|Tom Hessert Takes 2nd Straight ARCA Checkered Flag at Salem Speedway|
What began as a day that looked like it would be a total washout, ended with the victorious Tom Hessert being booed in Victory Lane at Salem Speedway after late race skirmishes took leader and local favorite Frank Kimmel out of the lead. Hessert made a last lap pass of Spencer Gallagher to win his second straight ARCA race at Salem. His win was not well received by the Salem faithful however, who though Hessert had roughed up Kimmel in Turn 1 with less than 10 laps to go. A green-white checker finish wrapped up a day of racing that went surprisingly according to the advance schedule despite threatening skies all day over the Salem high banks. Frank Kimmel's son will took third ahead of 15 year old phenom Kyle Weatherman and Travis Swaim.
We left Indy this morning about 9 and drove through solid rain showers until we got south of Columbus. The closer we got to Salem the drier I-65 became so we were optimistic the 200 lap race would be run. We have had numerous days like this at Salem's spring ARCA race, and today brought another sizable crowd out even in the iffy conditions. But as a couple of locals told me during a late race red flag, one of whom said he had been coming to Salem since 1976, "This place is a jewel to us. We come out here to camp out for two days and escape." So this must have been a perfect weekend for those fans as the race itself included the usual assortment of bruised and battered equipment, short tempers in the pits during the race and again afterwards on the front stretch between crew members, and at least one team owner hot under the collar for a driver who continued to race on a flat tire and wouldn't park the car when told to in the final laps.
|Frank Kimmel pitted from the lead at Salem; he wound up sixth|
Meanwhile we walked the whole track, working our way from Turn 1 at the start following the race down the backstretch and through the bumpy Turns 3 & 4 approaching Lap 100. It was obvious the recent pavement patches had done nothing to take away Salem's "character" so I was glad to see that the bumps still came into play. By lap 125 I was headed to the pits as I knew the leaders were still due to make one more stop, and with only 10 total tires available for the race, most teams would just add fuel and bolt on their final two Hoosiers and run to the end. That's what Kimmel did and it sure looked like he had the race in the bag until his late run in with Hessert knocked him down the order. One of the things I love the most about Salem is the feeling of being shoe-horned into the pit area with everyone else. You hear things and total strangers spill their guts, or crewman's shouts to one another cut through the din of race engine noise to leave an impression of hearing privileged communications. This is feeling on the inside of something exciting and when you think about what the people in this series are trying to do - many of them dreaming about getting into the top ranks of stock car racing - it's a privilege to have the chance to be there in their midst with a camera.
You can go to http://www.arcaracing.com/news.php?contentid=15268 for more details on the race itslef, but I'm just here to give my two cents on the experience and share some photos with you. Here's a few in a quick album to enjoy. Next I am off to Talladega Friday to shoot the NASCAR Nationwide and Sprint CUp races for AP. I wish I could get there Friday to include the ARCA race in the weekend, but there's not way I can get away any sooner. Another racing road trip done; another one on the horizon. Then it's back to Indianapolis for the opening of Indy 500 practice the following week when I will be shooting and blogging for motorsport.com on a regular basis from the greatest racetrack in the world. As the late Sid Collins used to say, "Stay tuned race fans for the greatest spectacle in racing!"