ARCA Championship Battle Coming Down to Wire
(SALEM, Ind.) - High-banked and demanding to any driver, Salem Speedway offers one of the great challenges in ARCA Racing Series presented by RE/MAX and Menards competition. Something must be working, as Saturday's Kentuckiana Ford Dealers Fall Classic will mark the 88th race for the series on the historic half-mile bullring oval.
The southern Indiana track, hosting its second series race of 2010, has hosted more ARCA Racing Series events than any other facility, so it's no wonder drivers have taken to the track so well.
"It's home track," said Frank Kimmel (No. 44 Ansell-Menards Ford), the all-time leading winner at the track with nine victories. "It's rough; it's tough. Really look forward to going there. We have a huge amount of fans that show up. Haven't won there in a couple years, so it's probably time to get back there."
In fact, Kimmel hasn't won anywhere on the ARCA tour since his victory at Salem in September of 2008. The Clarksville, Indiana second-generation driver also fell behind in the championship points battle (140 from first) after his rear end gear failed last week at Toledo Speedway.
Patrick Sheltra (No. 60 PatrickSheltra.com-Ferguson Pipe Dodge), who currently stands atop the ARCA Racing Series standings, took his first career victory at Salem in 2009. After winning on the Springfield, Ill. dirt and at Chicagoland Speedway in August this year, Sheltra is prepared to make some noise on a short track.
"It's a great racetrack," said Sheltra, who finished third last Sunday at Toledo. "That's where we got our first win in the ARCA Series. Really looking forward to going back. We had a real good run there in the beginning of the year. We had some misfortune happen during the race - me and Arpin got together. You can get real racy with it. Run right against the wall. Always two- and three-wide racing there."
Craig Goess (No. 81 Greenville Toyota of N.C. Toyota), who finished second Sunday at Toledo, sits second in championship points, just five away from leader Sheltra headed to Salem.
"I really enjoy the short track racing at Salem Speedway," Goess said. "The last race at Salem in the spring, we finished second. In order for us to win this weekend, we are just going to need Lady Luck on our side and a fast race car. Salem is a fun track, and it requires a lot of focus. It's not like a superspeedway where you have a long straightaway to collect yourself. I'm looking forward to this weekend at Salem, and I'm really proud of the No. 81 Greenville Toyota of N.C. Eddie Sharp Racing team for everything we have done this season."
Tom Hessert (No. 77 Cherry Hill Classic Cars Dodge) led 133 of 200 laps at Toledo; however the Cherry Hill, New Jersey driver broke a sway bar late in the race, relegating him to seventh in the final running order, four laps down. Nonetheless, Hessert is still very much in the championship chase, just 15 points from the lead.
"Salem is a terrific, historic half-mile," said Hessert. "Definitely one of my favorite racetracks. Got a lot of character to it. Real rough, very slick surface although very, very fast and demanding for the teams and drivers. But it's a very special place, and I'm looking forward to going back."
The 200-lap, 110-mile Kentuckiana Ford Dealers Fall Classic is scheduled to begin at 7:15 p.m. Saturday, and will be preceded by a 90-minute practice at 1:05 p.m. and Menards Pole Qualifying presented by Ansell at 4 p.m. Live audio coverage and live timing and scoring of all events will be available on ARCARacing.com.
Steve Arpin (No. 55 Mike's Hard Pink Lemonade Toyota) started second and won at the track in the series' first visit, in April, to take his first victory in ARCA competition.
"If there have been any fans trying to hold off to go to the wildest, most exciting race of the season, Salem Speedway is the place to be this weekend," said Arpin. "It's going to be wild. We are really looking forward to getting back there this weekend. With our win there earlier this season, and how far we have come on our short track program since then, I think we will be the car to beat. Our new Pink program was a big hit last weekend in Toledo, and we are looking forward to showing off our bright pink, Mikes Hard Pink Lemonade car for the remainder of the season."
The ARCA Racing Series presented by RE/MAX and Menards features 20 events at 17 tracks on its 2010 schedule. The series has crowned an ARCA national champion each year since its inaugural season in 1953, and has toured over 200 racetracks in 28 states since its inception. The series tests the abilities of drivers and race teams over the most diverse schedule of stock car racing events in the world, annually visiting tracks ranging from 0.4 mile to 2.66 miles in length, on both paved and dirt surfaces as well as left- and right-turn street and road courses.
Founded by John Marcum in 1953 in Toledo, Ohio, the Automobile Racing Club of America (ARCA) is recognized among the leading sanctioning bodies in the country. Closing in on completing its sixth decade after hundreds of thousands of miles of racing, ARCA administers over 100 race events each season in two professional touring series and local weekly events.