After zero wins in the first 15 races of the 2011 ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards season, Chris Buescher has doubled his career victory total in just the last 13 days.
Buescher (No. 17 Jasper Engines & Transmissions/Reliance Tool/David Ragan Ford Ford) led 104 of 200 laps, including the last 37, to win the Kentuckiana Ford Dealers ARCA Fall Classic presented by Federated Car Care at Salem Speedway. The victory was the fourth in Buescher's career, and his second straight in ARCA Racing Series competition. He also drove to victory on September 5 in DuQuoin, Ill.
Currently second in points, the Roulo Brothers Racing driver is just the second person with multiple ARCA victories this season, following points leader Ty Dillon's seven in the first 17 races.
"It's such a great feeling here at Salem," Buescher said. "We've had good runs here and suffered here, but it's just amazing for all these fans. This turned out absolutely incredible and it always is. I hope we put on a show for everybody and I hope they enjoyed it.
"Thanks to all these guys, the Roulo Brothers, and Jasper for coming on board here with David Ragan and Roush. There are so many people that have helped us get to this point. Two in a row: that's a first for me in this series. It's a ball."
Buescher had also won twice at Toledo Speedway in his career, but the Salem win was meaningful to him, as it came at the track where he made his first ARCA Racing Series start in 2009. Buescher then started ninth and finished fourth at the high-banked, 0.555-mile oval.
"This is where I made my first start, and now I finally get back and get a win here," he said.
Will Kimmel of Sellersburg, Ind. finished a career-high second after leading 79 laps at his home track. Kimmel (No. 68 Clarksville Schwinn & Cyclery/Jones Group International Ford) ended the night just ahead of Tim George Jr. (No. 31 Applebee's/Potomac Family Dining Group Chevrolet).
Clint King (No. 25 Warehouse Design Inc. Chevrolet) started the race as the man to beat, having driven his Venturini Motorsports entry to the Menards Pole Award presented by Ansell for the second time in his two starts. The 16-year-old also started first before finishing third in his series debut in Oregon, Wis. on August 26, his birthday.
Right after the green flag, though, Buescher served notice that his performance in leading practice was something he could repeat in race conditions. He charged ahead of King at the start, moving out to a 0.462-second lead after one lap. Chad Hackenbracht (No. 58 Tastee Apple Chevrolet) did the same from the fourth starting position, advancing to third over King's Venturini Motorsports teammate, Max Gresham (No. 55 Live Oak Plantation/World Crown 300 Chevrolet).
The lead pack began to encounter traffic just four laps into the race, but all escaped and drove by without harm. On Lap 7, though, Hackenbracht made slight contact with King driving off of the second turn, cutting King's left rear tire and sending him into a spin in Turn 3. Saddled with heavy damage, the pole winner's night was over before it began.
Hackenbracht moved into second, followed by Gresham, Tom Hessert (No. 52 Federated Auto Parts Chevrolet), and Grant Enfinger (No. 36 Hoosier Tire Midwest/RaceTires.com Dodge). The green flag flew again at Lap 12, and Buescher coasted again. He led by 0.813 second at Lap 18, and then moved inside a lapped car while the three drivers behind him got bunched up the next time around. The increased traffic in his wake added 0.3 second to his margin, and he continued to maintain a lead of more than a second through the first 25 laps.
Meanwhile, Dillon experienced an uncharacteristic night in traffic. After qualifying 14th, the points leader moved to 10th by Lap 20, but still faced a deficit of over four seconds to Buescher's lead.
Back at the front, Hackenbracht gained on Buescher over Laps 28 and 29, but Buescher moved back to his previous margin by Lap 32. The top five next encountered a pack including Milka Duno, Brett Hudson, and Matt DiBenedetto, passing them all by Lap 40. The lapped trio separated the top five from the sixth through 10th cars, creating a sizable gap between identical five-car packs.
Gresham, though, suffered a cut tire in the second turn on Lap 42; he was forced to drive to pit road. The top four continued on, with Buescher still leading the way by just under a second.
Buescher led Hackenbracht, Hessert, Enfinger, and Chad McCumbee (No. 1 ModSpace Ford) at Lap 50, having held a tight grasp on the point for the full first quarter of the race. Will Kimmel made his way to the top five the lap after that, though, passing McCumbee for position. Soon after, Jared Marks (No. 12 Dodge Motorsports/Mad Croc Dodge) drove by McCumbee for sixth.
Behind them, Dillon had improved to ninth, but faced heavy challenges from a father and son duo: Frank Kimmel (No. 44 Ansell/Menards Ford) and Frank Kimmel II (No. 77 Mars Trucking/Jim French Builder Ford). The Kimmels weren't the only ones chasing Dillon, though.
As Buescher passed Darrell Basham's lapped car to start Lap 65, he had Dillon in his sight and was ready to put the points leader one lap down. Just then, though, Hackenbracht cut a tire from second place to bring out a caution flag. Hessert followed Hackenbracht to pit road; suddenly, Buescher's two main pursuers were out of the mix and the back of the lead lap bunched up to the front.
Frank Kimmel II stayed out when the leaders pitted to close Lap 67, taking the Lap 68 lead over cousin Will Kimmel, who had won the race off of pit road. Enfinger, Buescher, and George filled out the top five.
The green flag flew at Lap 71, with Will Kimmel passing his cousin immediately. Will Kimmel began to show just how valuable his Salem Speedway experience had been, driving away from Frank II as Enfinger and Buescher followed him in the top three. Those three ran tightly as the green flag run wore on, slightly dropping George and McCumbee off the pace.
The middle of the race belonged to Will Kimmel. He led through a caution brought about by a multi-car incident at Lap 87, and stayed up front through Lap 100, the race's halfway point. Meanwhile, Frank Kimmel had advanced to third, trailing Buescher. Will Kimmel was the first to lap Dillon by Lap 111, and Buescher and Frank Kimmel followed him the next time around. Max Gresham's lapped car separated Will Kimmel from Buescher and his uncle, staking him out to a 1.47-second lead at Lap 115. Frank Kimmel passed Buescher for second on Lap 119, and that competition helped Will Kimmel; his lead increased to 2.112 seconds on that lap.
Will Kimmel lapped Dillon again on Lap 125, with his uncle following closely behind. The green flag run continued. From a 2.486-second advantage at Lap 131, Will Kimmel increased his lead over his uncle to 2.983 seconds in three laps.
Racing in the family's home state, the third Kimmel rushed to join the family fun at the front. Frank Kimmel II passed into third at Lap 138, and began a run in which the top of the scoreboard read Kimmel-Kimmel-Kimmel. Will Kimmel's lead extended to 4.53 seconds in that span, but George broke the string by passing Frank II for third on Lap 147 - just as Levi Youster spun to bring out another caution flag.
Will Kimmel led the lead lap drivers - by this time, just the other Kimmels, George, Buescher, and Hackenbracht - to pit road to close Lap 150, and Frankie Kimmel used a two-tire stop to take the first spot at the pit exit along the backstretch. George, Will Kimmel, Frank Kimmel, Buescher, and Hackenbracht followed in that order.
Frank Kimmel II got away clean at the Lap 154 green flag, using Hessert's lapped car as a pick between him and the other five contenders. Buescher passed for third quickly and aimed to the outside to take second from George on Lap 160, but could not complete that pass. His battle with George allowed Will Kimmel to catch up even as Hackenbracht and Frank Kimmel had fallen from the lead pack, creating a tight four-car line separated by only a half-second.
Buescher passed George for second on Lap 163, all while moving to within 0.081 second of Frank Kimmel II's lead. Buescher made the last pass he would need on Lap 164, proving that his car had been the one to beat all along. One lap later, his lead was more than one second; he doubled that advantage in just two more trips around the 0.555-mile bullring.
Several cautions slowed the final quarter of the race, as Hackenbracht dropped fluid on the track and George made contact with Kimmel II. Buescher weathered every caution period and every restart, setting himself up for a clean run ahead of Will Kimmel, George, Marks, Frank Kimmel, and DiBenedetto on the final green flag at Lap 194.
Buescher led by 0.625 second at Lap 195, 0.841 seconds with two laps to go, and finished 1.186 seconds ahead of Will Kimmel to drive to victory for the second straight race.
George finished third, despite front end damage from his late contact with Frank Kimmel II.
Marks, of Napoleon, Ohio, scored a career high by driving home fourth, and nine-time Salem winner Frank Kimmel ended the evening in fifth place.
DiBenedetto, Frank Kimmel II, Dillon, McCumbee, and Gresham filled out the top 10. Dillon had been three laps down, but earned the Aaron's Lucky Dog late in the race to finish just two laps off the pace while running speeds similar to the leaders. He maintained his points lead over Buescher with two races to go.
McCumbee's top-10 finish gave him the Bill France Four Crown Award, an honor bestowed upon the driver who compiles the best average finish on four selected tracks of different categories throughout the season. The 2011 Four Crown tracks were New Jersey Motorsports Park (road course), Michigan International Speedway, the Illinois State Fairgrounds (dirt oval), and Salem (short track). McCumbee finished third, eighth, first, and ninth in those events, respectively.
Six caution flags slowed the race for 39 laps. The event finished in one hour, 30 minutes, and three seconds, at an average speed of 73.951 mph.
Kansas Speedway is the next stop for the ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards, as the October 7 Kansas Lottery 98.9 will decide the winner of the Hoosier Tire Superspeedway Challenge. Ty Dillon and Chris Buescher are currently tied for the lead in the competition which scores drivers by performance in seven races on six speedways - Daytona, Talladega, Chicagoland, Pocono, Michigan, Pocono, and Kansas - throughout 2011. Eventual series champion Patrick Sheltra won the Challenge last season.
Practice on Kansas Speedway's 1.5-mile oval will begin at 9 a.m. Central (10 Eastern) on October 7; the session will last for two hours and 15 minutes. Menards Pole Qualifying presented by Ansell will start at 5:35 p.m. Central, and the race will begin at 7:30 p.m. Central. SPEED will air live television coverage of the race, and ARCARacing.com will carry live timing and scoring coverage of the day's entire schedule.
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.