Arcas Back On Short Track
July 4, 2007 | 10:12 A.M. EST
The series, coming off its most competitive season in 2006 when 17 different winners posted victories in 23 events, is on the same track in 2007. In 11 events so far, there have been nine different winners.
After back-to-back superspeedway races at Pocono and MIS, the 55-year-old tour is again steering for its short-track roots with the Request Foods-GFS 200 Saturday night, July 7 at Berlin Raceway in Marne, Michigan. The 100th lap of the 200-lap race marks the exact halfway point of the 23-race schedule in 2007.
Series veterans' Frank Kimmel and Bobby Gerhart are one-two in points respectively. However, each has won only one race this year. It's been that kind of season. In fact, from the current top-10 in points, Kimmel and Gerhart are the only 2007 winners among the group.
That leaves a healthy combination of choices still quite capable of parking in victory lane at Berlin, including Westby, Wisconsin's Dexter Bean, currently third in national championship points. Bean's already been as close to victory lane as one can get with two runner-up finishes this year at Salem and Pocono.
Springfield, Illinois' Justin Allgaier, fourth in points, is also knocking on the door with solid performances across the board. Phoenix, Arizona's Michael McDowell, fifth in points, has been fast everywhere in Eddie Sharp's cars, earning four pole positions this year and a season-high second place finish at Iowa. McDowell was a few laps from victory at Toledo when his teammate Ken Butler III spun him out to win the race. Butler, not running for the championship, is also entered for Berlin.
Sixth in points is Rookie of the Year contender Phillip McGilton, of Marion, Illinois. McGilton, who drives for the renowned NASCAR Busch Series Brewco Motorsports team, is tied in rookie points with McDowell. McGilton's coming off a solid sixth place finish at Michigan, where he led eight laps. His season-best finish this year was fourth at Iowa.
"The Brewco Motorsports team has been able to put together a strong short track program this season and I really expect no different this weekend," McGilton said. "Berlin has no backstretch wall, and that's really different, but I'm sure it will be an exciting weekend."
Justin South, from the Cunningham Motorsports stable, and Justin Marks, who drives for RAB Racing, are seventh and eighth respectively. Both drivers come to the table with top-notch equipment and the ability to win. Indiantown, Florida's Patrick Sheltra and Clinton, Michigan's Jason Hedlesky round out the top-10, and like eight of the top-10 drivers, they're looking for their first win of 2007.
Defending race winner Brian Keselowski, entered for Berlin, is running a partial schedule in 2007 but has already been to victory lane at Salem Speedway back in April. Keselowski's father Bob Keselowski was the 1989 series champion. Both are from Rochester Hills, Michigan.
"Berlin was the first race we ever led, and then we went on to win the race. Everything just worked our way," Keselowski said. "The cautions seemed to fall just right for us. We pitted when everyone else didn't."
Berlin, at about .4-miles around, is the series' shortest track on its 23-race schedule, but, according to most, it's one of the most difficult.
"It's very technically difficult, I would say," added Keselowski. "You don't necessarily need the best motor or car but you have to hit each lap just right. I mean, you can be off six inches and miss the corner at Berlin.
"The best way to describe it is that it's a road course with six left-hand turns. I mean it's crazy; you drive up hill, down hill, there's no backstretch wall to keep you in, and you're always turning. It's fun to drive, but it's challenging."
Other 2007 winners entered for Berlin include 17-year-old Plano, Texas driver James Buescher and second-generation ARCA driver Billy Leslie. Buescher, just two days shy of his 17th birthday, became the youngest winner in series history at Lakeland in March. Leslie, from Algonac, Michigan, followed in his father's (1988 ARCA national champion Tracy Leslie) footsteps with a victory at Winchester Speedway back in early May.
Other Michigan drivers entered include Billy Shotko (West Olive), Brad Smith (Shelby Township), Jim Hollenbeck (Kalamazoo) and Gary Sherman (Holt). In two previous Berlin ARCA starts, Sherman has two top-five finishes.
Phoenix, Arizona's Gabi DiCarlo is the only female driver entered for Berlin. DiCarlo, who drives the Great Clips-sponsored Chevrolet, is 16th in national championship points. Her best finish this year was 11th on the Winchester short-track.
The 20th ARCA race held at Berlin Raceway is a one-day show. Practice begins Saturday, July 7 with an hour and a half practice session planned. ARCA SIM Factory pole qualifying is set for later in the day at 5:00 p.m. (ET). The event will take the green flag later that night at 8:30 p.m. (ET).