Teammate Tussle Puts Butler III in Toledo Victory Lane by Charles Krall
Young Driver Claims FIrst Career ARCA Win
Ken Butler III took the checkered flag in front of Ken Scrader. (James McDonald Photos)
With 10 laps to go in Sunday’s ARCA RE/MAX Series Hantz Group 200 at Toledo Speedway, it appeared that Eddie Sharp Racing teammates Ken Butler III and Michael McDowell would give the team its first ever one-two finish. The only real question was which driver would finish first and which would settle for second.
With just four laps left on the board, it appeared that McDowell would lay claim to the checkered flag. He had just passed his teammate and, with the faster car, all he needed to do was complete four trouble-free circuits around the banked half-mile to earn his first ever series victory. "
But as has been known to happen in the past at Toledo, trouble struck seemingly out of the blue.
On lap 197, just seconds after completing the pass for the lead, McDowell’s car suddenly lurched sideways entering turn one, the result of getting punted by Butler. McDowell fought to save the car, dirt-tracking through a long smoky slide before ending up at the bottom of turn two with his hopes for victory dashed.
Butler, a rookie driver with backing from Michael Waltrip Racing, held on to the top spot over NASCAR Nextel Cup Series veteran and four-time Toledo ARCA winner Ken Schrader on a one-lap dash to the checkered to earn his first career ARCA victory. But after the race, it seemed no one was in the mood to celebrate.
“I’m happy to win, but that’s obviously not the way we want to get our first one,” Butler said after climbing from the No. 22 Dodge to a chorus of jeers from the Toledo crowd in victory lane. “I don’t know what happened, but it seemed like he just stopped in front of me. From my point of view, there wasn’t anything I could do to avoid him.”
While one of the ESR Development Team drivers was victorious, the other was left with bitter disappointment.
McDowell, who started from the ARCA SIM Factory Pole for the third consecutive time and fourth overall in 2007, ended up seventh instead of scoring his first career ARCA RE/MAX Series win.
“He just turned me around,” McDowell said dejectedly as he left the speedway. “He jacked me in the rear and lifted the tires off the ground. I tried to hold on to it, but there’s not much you can do when you get dumped going into the turn like that. I’m upset because we ran him clean. We just got wrecked. It’s as simple as that.”
The spin with McDowell set up a one-lap dash to the checkered flag during which Butler faced heavy pressure from Schrader. Schrader’s No. 52 was unscathed through the first 199 laps, but contact with Butler on the final circuit left his 15-year-old chassis with some typical short track battle scars.
“I figured something exciting was going to happen up there,” Schrader said, referring to the late-race battle for the lead. “It did, but I guess it wasn’t enough. If I had a little better attitude, I would have turned (Butler). It didn’t mean anything for us, but the No. 2 car (McDowell) didn’t deserve that. That’s not how you win races.”
Justin South finished an impressive third, just in front of eight-time series champion Frank Kimmel. Kimmel was forced to come from deep in the pack, racing to fourth from 16th on the starting grid after demolishing his primary car in Saturday’s practice session. Daytona winner Bobby Gerhart rounded out the top five in the No. 5 Lucas Oil Chevy.
Former Toledo Speedway late model track champion Brian Keselowski fought an ill-handling car and recovered from a late-race spin to finish sixth, with McDowell in seventh, Winchester winner Billy Leslie was eighth, while Mike Buckley and Billy Venturini crashed across the finish line to end up ninth and tenth respectively.
In all, there were 14 cautions that ate up 78 of the 200 laps. While there were a number of incidents and wrecks throughout the afternoon, none of the drivers involved were injured.
After taking Memorial Day Weekend off, the ARCA RE/MAX Series returns to action Saturday June 2 with the Prairie Meadows 250 at Iowa Speedway. The race is scheduled for a 9 P.M. Eastern start and will be televised live on SPEED.
Michael McDowell's No. 2 spun with three laps to go, ending his chances for victory.