(TOLEDO, Ohio - September 18, 2012) - Sixteen-year-old Chase Elliott finished a busy week with 41 laps led and a third-place finish at Salem Speedway.
Earlier in the week, Elliott (No. 9 Aaron's Dream Machine/HendrickCars.com Chevrolet) had traveled to Chicago for media obligations as one of NASCAR's Next 9, highlighting the top drivers in NASCAR's developmental divisions. On Friday, though, Elliott shifted his focus to the ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards, participating at an autograph session in downtown Salem with 12 other drivers. The next day, he posted the fastest practice speed and earned his first Menards Pole Award presented by Ansell.
"It started off good but didn't end the way we wanted it to," Elliott said just after the Kentuckiana Ford Dealers ARCA Fall Classic. "We had a great car. I couldn't have asked for a better car tonight. The way the cautions fell, they didn't really fall our way but you can't do anything about that. The way I ran the tires, I was hoping to get two more there at the end and really get after it hard, but that was just my fault. You live and you learn. We'll just have to come back and be stronger."
Elliott finished his first ARCA season with three top-fives and six top-10s in six starts, with the highlights a second-place finish at New Jersey Motorsports Park in July and Saturday's pole win and third-place run. He ended happy to have made some improvements throughout the year.
"It was a lot of fun," he said. "I feel like we made, from the first race at Mobile and the first race here at Salem, a lot of gains. We had a great run at the road course and a good run here tonight, so I feel like we're making gains. If we can just continue to improve, then next year we'll come back even stronger."
Race runner-up Chris Buescher said Elliott raced him clean while running second to him over the first quarter of the race. Buescher tried to return the favor when passing Elliott for second in the final 10 laps, and Elliott took note.
"I appreciate it," he said. "He raced me clean all night. This is a race track where you have to give and take and the last thing I want to do is mess up what these guys have going for a championship. For him to get in that wreck and come back and rebound like that was extremely impressive. They made the right call on pit strategy and did the right things with their tires."
Fans Supportive at Salem: Salem Speedway co-owner Beverly Thompson said campers started to arrive at the southern Indiana facility on Monday (right), and general manager Richard Deaton said the facility hosted its largest camper turnout for an ARCA Racing Series event. That was evident on Saturday before and after the race, as the camper lots were near capacity, just like the grandstands. Many fans stayed after Saturday's race to enjoy a live concert behind the main grandstand.
Another Attempt at DuQuoin: Points leader Chris Buescher is the defending race winner as the second dirt race of the ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards season is up next, on Sunday, October 14 in DuQuoin, Ill.
Practice for the Southern Illinois 100 presented by Federated Car Care will begin at 9 a.m. and last for one hour, with Menards Pole Qualifying presented by Ansell starting at 11:15. The 100-lap, 100-mile race will take place at 1:30 p.m. All times are Central. ARCARacing.com will feature live timing and scoring coverage throughout the day, and ARCA Racing Network hosts Charlie Krall and Tim Clagg will deliver a live audio call for the race on the site. The race had been scheduled for Labor Day, but was postponed because of severe weather in southern Illinois.