Mears Doubles Up
July 26, 2003 | 1:23 A.M. EST
"The confidence is up there for sure," said Mears. "You know when your confidence is up, and you know you can do it, it makes a big difference. Our program has been improving everywhere, all the way around, the team’s morale, the confidence in all of us that we can get the job done. I think running over here in the ARCA RE/MAX Series has improved my ability to tell those guys (his crew) better information to get the car better. We had to really stay on our toes there at the end with David (Reutimann) running so well."
In addition to Mears’ first-place pay-off, the Bakersfield, California native won the $25,000 bonus from GIANT Food Stores for winning the GIANT ARCA 200 on Friday followed up by the victory on Saturday. Half of that bonus went to the Children’s Miracle Network in Mears’ name.
Reutimann (right), making his ARCA RE/MAX Series debut, kept Mears on his toes right to the very end and finished second in the Morgan-McClure Kodak Pontiac about two lengths away.
"When we had that last restart, I got the tires cooled down a bit to go back after him," said Reutimann. "We got close and I just bonzaied it on the last lap trying to get underneath him and the nose just pushed up the racetrack. But we didn’t knock the fenders off and had a decent finish. All in all it was a pretty good day I think."
With less than ten laps remaining, Reutimann, within ten lengths of Mears, caught a break when the final caution appeared for a spin in turn one. With five laps left, and with 15 lead-lap machines lined up in a single file row, the green flag waved for the final time. Mears got a good jump but Reutimann quickly caught back up and began pressuring the eventual winner. Reutimann got within a half-length of Mears and peaked inside on the last circuit, but couldn’t muster up enough steam to blow by.
Frank Kimmel, who finished third in the Advance Auto Parts-Pork Ford, was the highest finisher among the ARCA regulars with fourth place finisher Mark Gibson in tow in the Williams Brothers Lumber Chevrolet. Brent Sherman, in the Hickory Farms-Serta Mattress Ford, finished fifth.
The race, mixed with six cautions for 28 laps, had its share of thrills and spills including one for Old Milwaukee polesitter and new ARCA track record holder (170.849 mph) Kyle Busch who locked horns with ARCA veteran Ron Cox towards the end of the long front straightaway. Cox was able to continue with a wounded racecar while Busch, who dominated the early going with 33 laps-led, was through for the day. The wreck also collected Hesston, Pennsylvania driver Tom Eriksen eliminating him from competition as well.
The most frightening accident happened off turn one when the machines of Jimmy Henderson and Jason Jarrett made contact. Jarrett motored on but Henderson landed hard against the outer retaining wall. Henderson walked to the ambulance under his own power and was taken to the infield car center. He was later transported to Geisinger Wyoming Valley Medical Center in Wilkes Barre, Pennsylvania for further evaluation where he was treated and released Saturday afternoon with no injuries.
In all, there were nine lead changes among six drivers with Mears up front for 29 laps and Kimmel next in the lap leader category with nine. NASCAR Winston Cup veteran Greg Sacks raced in the top-five for much of the race and led five laps before the transmission failed on his Bobby Jones-owned Dodge. Sherman led three laps while Reutimann managed to show the way for two circuits.
Jarrett finished sixth in the Gladiator GarageWorks-Damon RV Chevrolet with AJ Henriksen trailing in seventh in the Fastenal-Engineered Components Ford. Billy Venturini was eighth in the family-owned Enco Tool & Machinery Chevrolet ahead of Ken Weaver who finished a career-best ninth in the 1-800-4-A-Phone Pontiac. Andy Belmont, in the Verison-Seneca Data Ford, completed the top-ten finishers.
Chuck Weber, in his own Cardinal Tool Chevrolet, won the Hoosier Tire Hard Charger award for his 16th finishing position after starting 34th. Darrell Basham’s crew won the Gladiator of the Race award while the Landrum Spring Hard Luck honors went to Henderson.
The ARCA RE/MAX Series will next travel to the 1.33-mile concrete Nashville Superspeedway for the Waste Management 200 Saturday afternoon, August 9. The event will be televised live on SPEED Channel from 4-6 pm eastern time.