Thanks for the plug Kez; yay or nay on KY thrillometer?

Thanks for the plug Kez; yay or nay on KY thrillometer?

TOLEDO, Ohio (Sept. 25, 2017) -- As it always does, the Chat Board at arcaracing.com lit up Friday night under the lights during the Crosley Brands 150 at Kentucky Speedway. While many cheered the four-wide race for the lead and the green-white-checker finish, some vented, specifically regarding the seven caution periods that gobbled up 49 laps of the 150-mile race.

NASCAR Monster Energy Cup Series champion Brad Keselowski was part of the cheering section.

"The @ARCA_Racing series is putting on an awesome show tonight. 4 wide for the lead!" Keselowski tweeted out.

It wasn't the only time ARCA cars were 4-wide for the lead on the newly-paved 1.5-mile superspeedway in Sparta, Ky.

"I never heard 'four-wide' more from my spotter than I did tonight," said runner-up finisher Zane Smith.

On the other side of it, 'legal lou' (Chat Board identity) wrote, "Absolute worst show ARCA had on TV. Hope there will be a better product next time."

'Chad B.' also chimed in. "Completely agree. The worst ARCA race that I have sat down and watched."

While everyone's got an opinion and welcome to it, it's worth noting that, as is the case with all freshly-paved tracks, it takes time for the grooves to widen out. It was certainly a concern among the drivers heading into the race.

"If you touch the gray, it can bite you," Smith said after practice. "To stay down in the groove the quicker guys are taking a bigger arc than normal. It's going to be interesting in lapped traffic…you want to be on the bottom."

In fact, Smith did get into the gray during the race and brushed the wall early on. The miscue put him behind all night before the Huntington Beach, Calif. driver staged an admirable late-race comeback that put him in the mix for the win over the last two laps.

Ty Majeski added his take.

"I hope the groove widens out," said Majeski. "If you get up in the gray, the car just starts skating. We'll take it lap by lap and be smart early on so we're there at the end."

Certainly, the narrow groove at Kentucky was a concern for all who had skin the game; but for a one-groove track, one has to wonder how two- three- and four-wide battles became commonplace during the race. And of course, it's no secret that four-wide racing on a one-groove track can most certainly breed cautions. However, four cars battling for the lead in a single groove does not sound like the "worst ARCA race" to me.

It's also worth noting that, despite the caution flag laps at Kentucky, the larger reality among ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards races are the way more abundant long green flag runs, a product of the teams, participants and rule packages.

Case in point: the week before at Chicagoland where four cautions for 28 laps slowed the event. Rewind back another week at the rock 'em, sock 'em Salem Speedway short track where, over 200 laps, just three cautions for 20 laps slowed the pace. How about the recent road course race at Road America -- at which ARCA teams only get to do once a year -- where there were just two cautions for six laps.

On a majority scale, longer green-flag runs are more commonplace than ever in ARCA competition, a testament to the quality and hard work from the teams who put on the show.

And if I may, I have seen every ARCA Racing Series event since Daytona 1997 -- 445 consecutive -- and I have never seen better, more exciting and more competitive racing more continually than I have witnessed this year. From the short tracks to the dirt, from a road course to superspeedways, the racing this year has been nothing short of phenomenal. To condemn the thing over one race, or label it "the worst" seems a little jumpy to me, especially on a surface as challenging as Kentucky's.

And in the end, race fans saw a thrilling finish Friday night at Kentucky, complete with thrills, spills and sparks, and four-wide racing for the lead, all culminating with a super-exciting green-white-checker finish that included three cars shooting it out for the win, two of which had body damage from earlier-race skirmishes.

ARCA Ilmor Engines, Composite Bodies perform
In addition to the increasing quality of the teams who compete in the ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards, the addition of the ARCA Ilmor 396 engines and the Five Star Composite Bodies have set the groundwork for increased competition across the board. From 2015 forward, after 59 races, there have been 36 different ARCA race winners and 21 first-time winners. There have also been 31 different General Tire Pole winners and 16 first-time pole winners. The uptick in competition can be directly correlated with the introduction of the ARCA Ilmor engines Five Star Composite Bodies, both of which debuted in 2015.

Maine all in for Austin Theriault
If it was yay or nay on the quality of the race, it was all thumbs-up from new ARCA race fans from Maine who continue to cheer on their home-state hero, Fort Kent, Maine's Austin Theriault who won his seventh ARCA Racing Series event of the year at Kentucky, and eighth of his career. This means that Theriault has won 38 percent of all the ARCA races he has entered. Theriault's amazing win-start ratio includes a victory at Michigan Int'l Speedway in his first start in 2014. Theriault also lowered his average finish to exactly 3. In 21 career starts, he has 18 top-five finishes and none outside the top-10. Theriault is not only the only driver to win an ARCA race from the state of Maine, he is, amazingly enough over 65 consecutive years, the only driver from Maine to ever compete in the ARCA Racing Series. Safe to say that Theriault has grown ARCA's overall audience to include hundreds, if not thousands from the state of Maine.

"Totally awesome Austin. So proud of our Maine man," chatted Theresa P.

Theriault adds intermediate track to win column
Theriault is one of only nine drivers in the history of ARCA to have won on all the track types and disciplines that the series competes on to include short paved tracks, dirt tracks, superspeedways and road courses. However, Theriault is the only driver to have won on all the aforementioned track types in a single season. With Theriault's most recent win at Kentucky, you could unofficially include a fifth category for the year to include a 1.5-mile intermediate track. Theriault's other superspeedway win this year came in the season-opener at Daytona, one of only two "restrictor plate" tracks on ARCA's tour.

Hard Work/Hard Luck Award to Kimmel Racing
If there was a 'hardest working team' award balanced with a 'hard luck' award at Kentucky Speedway, it would surely go to Kimmel Racing. After being involved in a practice crash that destroyed the team's primary No. 69 SO Contracting-Crosley-T&T Construction car, Kimmel Racing made the 62-mile one-way trip back to the shop (on raceday) in Clarksville, Indiana where they prepped another 69 car that included the installation of an engine, transmission and windshield, plus the time it took to set it up without turning a lap on the track until the field rolled off pit road for the start.

"When we got to the shop, the car had no motor, no transmission, no windshield…put three springs on it, set-it up and here we are," said Will Kimmel.

The Kimmels made it back to the track in time for its driver, Nick Higdon, to start last in the field before he steadily moved up during the race. Unfortunately, Higdon was involved in another crash during the race and received extensive damage to the back-up 69 car, putting the exclamation point on an already difficult weekend for Kimmel Racing, the longest operating ARCA team in history.

Brutal summer stretch concludes at Kentucky
The Crosley Brands 150, the 24th ARCA race at Kentucky since the series debuted there in 2000, ended a brutal summer stretch for the ARCA Racing Series that included nine consecutive races without pause over two months. Inside this particular stretch was a challenging mix of tracks including three paved short tracks, three superspeedways, two dirt tracks and one road course.

MDM's Smith, Creed cool at Kentucky
Zane Smith and Sheldon Creed, who finished second and third at Kentucky respectively, are as close as you can get to Victory Lane without already having been there. Smith's runner-up run at Kentucky marked his third second-place finish of the season, and second runner-up since joining MDM Motorsports at Salem in early September. Smith, who also won the General Tire Pole at Salem, is an MDM teammate of Creed. Creed not only earned his career-first pole at Kentucky and finished third after leading the most laps -- 68 of 100 -- the Alpine, Calif. driver finished a career-best second at the DuQuoin State Fairgrounds mile dirt in early September and fourth at Springfield in late August. Creed sat out the ARCA race at Road America but only because he was participating in the Trans-Am Series, which he won, and the NASCAR Xfinity race. Creed also put down the fastest lap of the race at Kentucky with a speed of 180.765 mph. His General Tire pole qualifying run of 29.301 seconds (184.294 mph) was just a tick off Chase Briscoe's one-lap track record of 29.261.

Rookie Perkins solid in debut with MMM
Bakersfield, Calif.'s Blaine Perkins finished a solid ninth in his ARCA debut at Kentucky driving for national championship team Mason Mitchell Motorsports (MMM). MMM's Chase Purdy was racing for the win before he got caught up in a crash late in the going.

Rouse, Decker shine for VMS
Cole Rouse, also in his debut, finished 11th in the No. 25 Musselman's BIG CUP Apple Sauce Toyota for Venturini Motorsports, the last car on the lead lap.

Rouse's VMS teammate Natalie Decker also looked good at Kentucky, finishing 12th. Decker is scheduled to finish up her first season on the ARCA tour in the season finale at Kansas Speedway Oct. 20. Decker has been impressive throughout her debut season with a career-best finish of seventh in her road course debut at Road America and a 10th at Pocono Raceway in only her second superspeedway attempt. Decker also finished 11th in her series debut at Toledo Speedway in mid-May.

ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards teams will get a much-needed pause from racing season in preparation for the season finale coming to Kansas Speedway Oct. 20.

Don Radebaugh
dradebaugh@arcaracing.com

Comments
Suzette M.

Great Article Don! Loved it! Especially about my favorite, Austin Theriault! I know Austin has tons of fans from his home state of Maine but Austin also has a huge fan here in S California! I'm so very proud of Austin & his 52 crew. WTG Austin & KSR

#AT52Fan4Life

BK2Fan4Life

I Root only root for 2 guys, Austin Theriault & Brad Keselowski. Both great guys on & off the track & both with Amazing talent! 

 

Wayne H.

Joe Bessey won an ARCA race in Atlanta. He is also from Maine.

Don Radebaugh

10-4 Wayne H. We're going to fix that, and do a feature story on Joe. Thanks.

Randall F.

Don; I think I value Brad K.'s opinion of the show above that of ":legal lou" and the one or 2 that seconded his opinion. ExjckmnASA evidently has more than a spectator's  expertise to base his comments on. 

Randall F.

Great article,Don. Wish I could sit in on your corporate communications class. 

ExjckmnASA

Well I guess that the people that watched it on TV should come to Kansas. Everyone knows that TV doesn't do it any justice. It was a drag to sit on pit wall and watch the racing laps tick away under yellow at the start, but it made up for it later.