LONG POND, PA - New conditions require adaptability, especially in racing, and Brennan Poole and Venturini Motorsports proved
to be the best at handling a revamped Pocono Raceway in the track's first ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards event since an offseason paving project.
Poole (No. 25 Venturini Motorsports Toyota) led 77 of 80 laps, including the final 60, to win the Pocono ARCA 200 over Chad Hackenbracht (No. 58 CGH Motorsports Chevrolet). Alex Bowman (No. 22 St. Jude Children's Research Hospital Dodge) finished third.
The win was Poole's second in a row after triumphing seven days ago at 0.375-mile Elko Speedway. Poole showed his ability to adapt not only by translating his success to one of ARCA's largest tracks at 2.5 miles, but also by so cleanly dominating on the new Pocono asphalt.
"I can't tell you how happy I am," Poole said. "It's a great feeling to win here. It's a historic track, and being the first winner on the new paved asphalt is pretty awesome. I'm proud to be a part of it."
Poole credited his Venturini Motorsports team and an engine from Joe Gibbs Racing in his victory.
"I can't be thankful enough to be a part of their family, and I'm proud to say I drive a car that's powered by Joe Gibbs Racing," Poole said. "I can't thank Venturini Motorsports enough. Billy Venturini, my crew chief, did an incredible job and set up an awesome race car for us and it carried over in the race."
Ever a team player, Poole recognized his crew for their work in the pits.
"They got us out front and got us into clean air and that's what it seemed to be all about throughout the day," he said. If you could have clean air, you could run quicker. With the tapered spacer, you really had to keep your momentum up."
Poole set a new track qualifying record on Friday, breaking Kyle Busch's 2003 mark with a fast lap of 173.554 mph, nearly a quarter of a second faster than second starter and teammate Kevin Swindell (No. 55 Curb Records/Venturini Motorsports Toyota)
Poole kept a consistent lead under one second through the first six laps, but started to dominate over the next four, increasing his advantage by more than 3.5 seconds in that time. Hackenbracht, who had used the inside line to move from third to second on the first lap, stayed there, as Swindell and Frank Kimmel (No. 44 Ansell/Menards Toyota) battled for the third spot.
Swindell pitted from third place on Lap 13 with a shredded front left tire. Increased heat and wear in tires had been a concern for ARCA officials and teams throughout the weekend, and Swindell's early damage justified those thoughts. As Poole finished Lap 15 with a seven-second lead on Hackenbracht, the caution flag flew, allowing teams to enter pit road and check tire wear.
Chris Buescher (No. 17 BeavEx/Reliance Tool Ford) and Roulo Brothers Racing teammate Brandon Davis (No. 99 Ford) each took just two tires to come out first and third, respectively, with Poole emerging second after taking four.
The green flag flew at Lap 21 with Buescher leading on the outside line, near the wall. Poole passed him on the inside entering Turn 3, taking a 0.132-second lead at the start/finish line.
Soon after that, though, Bobby Gerhart and Michael Leavine collided entering the first turn, collecting George Cushman along the way. Swindell, who had fallen from the lead lap with his green flag pit stop, earned the Aaron's Lucky Dog to get back onto the lead lap in 20th place.
Lap 33 brought another green flag with Poole leading Buescher, Davis, Josh Williams, and Hackenbracht. Poole could not get away as easily. Buescher trailed Poole by just over one second before Hackenbracht passed him on Lap 36. Then, Hackenbracht shortened the gap to Poole to under a second and kept it there as the field sorted out past the halfway point. While Buescher dropped four seconds behind Poole in third, Poole only led Hackenbracht by 0.948 second after Lap 40, the halfway point.
Buescher stayed in third, and Swindell moved to fourth after recovering from his earlier lap-down misfortune. He had been 12th at Lap 34, 10th one lap later, eighth on Lap 37, and fifth on Lap 43 before moving into fourth on Lap 44. All of that improvement, though, did damage to Swindell's left front tire - again - and he drove to pit road on Lap 45. Davis then improved to fourth, but had to pit just the same.
Poole and Hackenbracht started to make the race a two-car duel at Lap 47. While Poole led by just 1.27 second, Buescher fell more than 11 seconds off the pace. Five laps later, Buescher was 13 seconds behind, with new fourth- and fifth-place drivers Matt Lofton and Tom Hessert more than 30 seconds behind Poole. Up front, the leaders were driving 53-second laps and only 12 cars remained on the lead lap.
Poole's exceptional lead was not permanent, though, as the caution flag came out at Lap 59 and promised to tighten the field as cars entered pit road for the final time. Poole led Hackenbracht and had to drive all the way to the last spot before the exit line. He emerged first as Hackenbracht's crew had trouble raising the car's right side. Buescher's crew also took more time than previously, taking four tires instead of two. Ryan Reed, who had entered eighth, emerged second from the pits behind teammate Poole, as Hackenbracht, Buescher, and Corr filled the top five.
The race started again at Lap 64. Bowman, who had risen to fourth on the previous green flag run but fell to eighth on pit road, was resurgent. He drove by Buescher and into third on Lap 65. Poole extended his lead over Hackenbracht back to a second, as Reed fell out of the top five.
With 10 laps to go, Poole led Hackenbracht by 1.808 second and Bowman by 2.062, as Bowman continued to pressure for the second position. Lofton and Buescher drove just behind the lead trio, just under 10 seconds behind Poole.
Dominant all weekend after winning the Menards Pole Award presented by Ansell and leading final practice, Poole was not to be denied in pursuit of his third career win in just 11 starts. He won by a final margin of 5.164 seconds over Hackenbracht and 5.952 seconds over Bowman, with Lofton over 14 seconds behind.
The race started in an unusual manner, as Aleks Gregory crashed alone on a pace lap before the first green flag even flew. Drivers making the first lap under green then had to drive through a light cloud of asphalt-drying powder on the Long Pond Straightaway between Turns 1 and 2.
Kimmel finished sixth, with Jared Marks seventh, A.J. Henriksen eighth, Reed ninth, and Williams 10th. Unofficially, Poole leads the series standings by 60 points over Buescher, with Hackenbracht 80 points behind in third.
The race finished in one hour, 34 minutes, and 10 seconds, at an average speed of 127.436 mph. The full results are available below.
Michigan International Speedway is the next stop for the ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards in just six days, in the RainEater Wiper Blades 200. SPEED will air Friday's race live - the 31st for ARCA at the two-mile oval since 1980 - at 5 p.m., one of 10 broadcasts for the series on the network this season. ARCARacing.com will feature live timing and scoring of all on-track events Thursday and Friday.
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 www.ARCARacing.com.
The ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards has crowned an ARCA national champion each year since its inaugural season in 1953, and has toured over 200 race tracks in 26 states since its inception. The series has tested the abilities of drivers and race teams over the most diverse schedule of stock car racing events in the world, visiting tracks ranging from 0.375 mile to 2.66 miles in length, on both paved and dirt surfaces as well as a left- and right-turn road course in its most recent season. This year, the series visited Alabama's Mobile International Speedway and Minnesota's Elko Speedway for the first time.
Founded by John and Mildred Marcum in 1953 in Toledo, Ohio, the Automobile Racing Club of America (ARCA) is recognized among the leading sanctioning bodies in the country. Closing in on completing its sixth decade after hundreds of thousands of miles of racing, ARCA administers over 100 race events each season in three professional touring series and local weekly events.
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