Speed chokes, Allgaier wins ARCA title
Justin Allgaier raced from ninth to first to win the dramatic and wild Hantz Group 200 by Belle Tire and Federated Car Care Sunday afternoon at Toledo Speedway. The Springfield, Illinois driver also went from third to first in points to earn a national championship.
Allgaier, in the final event of the season, maneuvered underneath Matt Carter 12 laps from the finish and drove away to earn his sixth ARCA RE/MAX Series victory of the year and eighth of his career. With a little help from Scott Speed and Ricky Stenhouse, Jr., Allgaier also earned the 2008 ARCA RE/MAX Series national championship.
"This is unbelievable," said Allgaier from the championship stage. "We came in hoping to protect our third place position in points - we had Frank (Kimmel) right behind us. We came in with nothing to lose, so we did what we do every week; we raced as hard as we could and went for the win. As things turned out, it also brought our team the championship. I'm so proud of all these guys on this crew; they're the reason I'm up here tonight. I am so relieved this is over. Now we can really focus on the Nationwide races at Texas and Homestead. This really helps with the confidence."
Allgaier, in the family-owned No. 16 Hoosier Tire Midwest-AG Tech-Auto Xpress Chevrolet, needed some help from championship contenders' Speed and Stenhouse, who were one-two in points before the race started, with Allgaier trailing both, 110 points out of first. Allgaier got the assist he needed when Speed's wrecked Red Bull Toyota went away on a hook while Stenhouse's Aflac Ford left on a flatbed truck.
It started on lap 27 when Stenhouse, running third right behind Speed, got into the back of Speed headed into turn three. Speed drifted up the track and clobbered the wall, causing extensive damage to the right-side.
"He (Stenhouse) was on my bumper and he pushed me flat out until I hit the wall," said Speed. "And then the car was completely undrivable; it wasn't even close. It was so bad from hitting the wall; I couldn't do anything with it. Stenhouse started it and he isn't going to win this championship with that attitude. That was ridiculous; that was the most blatant thing I ever saw in my life. Honestly, it's just ARCA; that's just how it is."
After losing a lap on pit road, Speed returned to competition, albeit way off the pace. Then, as the leaders, including Stenhouse, drove to the high side of Speed to put him another lap down, Speed turned right as Stenhouse was going by, sending Stenhouse hard into the turn two wall. The exchange also sent Speed into the inside wall causing further damage to his already wrecked car.
"Last time I was here (Toledo) I got into the rumble strips and that caused me to press down on my brakes and ride up the racetrack," said Stenhouse. "That's the same thing that happened today. I hit the rumble strips in [turns] one and two and that made me get into the brakes in three and four. Speed was there when my car rode up the racetrack, but it really wasn't intentional. I didn't really expect him to come after me after that but when I saw him slowing down on the track I knew that I was in trouble."
As a result, ARCA officials parked Speed for rough driving for the remainder of the race. The Manteca, California driver had already been on driving probation for incidents that occurred earlier in the season.
Stenhouse returned to competition 69 laps down and eventually finished 25th.
With Speed and Stenhouse gone from the championship mix, Allgaier, on a new mission, went on the charge.
Through it all, seven drivers exchanged the lead 10 times while 12 cautions for 83 laps slowed the event continually while safety officials went to work on a wide variety multi-car wrecks that left most machines scratched and torn for the ride home in the transporters.
SIM Factory Pole winner Justin Lofton led at the onset before Allgaier took control when Lofton went down pit road for service on lap 71.Then Allgaier handed the lead to Kimmel when the eventual winner drove to pit road for his one and only stop. Kimmel, after leading the next lap to pick up five bonus points, also came down pit road the next time by.
That handed the lead to newcomer Brandon Thomson, who had been hovering in the top-five all the way. Thomson, also in need of pit service, gave up the lead to Tom Hessert III on lap 95, who then led up through the 105th lap before Carter raced on by. Carter led up through lap 120 before David Ragan, who started last, raced his way into the lead.
Ragan, in the Shriners Hospitals-Roulo Brother Ford, pulled away from everyone before he cut a right-front tire and had to make an unscheduled pit stop after leading 48 laps. Ragan went three laps down during the stop and returned to finish 15th.
Lofton, after working his way back through the field, took over the lead when Ragan fell from the top-spot, only to suffer the same fate when he too cut down a right front tire.
Allgaier, who had been running right behind Lofton in second, took control with Carter in tow. Allgaier led up through lap 184 before Carter raced underneath to lead the 185th lap. However, Carter could not shake Allgaier for long as Allgaier charged right back to challenge. Allgaier got underneath Carter in traffic and made the winning pass on lap 189. From there, Allgaier refused any additional challenges during the remaining laps.
Carter, in the Hantz Group-Stine Seed-NuSouth Lemonade Ford, settled for second, a half-second behind the winner. Carter was also the SunTrust Highest Finishing Rookie.
"We just got beat," said Carter. "Allgaier jumped the restart by about a hundred feet and I couldn't catch him. I knew that the last restart was the only opportunity I had but he beat me fair and square. I just don't know what else to say."
Carter, who was a continual frontrunner all day, also got a birds-eye view of the second Speed-Stenhouse altercation.
"I had just passed the 2 (Speed) and the 99 (Stenhouse) when they had their incident," added Carter. "The 2 was holding everyone up on the restart but I don't think it was on purpose. He was just slower. It was like he was having handling problems or something. Then they were racing and they got together. What Speed did was just stupid. It was Saturday night short track racing in the street stock division, not ARCA RE/MAX Series racing."
Kimmel, in the Ford Drive One-Germane Tooling Ford, finished third on the heels of Carter. Kimmel, who was fourth in points heading into the race, also jumped to second in final points.
"What a great day out there," said Kimmel, who had been the champion every year since 2000. "I just can't believe everything that happened out there today - wow. I'm really happy for Justin (Allgaier) - what a great deal for them. I want to congratulate that whole crew. They certainly never gave up and persevered. Our car was really good today; I'm very pleased. I had a great time today."
Patrick Sheltra steered the Environmental Protections Services to the checkered flag in fourth with Hessert trailing in fifth in the Maaco Auto Painting Ford.
Ken Schrader, in the Federated Auto Parts Dodge, was a front-runner all day before he, like so many others, got caught up in a wreck, relegating the Fenton, Missouri veteran to the 24th finishing position.