Steve Wallace joined the elite company of Frank Kimmel and Ken Schrader as the only repeat winners in the 2006 ARCA RE/MAX Series season with his victory in the SK Hand Took 200 at Chicagoland Speedway Saturday afternoon.
Wallace crossed the checkers in his No. 61 Nu South Lemonade-Hantz Group Dodge 5.936 seconds ahead of runner-up finisher Blake Bjorklund to win his second ARCA RE/MAX Series race of 2006 and the third of his career.
In addition to his victory Saturday, Wallace posted the quickest speed during a practice session at Chicagoland on Friday and earned the Pork Pole Award with a time of 30.489 seconds (177.113 mph) around the 1.5-mile speedway. During the race, he also earned the Hurst Fastest Lap of the Race award with a speed of 171.527 mph (31.482 seconds).
“Our mile-and-a-half cars just really fly,” said Wallace. “Of course we’ve got some Penske horsepower under the hood too so that really helps. I think at one point we had a 15 or 20 second lead so that was really fun. I’ve got two more ARCA races on the schedule, including Talladega and Iowa in addition to some Busch races so were going to be really busy for sure.”
However dominate Wallace was, he did not go without a few close calls. He finished the race with damage to the right side door after he was clipped by a lapped car on lap 95. Wallace was able to correct the car without spinning and went on to claim the victory.
The 134-lap event was slowed by seven cautions for 49 laps. The first caution occurred when Justin Marks got loose coming out of turn four on lap one and spun collecting a handful of cars, including second-place point contender Bobby Gerhart, Brett Rowe, Howard Bixman, Todd Bowsher and Brian Kaltreider.
the No. 4 Dodge Motorsports Dodge and led nine laps. His crew chief, Wayne Carroll, earned SK Hand Tool Crew Chief of the Race honors.
“We had a good car today,” said Lagasse. “This is an easy racetrack for a mile-and-a-half. Everyone says that it’s like a Kentucky or a Kansas, but I think it might be a little more forgiving. I didn’t test here so my test was on Friday when Jack (Wallace, ARCA pace car driver) gave me a ride in the pace car.”
Dexter Bean finished fourth in the No. 6 Five Star Telecom Chevrolet.
“It’s just nice to actually finish a race,” said Bean, who has had a rough run of luck in recent weeks. “And it’s nice to put up such a good finish so close to home. The crew did everything just right. I just had an awesome car this weekend."
Kimmel settled for fifth in the No. 46 Pork the Other White Meat Ford, and put a little padding on his current point lead, as Gerhart finished 17th, three laps down.
“This was the kind of day that we needed as far as the points go,” said Kimmel, who led three laps. “We gave up a lot of points last week getting wrecked out early, but we gained a lot back today. We also had a pretty eventful day that started when I was heading for pit road for that green flag pit stop. I didn’t realize there was still speedy-dry there at the pit entrance until my front tires got to it and that got me turned around. Then when I got to the pit stall a caution came out on the track so Bill made the call to change only right side tires and get right back out so we could stay on the lead lap. But the scoring kept showing us almost two laps down, they got that fixed and then we restarted and with another quick caution we got back on the lead lap. I don’t really like racing the way we had to today, but I know I need to keep the points race in mind and Wallace’s car was just so strong today. But with everything we endured today, to take a fifth place finish out of here and a 250-point lead, I’ll consider that a great day.”
“It was really good to finish second,” said Bjorklund. “Our team is really on a roll. We haven’t been out of the top-five in the past few weeks, and that’s awesome. I’m excited to go to Salem next weekend because we’re hungry for that first win and we’ve been getting closer and closer every week. We finished eighth there in the Spring and I think with the way everything has been going with the team in recent weeks we should be in a pretty good position to battle for our first win.”
Bjorklund was also the Highest Finishing rookie.
Scott Lagasse, Jr. posted a career-best finish of third in
It was obvious by the look of his car in Victory Lane that Steve Wallace's win didn't come easy. (ARCA Photos)
Billy Venturini led 20 laps and finished sixth in the No. 25 Texas Corral-ABC Auto Parts Chevrolet. He advanced 17 spots to earn the Hoosier Tire Hard Charger honors.
“It was pretty decent,” said Venturini. “We probably weren’t good enough to win but there were about fifteen of us that were good enough to win at some point during the race, we just weren’t there at the end.”
Mexico City, Mexico’s Jorge Goeters, in his career-first ARCA RE/MAX Series start, finished sixth in the No. 24 Bob Schacht Motorsports Ford and led four laps. Tim Russell was eighth, while Justin South was ninth. Pete Shepherd finished tenth.
Kaltreider was transported to a local hospital following the incident. Kaltreider, of Reading, Pennsylvania, was able to exit his No. 62 Adobe-Independent Graphics Ford under his own power. After being examined at the infield care center, Kaltreider was transported to a local hospital for further evaluation and later released.
Bjorklund finished a career-best second in the No. 32 Country Joe Racing-Red Line Oil Dodge just one day after his 21st birthday. Bjorklund and Frank Kimmel were the only cars on the lead lap that pitted with 20 laps to go for four fresh tires and gas. The move paid off, as both drivers were able to post top-5 finishes.
Things started early at Chicago, with this big wreck on lap one.
Wallace has become known for his big burnouts.
In all, seven drivers took turns leading laps during the 200-mile event including Wallace, who led the most with 85. Lagasse, Kimmel, AJ Henriksen, Venturini, Allgaier and Goeters all led laps.
Bjorklund also earned the 2006 ARCA RE/MAX Series Bill France Triple Crown, a three-race series that concluded this weekend at Chicagoland. The Bill France Triple Crown is a separate point fund within the 23-race ARCA RE/MAX Series schedule that tests drivers on a challenging combination of venues all in a tight, nine-day stretch. The series began on Friday night, September 1st at Toledo Speedway, a half-mile short track, and included a 100-lap event just two days later on the DuQuoin State Fairgrounds mile-dirt. Saturday’s SK Hand Tool 200 marked the third and final Bill France Triple Crown event of 2006.
Bjorklund joins Kimmel, Brent Sherman, Tim Steele, Bill Baird, Harris DeVane, Bob Hill, Bob Keselowski, Bobby Bowsher, Bill Venturini, Tracy Leslie, Grant Adcox, Lee Raymond and Davey Allison as former Bill France Triple Crown winners.
From Chicagoland, the ARCA RE/MAX Series heads to Salem Speedway on Saturday, September 16th for the Eddie Gilstrap Motors Fall Classic 200, event No. 21 of 23 on the ARCA RE/MAX Series schedule.