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Brian Campbell held more than a two-second lead over his closest competitor in the late laps of Saturday’s 7-Up 150 at Toledo Speedway, and another trophy seemed within reach.
The Michigan resident led for the bulk of the second half of the race and a casual race fan would have figured that he would take the title with ease.
A small piece of debris — a bright red cup that landed in the fourth turn of the half-mile oval — threatened to derail Campbell’s plans. Caution flags came out with five laps left in the race, exactly what Campbell feared.
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“The car was solid,” Campbell said. “But restarts, they’re always tough. You’ve got a bunch of people bunched up. That and lap cars, you’ve got a whole mess of lap cars you need to get through.”
With five laps left, Anderson Bowen looked to take advantage of that caution. The 16-year-old Georgia resident jumped out to the lead on the race’s final restart, but Campbell passed Bowen on the inside between the third and fourth turns with less than five laps left to win the 7-Up 150, which combined drivers from ARCA’s CRA Super Series and the ARCA Midwest tour.
“He was dominant,” Bowen said of Campbell, who won by 0.301 seconds. “He’s been dominant all weekend. He had a really good car, and he showed it. He was just running his race, and he’s done a great job of that. I was surprised, though, to be up front and be leading all of those laps. He just had a really good car.”
Bowen moved into the top five after the halfway point of the 150-lap race and moved into second with less than 30 laps left.
“We saved a lot of our tires in the beginning of the race, and our goal was to stay in the top 10 before that break comes,” Bowen said. “After that, it was pressuring other cars and start passing cars and move up in position. That put us in the top five.”
But, he said of the final restart, “I overdrove it just a little.
“That debris caution helped us, but it just gave us a chance to try to get the lead and pass on the high side. Unfortunately, we didn’t.”
Campbell stretched his lead over Bowen to more than two seconds before the restarts on the 145th lap, which set up the final pursuit.
“When there’s stuff on the track, they don’t know what it is,” Campbell said. “They just know something’s flying around. It could be a piece of lead or it could be a Solo cup. You never know. They’ve got to play it safe, and that’s kind of the nature of the deal.”
Campbell and Bowen finished ahead of Chad Finley, Ross Kenseth — the son of Sprint Cup driver Matt Kenseth — and Donnie Wilson.
Travis Braden led for the first 44 laps before Campbell overtook Braden as his car misfired and appeared to lose power, but after Derrick Griffin led the next 22 laps, Campbell regained the lead off a restart, following a crash on the 69th lap that nearly disintegrated the front end of Donny Reuvers’ car between the first and second turns.
“You maintain your focus and never slip,” Campbell said. “If you slip, you get beat. You’ve got to keep that strong and you work on the car. If you come out here and screw your head up, that’s not going to win the race. You’ve got to keep straight, at all times.”
Stephen Wallace, the son of NASCAR Hall of Famer Rusty Wallace, finished eighth, while Fremont resident Ali Kern, the first woman to win the CRA Super Series rookie of the year, finished 26th, completing 67 laps.