Cherry Hill NJ67Running 6744Frank Kimmel/Clarksville IN67Running 71414Josh Williams/Port Charlotte FL67Running 8841Ty Dillon/Lewisville NC67Running 91958Chad Hackenbracht/New Philadelphia OH67Running 101536Grant Enfinger/Fairhope AL67Running 111611Bryan Silas/Stuart FL67Running 121385Tim Cowen/Perrysville OH67Running 13964Jason Holehouse/Ossining NY67Running 141132Matt Merrell/Portland TX67Running 15417Chris Buescher/Prosper TX67Running 162282Sean Corr/Goshen NY66Running 171723Nick Igdalsky/Long Pond PA66Running 181850Steve Minghenelli/Sewell NJ65Running 191055Alastair Jackson/Antrim Ireland63Running 202328Dr. Ed Bull/Chapin SC63Running 212112Maryeve Dufault/Sorel Quebec63Running 222763Milka Duno/Caracas Venezuela62Running 23265Willie Mullins/Fredricksburg VA62Running 243010Robin Bonanno/Nutley NJ60Running 253475Bob Schacht/Mooresville NC35Transmission 262834Darrell Basham/Henryville IN22Transmission 271222Jeff Buice/Charlotte NC13Overheating 282515Guy Lamon/Tabernacle NJ8Transmission 292477Frank Kimmel II/Jeffersonville IN7Brakes 303148James Hylton/Inman SC7Handling 312068Will Kimmel/Sellersburg IN5Brakes 323306Wayne Peterson/Pulaski TN4Handling 333226Brad Smith/Shelby Township MI3Handling 343535Joe Volpe/Vineland NJ2Transmission 35297Levi Youster/Oak Harbor OH0Battery
MENARDS POLE AWARD PRESENTED BY ANSELL: Andrew Ranger 81.549 (99.327 mph)
MRGN OF VICTORY: 2.059 seconds TIME OF RACE: 1:52:27
LAP LEADERS: Miedecke 1-31, 57-65 (40); Ranger 32-37, 66-67 (8); Buescher 38-53 (16); George 54-56 (3)