Casey Mears won the ARCA Flagstar 200 yesterday, and has the trophy to prove it.
BROOKLYN, Mich. - In his first ARCA start, in his first baffling ARCA start, in his first start from 25th after winning the pole, Casey Mears overcame odd obstacles to win the ARCA RE/MAX Flagstar 200 yesterday at Michigan International Speedway.
Getting through technical inspection proved to be one of the biggest races for some ARCA teams, 13 of which didn't get through in time and had to start from the rear of the 41-car field.
Included were the teams of Mears and Kyle Busch, who qualified on the outside of the first row Friday. Another four drivers were sent to the back of the pack after being forced to make engine changes after qualifying.
That made 17 cars that were relocated in the inverted field that converted into an interesting race.
“We had a little problem there getting through tech inspection and it hurt us at the start,” said Mears, who wasn't hurting at the finish. He beat second-place Hermie Sadler by 7.6 seconds. Defending ARCA champion Frank Kimmel was a close third.
“I was a little upset, moreso confused, when they told me,” Mears said. “I took my time and went through the field.”
The nephew of four-time Indianapolis 500 winner Rick Mears was second 20 laps into the 100-lap race, and took the lead for good on Lap 46.
Busch, who started 26th, was even more dominating at the beginning of the race. He passed 12 cars on the first lap and was eighth when the first of six caution periods started on Lap 3. He moved to second after 12 laps and grabbed the lead on Lap 17.
Nine laps later, he crashed in Turn 1 after a tire went flat.
“I was just strolling at the beginning of the race, not pushing it whatsoever. I guess I was way quicker than the second- and third-place guys,” said Busch, brother of Winston Cup star Kurt Busch. “I thought we had everyone covered the way we ran the first 20 laps, and we were not even pushing the car. I thought we had something for them today.”
After an odd start, once the ARCA cars took to the track yesterday, it was just racin'.
Busch said ARCA officials “sort of explained” his forced move to the rear of the field. “We shrugged our shoulders and said we'll go with it. Heck, I started 29th at Charlotte [a month ago] and got to second in eight laps.
“We were upset, but so was everyone else. Everyone was throwing tantrums in the ARCA trailer, but they won't change their minds. It's their rules.”
Those rules called for technical inspection from 8:30 to 11:30 a.m.; cars that were still in line would have to go to the rear of the field.
ARCA president Ron Drager said that the same officials who work in technical inspection also work the race, and had to be in place at least an hour before the race started.
“We have a timeline that we have to follow to be ready to get the race off on time,” he said. “It used to be one hour before a race that all cars had to be through tech. We changed that to 90 minutes today.
“We've had a handful of teams that couldn't make the one-hour timeline on a repetitive basis. We can run 20 cars through tech in an hour if there's no infractions. However, when in excess of 20 cars wait until time X to go through, we cannot physically put them through at the same time.
“It was a combination of two things. There were a number of teams that had mechanical issues that they wanted to continue to work on, combined with some teams that just didn't have that sense of urgency that we thought they had to have.”
Sadler and Kimmel were not among those who were asked to step to the rear of the pack.
“I didn't know the front two guys were going to the back, so I just told everyone I appreciated it,” said a smiling Sadler, who will start 18th in today's Winston Cup Sirius 400. “I knew they would both be back up there real fast. They're great drivers and they were going to be tough to beat either way.”