Short track racing is known for close, exciting action and flaring tempers, and the Menards 200 presented by Federated Car Care gave Toledo Speedway fans some of both, as ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards rookie Ty Dillon spun nine-time series champion Frank Kimmel just over 10 laps from the checkered flag and drove to his second win of 2011.
With Kimmel (No. 44 Ansell/Menards Ford) leading on Lap 189 and appearing ready to win for the first time in 48 races - a stretch dating back to late 2008 - Dillon (No. 41 Hemelgarn Enterprises Chevrolet) moved Kimmel off of the white line around the bottom of the track and into a spin, assuming an advantage he would not relinquish.
Dillon fended off challenges by Grant Enfinger (No. 36 Acme Dismantling Dodge) and Matt Merrell (No. 32 Champion Brands Dodge) over the final two restarts to win by 0.291 second and drive to Victory Lane for the fourth time in seven career ARCA starts.
"It was an awesome day," Dillon said. "As soon as we unloaded, I felt like we had the fastest car for sure. We even cut short our practice, and I don't like to do that, but we knew we had the fastest car. Our pit crew did awesome. I went in fifth and came out second. We came in, tightened up, and she took off."
Dillon's celebration was not without controversy. Following an extended burnout, Dillon drove to Toledo Speedway's Sunny D Victory Lane with the checkered flag in hand - until parking the car and seeing a waiting Kimmel standing nearby. Kimmel took the flag from his hand and threw it to the ground, and opened Dillon's window net to speak to the driver who had taken away his chance at a win. After the race, Dillon understood Kimmel's anger.
"I was approaching behind him for a long time there, probably 40 or 50 laps," Dillon said. "I was being as patient as I can. We came up on some lapped cars, and he was starting to get loose; I was getting in deeper and deeper. My car was getting better and better.
"I hate that it happened that way. I wrecked him. It was my fault, but it's racing. Stuff like that happens. I really look up to Frank and he's helped me out a lot this year. Hopefully, we can get over this and everything will be alright."
Within a stone's throw of Victory Lane after the race, Kimmel was not pleased.
"I wasn't blocking or doing anything; I was just running my lap," Kimmel said. "He just hit me wherever he could and then he got me in the left rear corner and ran me around. It's just frustrating as heck. You race so hard, and you race clean, and we didn't have a scratch on the car all day.
"I just asked him, 'How can you celebrate a win like that?' It'll come back. It's a long season, and we have to race all year."
Kimmel finished ninth.
The race began under 20 laps of caution, following rain in the Toledo area. Inclement weather was a theme throughout the weekend, as Menards Pole Qualifying presented by Ansell was cancelled because of impending rain on Saturday. Milka Duno started first because she holds the points from Patrick Sheltra's championship effort in 2010.
Duno dropped back from the start, ceding the lead to Kimmel. When the green flag flew on Lap 21, 19-year-old Kenzie Ruston - making her first ARCA Racing Series start in the No. 25 MelMark Pipe & Supply Venturini Motorsports entry - shot past Kimmel and into the lead after just one lap.
Todd Bowsher, substituting in the No. 11 Ford for Bryan Silas, spun on Lap 26; by then, Dillon had advanced to 14th from his starting position of 23rd.
Eleven laps later, Ruston spun out of the lead in Turn 2, causing contact between Tom Hessert (No. 52 Federated Auto Parts Chevrolet) and Tim George Jr. (No. 31 Richard Childress Racing Development Chevrolet) behind her. Chris Buescher (No. 17 David Ragan Fan Club Ford) also found damage, with nearly his entire right side caved in.
Kimmel assumed the lead upon Ruston's spin, and continued to lead after another caution period and still at Lap 50, by which time Dillon had reached Dakoda Armstrong (No. 22 Cunningham Motorsports Dodge) for seventh.
Buescher and Maryeve Dufault (No. 12 VR-12/Dodge Motorsports Dodge) made contact on Lap 58, and Tim Cowen collided with Dufault, bringing out the race's fourth caution period. Ruston and NASCAR Camping World Truck Series points leader Matt Crafton (No. 88 Messina Wildlife Management/Menards Ford) decided to pit, a move that would pay off later in track position.
Merrell was anxious to pass Kimmel in the laps following the Lap 67 restart, but it was Enfinger who drove to the outside on two consecutive laps to pass Merrell and then Kimmel to take the lead on Lap 78. With Kimmel dropping to fourth, Dillon advanced past John Stancill (No. 55 Lauren Briant/Venturini Motorsports Toyota) - also in his ARCA debut - for fifth two laps later.
Two packs filled out the top 10, with the top seven running in a line separated by two seconds and the eighth, ninth, and 10th place cars of Buescher, Crafton, and Ruston keeping close approximately five seconds behind. Crafton passed Buescher for eighth, while Ruston lost some velocity and fell off the pack. Enfinger continued to lead, and held a 1.239-second advantage over Merrell at Lap 100, the race's halfway point.
Kimmel advanced back into third place by passing Merrell on the backstretch on Lap 109, but one lap later, Cowen spun to bring out another caution and set off a round of pit stops.
Enfinger and the other leaders pitted, allowing Crafton and Ruston - who had already pitted - to take first and second. Kimmel came out third and Dillon fourth.
Another yellow flag came out when Levi Youster spun on Lap 120, and Crafton led the restart at Lap 124. Only three laps later, Kimmel regained the lead at the start/finish line, edging past Crafton by 0.023 second. Dillon and Enfinger followed, sending Crafton into a deeper hole. The Truck Series veteran fell to seventh by Lap 130 and 11th one lap later, the victim of right front tire issues.
Crafton pitted on Lap 135 and came out as the first driver one lap down. Enfinger, with a loose lug nut, followed in the pits six laps later from fifth place. Another restart on Lap 153 showed Kimmel and Dillon as the leaders, but Crafton was right in the mix one lap down, seemingly helping Kimmel, his teammate for a day.
Milka Duno spun on Lap 180, setting up a short dash for the finish. Crafton set up inside Kimmel yet again for the Lap 183 restart, but Dillon made his way past. He drove inside of Kimmel and looked for the lead in Turn 3 on Lap 184, and found himself side-by-side one lap later, but Kimmel maintained a 0.25-second advantage. Dillon chipped away at Kimmel's advantage, setting up the fateful incident on Lap 189.
Enfinger looked close to Dillon on the final restart on Lap 198, and went low in an attempt to pass Dillon on Lap 199, but Dillon drove away from him and Merrell.
"We had a great car all weekend," Enfinger said. "(Car chief) Kelly Kovski and (team owner) Mike Allgaier, I can't thank those guys enough for letting me drive their car. It's definitely one of the best cars I've driven. It was a great run. The pit crew's been great all year; that's definitely not been our weak point, but they just happened to leave a lug nut loose and we had to come back down pit road and that hurt us a little bit.
"It's a little frustrating. I feel like I gave the 41 car a break when he stopped in the corner down there, and I just didn't want to do what he did to Kimmel. I'm just not going to win that way. That's short track racing. There's always going to be a little controversy. If I'd known they weren't going to black flag me if I wrecked the 41, I'd have done the same thing."
George finished fourth after suffering the early damage, matching his best result on a short track. Buescher, a two-time Toledo Speedway winner, also battled back from early damage to finish fifth.
Stancill finished sixth. Chad McCumbee and Armstrong followed in seventh and eighth, respectively. After Kimmel, Ruston finished 10th.
Ohio native Chad Hackenbracht finished 11th and 17-year-old Josh Williams was 12th. Sixteen-year-old Jared Marks, a debut driver from nearby Napoleon, Ohio, finished 13th, one spot ahead of Hessert. Duno was 15th.
Crafton led 13 laps and finished 18th.
The race was slowed by 13 cautions covering 78 laps, and finished in one hour, 32 minutes, and 54 seconds. Dillon's winning average speed was 64.579 mph, and five drivers led laps.
The ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards returns to action Sunday, May 22, in the ModSpace 150 at New Jersey Motorsports Park. The race is the only road course event of the season for the ARCA Racing Series.
2011 ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards Event #4
Toledo Speedway, Toledo OH, 5-15-11
Official Entry List, Menards 200 presented by Federated Car Care
May 15, 2011 / 3:37 PM FINSTRNODRIVER/HOMETOWNLAPS STATUS 12441Ty Dillon/Lewisville NC200Running 21136Grant Enfinger/Fairhope AL200Running 3632Matt Merrell/Portland TX200Running 4931Tim George Jr./New York NY200Running 52117Chris Buescher/Prosper TX200Running 6855John Stancill/Ayden NC200Running 7121Chad McCumbee/Supply NC200Running 8722Dakoda Armstrong/New Castle IN200Running 9444Frank Kimmel/Clarksville IN200Running 10525Kenzie Ruston/El Reno OK200Running 112858Chad Hackenbracht/Cornelius NC200Running 121314Josh Williams/Port Charlotte FL200Running 13328Jared Marks/Napoleon OH200Running 141752Tom Hessert/Cherry Hill NJ200Running 15263Milka Duno/Caracas Venezuela200Running 161828Ron Cox/Soddy Daisy TN198Running 173185Tim Cowen/Ashland OH198Running 182588Matt Crafton/Tulare CA198Running 19267Mike Young/Toledo OH196Running 202982Sean Corr/Goshen NY195Running 211534Darrell Basham/Henryville IN194Running 221423Levi Youster/Oak Harbor OH179Running 233012Maryeve Dufault/Sorel Quebec57Accident 242306Tommy O'Leary IV/Cygnet OH47Accident 251011Bryan Silas/Stuart FL25Accident 262210Marc Easton/Lake Saranac NY24Handling 272048James Hylton/Inman SC21Engine 282794Brad Smith/Shelby Township MI20Handling 29377Scott Bross/Temperance MI13Brakes 301615Rob Jones/Bowie MD2Rear End 311926Con Nicolopoulos/Columbus MI0Transmission
MENARDS POLE AWARD PRESENTED BY ANSELL: No qualifying. Rained out.
MRGN OF VICTORY: .291 sec. TIME OF RACE: 1:32:54 sec.
LAP LEADERS: Kimmel 1-21, 37-77, 126-188 (125); Ruston 22-36 (15); Enfinger 78-112 (35);
Crafton 113-125 (13); Dillon 189-200 (12)