Buescher Wins ARCA Opener

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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. - James Buescher came from the back of the pack and survived a wild race marred by four multi-car accidents to win Saturday's Lucas Oil Slick Mist 200, the opening race of the 2009 ARCA RE/MAX Series season.

The race came down to a one-lap sprint following a brutal Turn 4 incident that took out the third-place car of Patrick Sheltra and damaged the sixth-place car of nine-time ARCA champion Frank Kimmel.

Sheltra and Larry Hollenback were taken to Halifax Medical Center for observation, along with five-time Daytona ARCA winner Bobby Gerhart, who was involved in an earlier incident.

Gerhart was evaluated and checked out while Sheltra and Hollenback were admitted for furher observation.

Buescher, driving the Wolfpack Rentals Toyota, blocked Joey Logano’s move to the outside in Turn 3 in the Home Depot Toyota, and then help off the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series rookie to the checkered flag by .201 seconds in a battle of 18-year-old drivers.

“It didn’t take long to get back to the front,” said Buescher, who was moved to the back by ARCA for unapproved modifications to his race car. “Our team rebuilt the suspension last night, and I think they made it faster. We started dead last, and the car was awesome. I knew we had to get to the front to be ahead of the wrecks. I knew there would be a few big ones. We did what we had to do.”

Buescher, who led the final 45 laps, admitted he was lucky when the final caution waved.

“Joey had been getting good runs going into Turn 3, and I knew that was going to be where he would make his move.” Buescher said. “He had got it done when the last caution came out, I was lucky when the caution came out. He raced me clean. He helped me getting to the front, clearing the cars early.”

Buescher and Logano were running side-by-side in Turn 4 after the NASCAR rookie attempted a pass for the lead with five circuits remaining. Sheltra spun while attempting to hold off Justin Lofton, with Sheltra’s spinning car slammed by Hollenbeck.

The incident was the sixth caution of the race, which had been slowed by three major incidents that decimated the 43-car field.

Lofton held on to take third in the pole-winning Lofton Cattle Toyota, followed by John Wes Townley in the Zaxby”s Franchising Ford and the Ford of Ken Weaver. Rounding out the top 10 were Ed Kennedy, Parker Kligerman, Tim George Jr., Darrell Basham and Norm Benning. Kimmel held on to finish 11th.

Only 22 cars were running at the finish, nine of them with significant damage.

Buescher, an 18-year-old Texan, took the lead on pit stops on lap 35, and was ahead of a major pileup six laps later that sidelined many of the front-running cars.

Mario Gosselin was running second in line but two laps down when his Chevrolet was turned around by the second-place Chevrolet of Chris Cockrum. Gosselin spun up into the path of Matt Carter, triggering a 12-car pileup. Logano, running one lap down, managed to squeeze by, with Sheltra and Lofton barely avoiding the incident.

Lofton led the opening 35 circuits before pitting following a 13-car incident that started when Alli Owens’ fifth-place Toyota was turned around by Eddie Mercer. Owens was hit at least three times in the incident that also sidelined defending winner Michael Annett’s Toyota.

“I was right there when the 19 (Owens) got sideways, and got a little door mark on the left side door and nearly pushed into the wall,” Buescher said. “I barely made it through.”

Owens, a native of Daytona Beach, had qualified second in the ElectrifyingCareers.com Toyota and ran in that position until being shuffled back shortly before the incident.

“Unfortunately, I got a huge bump from behind going into Turn 3,” Owens said. “I did the best I could to keep it off the wall, but it was hit after hit after hit. I must have been hit five times, and our day was over.”

The first caution flag waved on lap 14 when Peyton Sellers spun by himself in Turn 3. When the caution came out, Tom Hessert slowed and was hit from behind in Turn 4 by Brian Silas, triggering a multi-car incident. Among the cars sustaining significant damage were the Chevrolet of motocross legend Ricky Carmichael, the Ford of Tom Hessert and the Ford of Bryan Silas, although all three cars managed to return to the event.

“We were a victory of circumstances,” said Carmichael, who took 21st in the Monster Energy Chevrolet. “Two guys in front of me were jockeying for position like it was the last lap. The rest was history.”

Other cautions were for single car incidents, for Michael Phelps on lap 52 and Gerhart on lap 63. In all, 47 of the 80 laps were run under caution, slowing the average speed to 98.888 mph.

The next action for the ARCA RE/MAX Series will be April 5 at Salem Speedway.

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