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Turnabout is fair play — especially when a race championship is at stake.
One particular maneuver ultimately decided the winner of the 7UP 150 Saturday at Toledo Speedway — a nifty inside pass between turns 3 and 4, one that was carbon-copied by race winner Johnny VanDoorn.
VanDoorn initially relinquished his lead to Chris Wimmer on the 139th lap of the race, as Wimmer slipped inside of VanDoorn just before the fourth turn.
Two laps later, VanDoorn used almost the same maneuver to reclaim the lead, then ultimately ran away with the race title in the season opener Saturday at Toledo Speedway.
“Our cars were so close that we were running the same pace, the same lap times and he’d be a little bit better one lap, and I’d be a little bit better one lap,” said VanDoorn, who finished 0.502 seconds ahead of Wimmer in the 30-driver field. “It just made for a really good race and fortunately with the lap traffic — that helped a lot too. I was able to clear them a lot faster than I think he was.”
VanDoorn and Wimmer finished ahead of Skylar Holzhausen, Nathan Haseleu, and Bubba Pollard in the first-ever combined race between the ARCA Midwest Tour and the ARCA CRA Super Series, in front of about 2,000 spectators.
“It’s tough, because we don’t run against these guys all the time,” said Wimmer, who competes on the ARCA Midwest Tour. “You don’t know how they run, how rough they run, so that’s the biggest challenge, just reading your competitors and how they ride these race tracks.”
Jacob Goede led for 60 of the race’s first 75 laps, but Wimmer overtook Goede for the lead 11 laps before the mandatory red flag at the halfway point.
“We were leading there and the car was so good that I didn’t want to adjust on it,” said Wimmer, who maintained his lead until the 126th lap. “Looking back, I kind of wish we would have.”
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But with 24 laps left, VanDoorn climbed his way into the top five, then slipped inside Wimmer between the third and fourth turn on the half-mile oval to take his first lead.
“We topped off the car with fuel and made about three adjustments to the car [at the halfway point] just to drive it a little bit better,” said VanDoorn, who competes in the ARCA CRA Super Series.
“We were really conservative in the first half, but you need to get the handling a little better at the same time as well. We made really good adjustments, got into position, and that’s what it’s all about in these long races.”
The conservative approach paid off for VanDoorn, who led for 22 of the final 24 laps.
“He saved his stuff,” Wimmer said. “At the break, I think he was running 10th and he came out and just ran a real smart race. He got by me there, and I got one shot to try to get by him and I just ran as hard as I could. He was better.”
RECORD: VanDoorn’s top qualifying time of 15.197 seconds set a new track record at Toledo Speedway. VanDoorn qualified ahead of Wimmer (15.267) and Bubba Pollard (15.281).
Ali Kern, a Fremont resident who made her debut at Toledo Speedway and in the CRA Super Series, was the 20th qualifier in afternoon’s 42-car time-trial session (15.638) and finished 28th.
LAST CHANCE: Mark Kraus, Joel Theisen, Jeff Storm, and Thor Anderson earned the final four spots in the race by finishing first and second in a pair of last-chance races.
Brian Campbell, last year’s CRA Super Series race champion, failed to pass prerace technical inspection and faced a penalty of losing one of two qualifying laps. An ARCA spokesman said Campbell elected to withdraw from the race.
ONE CATCH: During Saturday’s race, drivers and their crews were under a particular mandate: No one could change tires during the race.
“Typically, we only go 100 laps and one set of tires, to go 150 laps, it’s ridiculous,” VanDoorn said. “That’s just way too much. It took a lot of discipline in the first half to keep the tires underneath it and be able to leave ourselves some tires at the end.”
Contact Rachel Lenzi at: email@example.com, 419-724-6510, or on Twitter @RLenziBlade.