Leslie Holds Off Keselowski, Kimmel for Winchester Win
19-Year-Old Claims First Career ARCA Victory at Winchester
Billy Leslie climbs out of his ARCA RE/MAX Series car in victory lane.(B. Costanzo Photos)
It was just like the ARCA RE/MAX Series old days – a Keselowski chasing a Leslie with a Kimmel in tow. Except this time it was the second-generation that shined brightest.
Nineteen-year-old Billy Leslie held off continual charges from Brian Keselowski and Frank Kimmel to win the wild Winchester ARCA 200 Sunday afternoon at Winchester Speedway.
The victory marked the career-first for the Algonac, Michigan racer and the sixth different winner in six events so far in 2007. It was also the first time a son followed in his father’s footsteps as an ARCA RE/MAX Series winner at Winchester. Leslie’s victory also made him the 22nd different driver to win in the last 30 events. In 2006, the ARCA RE/MAX Series broke a record for the most number of race winners in a single season, with 17 different drivers posting victories in 23 events.
“This just hasn’t sunk in yet,” Leslie said in victory lane. “It’s just going to take awhile. We got involved in an accident early in the race and battled back. I just can’t thank everyone enough. Titan Tire just came on as our sponsor; we have a ten-race deal with them. We probably wouldn’t have been here at all without Titan. What a way to start it off. My dad spotted for me; he talked me through this. This is the best day of my life.”
Leslie’s father Tracy Leslie was the ARCA RE/MAX Series national champion in 1988 and won two RE/MAX Series races at Winchester in 1988 and 1999.
Leslie, in the Titan Tire Dodge, took the lead on the 141st lap of the 200-lap race when he slipped past Frank Kimmel and Josh Wise, who were battling for the lead. Leslie spent the final 25 circuits fighting off both Keselowski and Kimmel to earn the momentous victory.
Keselowski, in the Holloway-Dusty’s Collision Ford, got underneath Leslie a time a two inside of 10 laps remaining, but was unable to wrestle the lead from Leslie, who had a two-length lead at the final stripe.
“The lapped cars weren’t as bad as I thought they would be,” said Keselowski. “Billy did a hell of a job. I wanted to race him clean. I didn’t want to race him dirty. We pitted with 60 to go and took a set of tires. They made the car a little bit too tight. Billy just did a great job.”
Keselowski is another second-generation ARCA driver whose father Bob Keselowski was the 1989 series champion and 1990 Winchester winner.
Kimmel, in the Green Oak Farms Ford, battled back from an early-race wreck to finish third.
“Well it was a good points day, but I’m disappointed just the same, Kimmel said smiling. “We got into that accident about thirty laps into the race. I don’t know who hit who there going into turn one, but we fixed it fast. We had a great handling racecar, but it wasn’t good enough to win today. We’ll get ‘em next week.”
Bobby Gerhart was solid all day in the Lucas Oil Chevrolet and finished fourth ahead of Justin Marks, who steered the Crocs Dodge to the finish in fifth. Marks was also involved in the early-race wreck and battled back from numerous unscheduled pitstops to stay on the lead lap. Terry Jones finished sixth in the Jones Group Dodge, a career-best for the Amherstburg, Ontario driver.
Michael McDowell earned the SIM Factory Pole Award with a brand new one-lap track record (110.301 mph) and led the first 65 laps before fading with rear end trouble. He eventually finished 22nd.
Josh Wise was also a factor early on leading 43 laps before falling a lap down near the end. The former USAC Sprint and Midget champion finished seventh in front of Dexter Bean, who finished eighth, also one lap down.
Bean was running third on lap 32 right behind Phillip McGilton when Bean’s machine caught the left-rear quarter of McGilton’s car sending both into the wall, all the while collecting Kimmel, Marks and Keselowski in the mishap. All but McGilton were able to continue.
Jason Hedlesky, in the Hardcore Motorsports Ford, charged from 25th to ninth in the final running order earning the Hoosier Tire Hard Charger Award. Justin South finished 10th in the HD Supply Chevrolet.
Justin Allgaier, the point leader heading into Winchester, overheated early on relegating the Springfield, Illinois driver to 29th in the final running. Allgaier now trails Kimmel by 40 points.
The next event for the ARCA RE/MAX Series is the Buckle-Up Kentucky 150 Saturday, May 12th at Kentucky Speedway. The ARCA Lincoln Welders Truck Series will also race just prior to the ARCA RE/MAX Series race.
Keselowski was fast but wasn't able to get by Leslie.