Chris Buescher celebrates with the Menards 200 trophy after beating Frank Kimmel to the finish line by .114 seconds Sunday afternoon.
ARCA PHOTO SERVICES/HARLEN HUNTER Enlarge
In order to win the Menards 200, Chris Buescher knew he had to take advantage of the long runs instead of focusing on short driving bursts.
In a race interrupted 10 times by caution flags, the 19-year-old driver aimed for consistency when it came to a continuous series of laps. With that strategy, Buescher held off one of ARCA’s most decorated drivers Sunday at Toledo Speedway to win his fourth title at the track.
“We knew we could get it going really good after we got some heat and everything, and there at the end, we had that good long run, and that’s exactly what we needed,” Buescher said.
Buescher stayed among the top three drivers through the bulk of the first 120 laps — including a stretch in which he led for 57 laps — and he took advantage of a caution at the 153rd lap to re-enter the main pack that Frank Kimmel had led for the previous 20 laps. At that point, Buescher immediately overtook the nine-time ARCA Racing Series driving champion.
“To be able to race him clean and get past him there, that was a blast,” Buescher said. “He’s one of those guys that you want to race for wins.”
Buescher maintained his lead throughout the remainder of the race and topped the 35-driver field, edging out Kimmel by .114 seconds.
“His car was just turning better than ours,” said Kimmel, who hasn’t won a race in his last 68 starts. “I got hit earlier, and I don’t know if it knocked the front end out a little bit or not, but it just didn’t seem as if it was turning quite as well at the end. He’s a great racer, a smart little kid, and I was wanting to give it to him awful bad. I ran it so hard to keep up, I’m sure I wore the right front out of it.”
Buescher won his fourth title at Toledo Speedway; he won the Menards 200 in May, 2010, then won the Northwest Ohio Ford Dealers 200 in September of that year. Last year, Buescher won the Federated Car Care 200 — the 2011 ARCA Racing Series season finale — to earn ARCA’s rookie of the year.
“It was really weird,” Buescher said. “The first two races, I could not get out of my own way. It’s something I’ve struggled with all year. We brought a different car back, and it’s really come alive.”
While Kimmel and Buescher drove for the top two spots, Grant Enfinger held off Clint King for third place.
“We struggled there in qualifying, so we didn’t have very good track position,” said Enfinger, who started the race in 14th. “My crew chief made a good call to take on two cars and try to gain some track position.
Chris Buescher leads Brennan Poole in the Menards 200 ARCA race at Toledo Speedway Sunday afternoon.
ARCA Photo Services/ Harlen Hunter. Enlarge
Like Buescher, Enfinger aimed for consistent driving in the second half of the race, especially when he made mechanical considerations.
“[Consistency] it’s even more important now with these tires,” Enfinger said. “Hoosier has a different tire this year, and once you kill them, it seems like you can’t get them back. They have good short-run speeds but not good long-run speeds, so trying to take care of the tires is always a big deal.”
“We were hoping we could make a run. We had that late-race caution [after lap 167] and for whatever reason, we just couldn’t run with them. So they were about a tenth or so better than us, and it just showed up in the long run.”
Napoleon’s Jared Marks finished 10th, while Oak Harbor’s Levi Youster finished 27th, completing 155 laps before encountering car handling problems.
Contact Rachel Lenzi at: firstname.lastname@example.org, 419-724-6510 or on Twitter @RLenziBlade.