On just three occasions this season, the ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards will make an in-season return visit to a track, allowing drivers and teams to apply notes and previous experience toward a second effort. Saturday's Pennsylvania ARCA 125 at Pocono Raceway is the first such race in 2011.
The 50-lap, 125-mile race will air live on SPEED at 3 p.m. Saturday, and will be ARCA's 53rd race on the 2.5-mile triangle in Pocono's rolling hills. On the 19-race ARCA schedule, the Pennsylvania ARCA 125 is scheduled as the 13th, paving the way for the season's final third and the home stretch for championship position.
Compared to the typical 80-lap Pocono precursor in June, Saturday's race will seem like a shootout, with urgency at a high throughout the race and every tricky turn meaning so much more to drivers. Robb Brent won last season's 50-lap event in just under 58 minutes, achieving his first ARCA Racing Series victory with Allgaier Motorsports.
Brent, running only a part-time schedule in 2011, will be back to defend his title in his second race of the year for Eddie Sharp Racing. He finished 11th at Michigan in June.
"I've been waiting for this race for several months now and it's finally here," said Brent. "I love road course racing but this undoubtedly is one of my favorite oval tracks. I guess you can't really call it an oval, but it's one that is at the top of my list."
As Brent hints, Pocono is a track with characteristics of both ovals and road courses, pairing long straightaways with very tight turns that call many of a driver's skills to attention.
Tim George Jr., another past road course racer, matched Brent's feat in June, winning a fog-shortened, 59-lap race at Pocono for his first ARCA triumph. George (No. 31 Applebee's/Potomac Family Dining Group Chevrolet) drove to the outside to pass Grant Enfinger (No. 36 Hoosier Tires Midwest/RaceTires.com Dodge) on a Lap 57 restart, just before ARCA officials showed the red flag for heavy fog, which had been an issue throughout the race.
George has had the race circled - or marked with a triangle, perhaps - on his calendar as he searches for his second career victory.
"I'm looking forward to Pocono," he said. "It will be a good morale boost for the guys. We've had a few runs recently where we were very competitive but didn't get the result we should have. However, having the reminder of the Pocono win will be helpful, and we will work toward another win."
Since 1983, the ARCA Racing Series has made a custom of rolling onto the Long Pond track as a companion to the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, and this weekend's event will also feature the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, which opens Saturday's NASCAR/ARCA doubleheader before Sunday's Sprint Cup race.
Frank Kimmel (No. 44 Ansell/Menards Ford) will enter Pocono as the active wins leader, with three. Chad McCumbee (No. 1 ModSpace Ford) is another active past winner; he won in 2007.
Chris Buescher (No. 17 Reliance Tool/David Ragan Ford Ford) finished second to George in June, and Enfinger was third. Points leader Ty Dillon (No. 41 RCR/CIPT Chevrolet) ended June's race fourth.
In addition to SPEED's live broadcast of the race, ARCARacing.com will feature live timing and scoring coverage presented by ARCA Nation at ARCARacing.com.
Practice for ARCA Racing Series teams begins at 1:40 p.m. Friday, and will last for one hour and 20 minutes. Menards Pole Qualifying presented by Ansell takes place at 5:40 p.m., and both events will be highlighted by live timing and scoring coverage at ARCARacing.com.
The ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards features 19 events at 16 tracks on its 2011 schedule. The series has crowned an ARCA national champion each year since its inaugural season in 1953, and has toured over 200 race tracks in 28 states since its inception. The series tests the abilities of drivers and race teams over the most diverse schedule of stock car racing events in the world, annually visiting tracks ranging from 0.4 mile to 2.66 miles in length, on both paved and dirt surfaces as well as a left- and right-turn road course.
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.