(MILLVILLE, N.J. - July 1, 2012) - On Canada Day, etching his name into ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards history seemed only fitting for Roxton Pond, Quebec's Andrew Ranger.
Ranger (No. 53 RRT Design & Construction Dodge) became the first driver in ARCA's 60 years to win two road course races after passing 16-year-old phenom Chase Elliott (No. 9 Aaron's Dream Machine/HendrickCars.com Chevrolet) on the last lap to win at New Jersey Motorsports Park's Thunderbolt Raceway.
Ranger, 25, also won on New Jersey's road course last year. His late move past Elliott was reminiscent of his pass over George Miedecke only slightly earlier last year, as the two drove to the white flag. This year, Ranger passed at the other end of New Jersey's main straightway, just as he and Elliott drove into the first turn on Lap 67 of 67.
"I'm really happy," said Ranger, who used a second pit stop to his advantage and had to claw back from 12th place just after the race's halfway point. "RRT supported us this weekend and I'm really, really happy to win another race for them. It's a fun team and a fun track. The 53 team and RRT have been awesome this weekend."
Chad Hackenbracht (No. 58 Tastee Apple Chevrolet) led the first five laps after winning the Menards Pole Award presented by Ansell over Ranger on Saturday afternoon, but gave way to Ranger on Lap 6 and experienced mechanical trouble. He finished just 13 laps and ended the race 26th.
The Canadian quickly increased his advantage to 4.238 seconds at Lap 10 and more than twice that four laps later. Alex Bowman (No. 22 St. Jude Children's Research Hospital Dodge) had moved to second on Lap 12 by passing Tom Hessert (No. 52 Federated Auto Parts Chevrolet), but he trailed Ranger by more than 18 seconds at Lap 24.
Matt Lofton (No. 16 Strutmasters.com Chevrolet) spun into a guardrail on Lap 25 to bring out the race's first caution period, and the leaders drove to pit road. Ranger exited first, with Chris Buescher (No. 17 Reliance Tool/David Ragan Ford Ford) and Bowman behind him.
Bowman passed Buescher for second right away, and started to trim Ranger's advantage. He passed Ranger on Lap 33, just as another caution flag flew for a stalled car on the track. Buescher spun on the second lap of green flag racing after the track was clear, and it was on that third caution of the race that Ranger made one of the race's decisive moves.
Ranger used a second pit stop, closing Lap 39, to give him slightly fresher tires than the other leaders, who pitted to close Lap 26. Ranger came out of the pits 12th to start Lap 42 and worked his way to the top five within seven laps. At that time, though, Elliott passed Bowman for his first lead of the day before giving way to Hessert, a hometown favorite from Cherry Hill, N.J.
Elliott passed Hessert back to take the lead on Lap 57, by which time Ranger had moved to third. Ranger moved to second the next lap when Hessert slipped off the course in the second turn, and set his sights on Elliott. To close Lap 59 - with eight to go - Elliott led Ranger by 1.384 second.
Ranger nearly halved the gap one lap later, and narrowed it to 0.339 second with six to go. Elliott maintained and even slightly extended the advantage over the next several laps, occasionally kicking dirt out of one of the final turns to obstruct Ranger's vision temporarily.
Elliott led by 0.316 second at the white flag, but Ranger caught him at the end of the front straightaway and out-braked Elliott for a pass in the final turn. Elliott slipped off course soon after, and Ranger ran away over the 2.25-mile course to a 4.475-second victory.
The runner-up finish was Elliott's second top-five and third top-10 result in just three ARCA Racing Series starts.
"I knew we were capable of running this well," Elliott said. "It was just a matter of me figuring it out. The car was great. It was just my lack of experience. The car could have won the race if it had somebody who knew what they were doing, but I'm definitely pleased."
Buescher edged Roulo Brothers Racing teammate Brandon Davis for third with a pass on Lap 63, and Will Kimmel (No. 68 Clarksville Schwinn & Cyclery Ford) finished fifth. Points leader Brennan Poole (No. 25 CJ Solar Band Toyota) kept a slight advantage over Buescher by finishing sixth, and Frank Kimmel (No. 44 Ansell/Menards Toyota) was seventh. Mason Mingus (No. 32 Call 811 Before You Dig Toyota), Hessert, and Milka Duno (No. 94 Milka Way Toyota) filled out the top 10.
The race lasted two hours and 33 seconds.
The ARCA Racing Series will be off next weekend before traveling to Iowa Speedway for the Prairie Meadows 200 on Friday, July 13. The race will air live on SPEED at 9 p.m. Eastern, with live timing and scoring available at ARCARacing.com. All practice activity and Menards Pole Qualifying presented by Ansell will take place that day, and ARCARacing.com will feature live timing and scoring coverage of those sessions as well. The race will be the seventh for ARCA at the 0.875-mile track.
2012 is the ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards' 60th Anniversary Season, featuring 20 races at 18 tracks. The complete 2012 event schedule is available at ARCARacing.com.