BROOKLYN, Mich. - Chuck Weber, a 48-year-old machine shop owner from Mesquite, Texas, won the first pole of his career yesterday and will lead the field into this evening's ARCA RE/MAX Series Hantz Group 200 at Michigan International Speedway.
Weber, who has never won in 135 ARCA races, got a significant assist from crew chief Bob Schacht, a former competitor of his who won 19 ARCA races in his career.
"Bob's a heck of a racer, and we used to race against each other, and we've always been real cordial with each other," Weber said.
"When the opportunity to work with him came along, I jumped at it. We worked really hard in practice, and then we just flat-footed it around the track. The car twitched a little in turns three and four, but we held on to it and made it through."
Weber posted a 183.744 mph lap around the MIS oval, but since he was just the third car out on the track for qualifying, he had to wait quite a while before knowing the pole was his.
"Being the third car out, we had to do a lot of sweating before it was over," Weber said. "I had a feeling we'd have a really good car this week, but I didn't know it would be the pole car. We led at Daytona, and at Talladega, and we've actually had good cars all year, but we just haven't had the luck to go with it."
Scott Lagasse qualified second, while Nextel Cup regular David Stremme was third while filling in driving the car of Steve Wallace, who skipped the event to run in the Busch race in Kentucky.
Weber, who used to build his own cars and race them, said he prefers this season's arrangement a lot more, since he just drives and leaves the prep work to Schacht. Weber recently took a break from ARCA to attend to his business, and said he was glad to be back on the circuit.
"I started 134 straight races prior to taking a year and a half off, and during that time I was racing, it was like all the people in the ARCA Series were one big family," Weber said. "It's like a family reunion coming back. I wouldn't mind running in another series, but ARCA is always my home."
GORDON MENDING: After smacking the wall at Pocono Raceway on Sunday, Jeff Gordon is still recovering from that hit as he prepares to make his first practice runs around Michigan International Speedway today in advance of this afternoon's qualifying for Sunday's 3M Performance 400 Nextel Cup race.
"That wreck in Pocono was one of the hardest hits I've ever experienced," Gordon said. "I have to thank the guys at Hendrick Motorsports for building such a safe car, and it also helped that I have such a hard head."
In 26 starts at the two-mile MIS layout, Gordon has won twice, been on the pole four times, and finished in the top five 14 times. He has been in the top 10 just once in his last five MIS starts.
"In terms of performance, we aren't where we need to be," Gordon said. "I said earlier this year that I didn't expect to start the year as the best team, but I'd like to end the season as the best team. We ran well here in 2004, and we led a lot of laps in the June event that year before we had engine problems. Last year, though, we struggled and that is what we have to improve upon."
MEARS JUMP: Casey Mears has signed a multi-year deal to drive for Hendrick Motorsports beginning in 2007. Mears replaces Brian Vickers, who has been granted a release from his Hendrick contract following the completion of the current season.
"Casey is a talented driver and a high-character person who is going to be a great fit with our organization," Hendrick said. "He has the ability to win races and ultimately contend for championships, so we're thrilled."
Mears, the son of off-road racer Roger Mears and the nephew of four-time Indy 500 champ Rick Mears, is in his fourth full season in Nextel Cup, and has two pole positions, five top-five finishes and 21 top-10s to his credit. His career best finish came at the Daytona 500 in February when he was second.
"I'm committed to winning races and going after championships with the No. 25 team," Mears said. "This is an opportunity for me to work with close friends and start fresh with one of the top organizations in all of sports."42.11068 -84.24795