(NEWTON, Iowa - July 13, 2012) - Alex Bowman needed green flag action, and he got it with under 50 laps to go in the Prairie Meadows 200 at Iowa Speedway.
Bowman (No. 22 Manatt, Inc./St. Jude Children's Research Hospital Dodge) seized the lead from Frank Kimmel (No. 44 Ansell/Menards Toyota) on Lap 152 after biding his time through several mid-race caution periods, and kept the first position for the final 51 laps, leading 93 overall to score his third ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards win of 2012 and the fifth victory in his 13-start ARCA career.
Issues earlier in the day could have prevented Bowman from celebrating his third win in three tries for chassis No. 81, which also won races at Indiana's Salem Speedway and Winchester Speedway, but Bowman and his Cunningham Motorsports team persisted.
"I want to thank everyone at Cunningham Motorsports, Paul Andrews, Kerry Scherer, Briggs Cunningham, everybody at Penske Engines," Bowman said. "We had great horsepower all night, but almost ended up changing a motor. We had a couple little problems, and we had a little bit of motor trouble throughout the race, but Paul Andrews had the car dialed in enough to make up for it. It's a really cool night.
"Hopefully, our bad luck stops from here on out. We won Winchester and went to Jersey, and had New Jersey won, but broke something and finished 13th. To come here, we could have had three in a row, but two out of the last three races, I definitely can't complain. I'm not a points racer. I'm here to win every race the rest of the year. I think I have every opportunity to win nine more races this year. Cunningham Motorsports, we have the best people and we bring the best race cars. Paul Andrews is the best at what he does, so I don't expect anything less than to show up to the race track and definitely have a chance to win every week."
Bowman started second, but Brennan Poole (No. 25 The Ad Man/Midas Chevrolet) dominated early, leading the first 74 laps after posting the fastest speed in final practice and winning his third career Menards Pole Award presented by Ansell. He pulled away to a two-second advantage on Bowman by Lap 15, leaving third-place Chad Boat (No. 98 Curb Records/Celebrity Fight Night Chevrolet) five seconds behind. By Lap 30, his lead exceeded six seconds.
Poole's lead grew larger several laps later as Boat - making his series debut - and Clay Rogers (No. 45 Beard Oil Chevrolet) battled Bowman nearly side-by-side for second. At Lap 37, he led by more than nine seconds. Rogers pushed past Bowman for second the next time around, and crossed the line 9.096 seconds behind Poole.
Rogers, who had shown speed earlier in the day by leading the first practice, started to close the gap on Poole. He cut Poole's advantage to just over five seconds within 20 laps, and at Lap 70 trailed the lead by just 4.671 seconds. If he thought he would gradually advance to the lead as the race continued under a long early green, he received a welcome surprise at Lap 75.
Poole cut his right front tire and smacked the Turn 2 wall, and was forced to drive to pit road. Rogers inherited the lead just before the leaders also pitted. Grant Enfinger (No. 36 Breland Homes Dodge) beat Rogers out of the pits; meanwhile, Poole was on the tail end of the lead lap in 12th.
However, Poole drove back to pit road to fix additional damage outside of the tire, and wound up losing several laps. Back on the track, the green flag flew to start Lap 83.
Rogers passed Enfinger back immediately, taking a 0.083-second lead. Bowman moved into a side-by-side battle with Enfinger, which temporarily helped Rogers advance his lead. Bowman was too hot, though, and sped to the lead at Lap 87. He slowly built that lead to over a second at Lap 104 and two seconds at Lap 107, with Rogers, Enfinger, Boat, and Erik Jones (No. 55 Paragon Corvette Reproductions Chevrolet) trailing him.
Poole brought out the race's second caution flag at Lap 114 with more right front tire trouble, spelling the end of a five-race streak atop the series point standings. Kimmel pitted to close Lap 116, but most leaders stayed on track before the Lap 121 green flag.
Bowman started clean to get away from Rogers, and Rogers slid several laps later while running second to put himself into a side-by-side battle with Enfinger, further assisting the leader. Enfinger passed Rogers for second on Lap 127, just as Brandon Davis crashed in Turn 2. Kimmel, having just pitted, stayed out while the leaders drove to pit road. Matt Lofton (No. 16 Strutmasters.com Chevrolet) drove second, with Bowman following in third for the Lap 135 green flag.
Kimmel drove to a lead of five car lengths right away, but another caution slowed his progress - and Bowman moved to second. Kimmel led again out of the Lap 144 restart, and Bowman followed him far in front of Lofton in third and Enfinger in fourth. Lofton and Enfinger had to split the slow car of Michael Simko to keep in touch with the two leaders, and the next lap, Simko spun, hit the wall, and stopped in the middle of traffic to bring out another caution.
With Bowman already having advanced to second, it was clear he just needed more time under the green flag to pass Kimmel. He got it. Kimmel led out of the Lap 150 restart, but Bowman passed him on the outside on the backstretch just over two laps later. That would be all he needed.
Bowman worked his way up to a 1.5-second lead by Lap 163 and nearly a two-second advantage 20 laps later. Meanwhile, Enfinger and Kimmel battled hard for second, with Enfinger passing for the position on Lap 169. Boat, too, gained on Kimmel in the late stages and passed for third with 15 to go.
Several caution flags flew in the race's final laps, but Bowman got away clean every time. Contact between Spencer Gallagher (No. 23 Allegiant Air Chevrolet) and Jones on Lap 197 forced the race to extend past its advertised distance of 200 laps, so Bowman led the field for a final green flag to start Lap 201. He cruised to a 0.385-second lead at the white flag and beat Enfinger by 0.662 second at the finish of Lap 202 as the checkered flag flew.
Rogers finished fourth in just his second ARCA race of the 2012 season, and Kimmel ended the night fifth. Chad Hackenbracht (No. 58 Tastee Apple Chevrolet) finished sixth in front of Lofton, Gallagher, and Ryan Reed (No. 15 RaceHard.com/Renton Coil Springs Toyota). 18-year-old West Des Moines, Iowa native Mason Mitchell (No. 6 J&S Ag Services/Make-A-Wish Foundation Chevrolet) - like Boat, making his ARCA debut - finished 10th for Eddie Sharp Racing.
Chris Buescher (No. 17 BeavEx/Reliance Tool Ford) could never find his rhythm and finished 13th, but now leads Poole by 45 points atop the driver standings. Bowman remains third, having trimmed a 165-point deficit to 75.
The race lasted one hour, 51 minutes, and 56 seconds, and finished with an average speed of 94.744 miles per hour. Seven caution flags slowed the race for 45 of the 202 laps.
The full results are linked here, under the "Race Results" tab.
Chicagoland Speedway is the next stop for the ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards, just one week from now. The 1.5-mile oval will host ARCA for the 12th time since 2001 in the Ansell ActivArmrŽ 150. Practice will open Friday, July 20, from 6:05-7:35 p.m. Central. Menards Pole Qualifying presented by Ansell will take place at 9:30 a.m. CT on Saturday, July 21, with the 100-lap, 150-mile race set to air live on SPEED at 4 p.m. CT. The race will be the 12th of 20 in 2012, and the fifth of seven in the Hoosier Tire Superspeedway Challenge.