Ken Butler leaps into his crew's arms after winning the Hantz Group 200 in the ARCA RE/MAX series yesterday at Toledo Speedway. Had he jumped into the crew of Ken Schrader he probably would have hit the ground.
There was the crunch of metal-on-metal contact. There was considerable cursing, and gnashing of teeth. And there was controversy that refused to subside, even as the champion was crowned.
The ARCA RE/MAX Series invaded Toledo Speedway yesterday, and fulfilled its promise of exciting racing.
When the Hantz Group 200 was completed, a smiling young driver had the big trophy, his teammate was frowning and fuming, and the big-name star of the show was shaking his head in disgust, as mangled equipment littered the infield.
Ken Butler III bumped Eddie Sharp Racing teammate Michael McDowell out of the lead with five laps to go, then held off Nextel Cup veteran Ken Schrader after a short caution period to win the race. He did not win the admiration of runner-up Schrader, or McDowell, who dropped back to seventh after the contact.
Ken Butler runs out front in the Hantz Group 200. The 25-year old is part of Michael Waltrip s developmental program.
Asked if Butler maybe kind of smacked his way to the front for the first ARCA win of his career, Schrader took the sugar coating off his account of the incident.
"There's no kinda about it - he ran over him to win," said Schrader, who had won the spring ARCA race at Toledo Speedway the past three years and led yesterday's event for 46 laps.
"I'm real mad about the way that kid took the lead."
McDowell, who had won the pole in Saturday's qualifying, lost the lead on the first lap of the race to Justin Allgaier, but had it back 10 laps later and held off the field for almost 60 laps.
Later, it looked like McDowell would take the checkered flag after he slipped by Butler on the front stretch to start lap 195, but coming out of turn one, Butler drilled McDowell, spun him out, and breezed by into the lead.
"It's a real shame. He just blasted me into the corner," McDowell said after exchanging words with Butler as the victory ceremony got off to a tense start. "I'm real upset. We drove it clean, and then we got wrecked. It's as simple as that. He just plowed me, and there was no stopping it once he did."
The 25-year-old Butler, who is part of the developmental racing program of Cup driver Michael Waltrip, was contrite and dealing with mixed emotions.
"That's not the way I wanted to win, but it just happened, and that's racing," Butler said. "Winning here, this is just too cool and I'm so excited I don't know what to say.
"I know he's upset, and I would be too, but it was an honest mistake.
"It seemed like he slowed down a bit, and I tried to stop.
"Things like that happen. It's racing."
Schrader started 10th and was content to bide his time and stay out of the early mayhem while working his way through the field.
He was running fourth but inherited the lead 67 laps into the race when the trio in front went to the pits.
Eight-time ARCA Series champion Frank Kimmel, who wrecked his primary car in practice, moved from 16th at the start and was on Schrader's tail before taking the lead on lap 114.
Kimmel, who had led just 10 total laps in the seven previous ARCA races this season, led until lap 171 and finished fourth.
Kimmel also emerged from the race as the series leader.
When Butler took the lead from Justin South, who finished third, on lap 175, Butler started to lap slower cars and distance himself from the field, but could not shake McDowell. After a crash and a caution period set up the contentious contact between Butler and McDowell, Schrader was on Butler's tail for the final restart.
Butler - whose father is the president of Aaron's Sales & Lease Ownership, a furniture rental business with more than 1,400 stores, and has been a primary sponsor of Waltrip's racing endeavors - was aware of Schrader's presence.
"I was on my toes, because I looked back and saw Ken Schrader there, and I know what a tough competitor he is," Butler said.
Schrader, who has 14 ARCA wins to his credit, continued to chastise Butler's actions.
"I just hate to see races end that way," Schrader said. "That is clearly not the way to win a race. It's just not right."
The race had 14 caution periods for a total of 78 laps.
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