(TOLEDO, Ohio) - On restart after restart near the end of the Herr's Live Life with Flavor 200 at Madison International Speedway, Chris Buescher had to withstand challenges from some of those who join him atop the list of the best short track drivers in the ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards: Frank Kimmel and Alex Bowman.
For each, something was on the line. For Buescher (No. 17 Roulo Brothers Racing Ford), the chance to extend his series points lead was at hand. Kimmel (No. 44 Ansell/Menards Toyota) was aiming for second consecutive victory for the first time in four seasons and had designs on the points lead himself, and Bowman (No. 22 St. Jude's Children's Research Hospital Dodge) was trying to win from the pole for the first time in his ARCA career.
Buescher held on for his fourth win of the season and the ninth win of his career, quadrupling his points lead over Kimmel from 15 to 60. For that, he has his own poise in the race's tightest moments upon which to reflect. Though the championship lead was on the line, Buescher shifted those thoughts away.
"I didn't want to see the caution coming to the checkered on that last one," Buescher said. "Frank was a tough competitor. He raced me clean, as well as the 15 (Clint King) and 22 (Bowman) there at the end. I was definitely getting nervous there at the end, but I'm glad it's over. (The points lead) was definitely in the back of my mind, but I tried not to think too much about it. You can go out here and win these last couple of races and win the points."
The finish certainly wasn't the only time the solid Buescher had to keep a cool head during the race. He was spun out of the top five while running in front of Kimmel and Mason Mingus very early in the race. Buescher said that radio conversations with his crew kept him patient.
"They did a good job of keeping me calm on the radio after that," he said. "That's something that could have really, really aggravated us and gotten us out of line, but we were able to turn it around and get back on our own game. We got that lead and couldn't give it away."
Late in the race, Buescher was locked in enough to make the winning move of the race, a Lap 175 pass of Kimmel when the veteran slipped in Turns 1 and 2. Buescher said he saw Kimmel's car get free and knew he had to take advantage. He also said that he experienced the same loose, free sensation when driving in front of Kimmel, as he had done while leading 38 consecutive laps just before that.
In addition to his win, Buescher won the Aaron's Lap Leader Award for the race by leading 110 of 208 laps, and he also won the CGS Imaging Hard Charger Award by advancing six positions from start to finish, more than any other driver. Buescher is second behind Buster Graham in the year-long Hard Charger standings.
Now, Buescher will race at two tracks where he is the defending race winner. He won at DuQuoin, site of the September 3 race, last year. Two weeks after that, he won the annual fall event at Salem Speedway. (Bowman won there this spring.)
Bowman the Top Rookie Again: Alex Bowman was the highest-finishing Team Messina Rookie Challenge driver in Sunday's race with a second-place finish. He has eight 30-point (race-leading) finishes to his credit, ahead of Brennan Poole's five, but Poole (No. 25 Venturini Motorsports Toyota) has the higher rookie score over the best 15 races, 410-406.
Bowman was happy to recover after driving off of the jack early in the race, but wished he had won for the second straight year at Madison.
"It's a good recovery, but at the same time, we wanted to win this race really, really badly," said Bowman, who had a slow leak in his right rear tire after losing the lead for the first time on Lap 55. "I tried to give it away last year and was able to recover, but this year, I thought I felt the jack drop but apparently it didn't, so it's my fault on that one. I got us behind the eight ball."
By finishing second to Chris Buescher, Bowman completed a reversal of last year's top two finishing positions at Madison.
"It's cool to see Chris win. He raced me really clean here last year."
Buescher's Points Lead Now 60: With three races remaining in 2012, Chris Buescher has as high a points lead as any driver has held this season. His unofficial 60-point advantage over Frank Kimmel, 4210-4150, is four times what he held going into Sunday's race at Madison International Speedway.
Brennan Poole is 135 points from the lead in third, with Alex Bowman 190 points out in fourth. Chad Hackenbracht (No. 58 CGH Motorsports Chevrolet) is fifth, followed by Matt Lofton (No. 16 Strutmasters.com Chevrolet), Spencer Gallagher (No. 23 Allegiant Air Chevrolet), Nelson Canache (No. 66 Venezuela Tourism Toyota), Tom Hessert (No. 52 Federated Auto Parts Chevrolet), and Josh Williams (No. 02 Southwest Florida Cable Construction Ford).
The full and official ARCA Racing Series standings will be released Tuesday.
Hackenbracht Appreciative of Crew: Chad Hackenbracht started his week in a Hoosier tire test at Michigan International Speedway and completed it across Lake Michigan, finishing third in the Herr's Live Life with Flavor 200 at Madison International Speedway.
A long week of work for his crew did little to slow the 20-year-old driver.
"We had the fastest car, for sure; we just screwed up on a pit call," he said. "We got jumbled way in the back and went a lap down, but we made it back on a restart. I had two tires there at the end. I know if we got those, we'd definitely be coming through the field. I think we had eight laps to go and we were 12th or something like that. To come back up to third is awesome. I can't say enough about these guys. We haven't touched the car since we unloaded, and that just goes to show all their hours of hard work. 80, 90 hours in a work week is nothing for them."
Jones Looking Forward to Salem Return: Sixteen-year-old Erik Jones (No. 55 Paragon Corvette Reproductions Chevrolet) finished fourth in the Herr's Live Life with Flavor 200, his fourth top-five this year.
"It was a good day," Jones said. "We just fought tight in the center all day, and loose off. We made good adjustments and definitely improved it, but just not enough. We've been tight in the center two weeks in a row now, so we need to work on that. Everybody on the team did a great job all weekend, waiting around in the rain."
Jones' last race this year will be at Salem Speedway, where he earned his first ARCA top-five back in April.
"I'm looking forward to that," he said. "It's a track I've been to now in an ARCA car. That's going to be the only time we get to do that this year. We're going to go back there with the car I raced in the spring and ran fifth with. That was my first top-five and I hope we can capitalize there and get a win."
Tires, Grip the Difference for King: Clint King (No. 15 Speedrack Products Group/Warehouse Design Chevrolet) led six laps in the Herr's Live Life with Flavor 200, but taking four tires before most other drivers did him in at the end. He finished fifth.
"We were really good with four tires while everybody else had two," King said. "That's why we were able to drive up to second and lead there a little bit. When we had to come back down pit road, everybody put on four and we only had our two left. We just lost the grip in it, but survived. This is a good short track race; I just hate that we couldn't do anything there at the end. I just had my hands full. We'll work on it and get better."
King turned 17 Sunday in his return to the site of his ARCA debut, which came on his 16th birthday last year. He joined James Hylton, 78, in celebrating birthdays at the track. Sunday's race was King's last in the 2012 ARCA season.
"That was a pretty decent one to end it on," he said. "We'll come back twice as strong."
Hessert Nonplussed in Sixth: Tom Hessert finished sixth at Madison International Speedway, but lamented motor issues that plagued his progress in the race.
"Madison's a good place, but our motor started laying down maybe 80 laps in and it just ran (poorly) all day," he said. "We've had motor problems the last two weeks, and it's just frustrating. The guys did a good job and we had a really good race car, but it was just for nothing."
Season High for Williams: Josh Williams has stated that his primary goal for 2012 is to finish in the top 10 in points, and finishes like he had Sunday are the surest way to lock down such a position. Williams finished seventh at Madison International Speedway, his best result this year.
Elliott Keeps Top-10 Streak Going: Chase Elliott (No. 9 Aaron's Dream Machine/HendrickCars.com Chevrolet) finished eighth in the Herr's Live Life with Flavor 200, his fifth top-10 in five ARCA Racing Series starts this year. Elliott will conclude his ARCA campaign at Salem Speedway on Saturday, September 15. He finished fourth there in April.
Late Contact Strips Kimmel of Chance: Frank Kimmel ran second to Chris Buescher for much of the end of Sunday's Herr's Live Life with Flavor 200, but contact from another car on Lap 204 sent him out of a contending spot and forced him to lose approximately 30 points in the championship pursuit. He finished ninth.
"We had a great race with the 17, and ran side-by-side lap after lap," he said. "We had a fast car and kept the fenders on it and just got run over there at the end. It's tough to take when you put that type of race together and it turns out that way. You try real hard to race people clean, and when you don't get that in return, it's frustrating. We'll go on to DuQuoin and give a good effort there."
Kimmel has five career wins at the DuQuoin State Fairgrounds.
Career Highs for Several: Three drivers who finished in the top 20 also earned career-best results at Madison International Speedway Sunday. Aleks Gregory (No. 61 The Mosquito Patch Chevrolet) led the way in 13th, one spot ahead of Brad Lloyd (No. 68 Clarksville Schwinn & Cyclery Ford). James Swanson (No. 06 Wayne Peterson Ford) was 18th.
Buescher Sets Race Record: By completing the Herr's Live Life with Flavor 200 in one hour, 29 minutes, and 28 seconds - 13 minutes and 22 seconds faster than last year's race at Madison - Chris Buescher helped the ARCA Racing Series field set another race record in 2012. The average speed of 69.746 mph is the fastest at Madison in five races.
More Dirt? You've Got It: Points leader Chris Buescher is the defending winner as the second dirt race of the ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards season is up next in a Labor Day special on Monday, September 3 in DuQuoin, Ill.
Practice for the Southern Illinois 100 presented by Federated Car Care will begin at 9 a.m. and last for one hour, with Menards Pole Qualifying presented by Ansell starting at 11. The 100-lap, 100-mile race will take place at 1 p.m. All times are Central. ARCARacing.com will feature live timing and scoring coverage throughout the day, and ARCA Racing Network hosts Charlie Krall and Tim Clagg will deliver a live audio call for the race on the site.
2012 is the ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards' 60th Anniversary Season, featuring 20 races at 18 tracks. The complete 2012 event schedule is available at ARCARacing.com.
The ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards has crowned an ARCA national champion each year since its inaugural season in 1953, and has toured over 200 race tracks in 26 states since its inception. The series has tested the abilities of drivers and race teams over the most diverse schedule of stock car racing events in the world, visiting tracks ranging from 0.375 mile to 2.66 miles in length, on both paved and dirt surfaces as well as a left- and right-turn road course in its most recent season. This year, the series visited Alabama's Mobile International Speedway and Minnesota's Elko Speedway for the first time.
Founded by John and Mildred 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 three professional touring series and local weekly events.