Cunningham Motorsports teammates Patrick Long and Parker Kligerman put on an epic ARCA RE/MAX Series battle to the very end Sunday afternoon at New Jersey Motorsports Park.
When the smoke and dust finally settled - and there was plenty of both over the last two laps - Long, making his career-first series start, fought off Kligerman to win the spirited South Jersey Building Trades 150 on the 2.25-mile Thunderbolt Raceway road course.
A late-race caution up a five-lap dash to the finish during which Long and Kligerman, on-course and at times off-course, were bumper-to-bumper and side-by-side for the lead.
"I knew on the restart it was going to be a showdown because there's a peak of about four laps where a new tire just has tremendous grip but the harder you drive it, it just keeps falling off," said Long. "That kid (Kligerman) has so much talent and so much aggression. I knew he was coming. I actually give him a lot of credit for showing huge patience and maturity. He has a championship to race for and he ran very smart-years beyond his age and maturity. I wasn't going to take him off as a team car. I was given the opportunity by Cunningham Motorsports to come here and help really get him up to speed and help him win this weekend. The objective was to win and to get the 4 car on the top step after quite a long dry spell but also to help him out so I wasn't going to knock him out at the end but I was going to run as hard as I could for the lead."
In the closing laps, both Long and Kligerman were on and off the course fighting for the lead. With two laps to go, the two banged off one another in turn five of the 12-turn track sending Kligerman sideways off course into the dirt. Kligerman, without missing a beat, mashed the gas and steered himself right back onto the course directly behind Long where he continued to press. From there, the two raced inches apart before Long was able to pull away by one length at the checkered flag. Kligerman settled for second.
"The last restart we just focused on not spinning the tires and trying to get a break from the third and fourth place guys so that we could go out there and fight with Patrick [Long] since he was the main opposition," said Kligerman. "From there we just kind of ran. We were just kind of waiting for him to make a big enough mistake so that we could slip by and we just pressured and pressured him until he made a huge mistake and he went off the track. And when he came back on the track I thought he was going to go flying across so I slowed down so that he didn't come sliding across and go sliding into our door. Instead he stopped on the track right in front of us and we had nowhere to go but the dirt so we went into the dirt, came back and then we went at it for one more lap, kind of side-by-side down into one then hit off of each other a little more and then there was nothing we could do from there."
Kligerman also tied Justin Lofton in championship points headed into the final three events of the 2009 season. Both are tied for the lead with 4520 points.
Lofton was side-by-side with Spencer Pumpelly for third on the last lap when the two locked horns. Pumpelly, also making his career-first start, drove away to finish third while Lofton, with damage, fell to sixth in the final running order.
"My run in ARCA was unbelievable," said Pumpelly. "I had such a good time here. I had a great time with the cars, the drivers that I have met here have been great and all of the teams, the officials really enjoyed my time here and I appreciate everyone being so welcoming. Also it was my first time with the TRG guys in the stock car side. I've worked a lot with their sports car teams and we do a lot with the Motorsports guys in sports cars as well as the TRG guys, two different companies that kind of work together. This is my first time on the stock car side with all of those guys-phenomenal job they did. I can't say enough. Hope I get to do more. Not sure if I will get the opportunity sooner or later but I'll be trying."
Robb Brent finished a career-best fourth in the Orchard Chrysler Dodge Jeep Dodge. Tim George, Jr. charged from the 31st starting position to finish a career-best fifth in the Ruby Tuesday Toyota.
Long, Kligerman and Pumpelly traded the lead back and forth officially five times throughout the 67-lap, 150-mile race while just three cautions for stalled cars slowed the field for 11 laps.
Long also established a new one-lap track record the day before in Menards Pole Qualifying presented by Ansell while Kligerman qualified second. However, Kligerman had to start from the tail-end after the team changed the engine and driveline to cure a vibration that developed during qualifying.
Patrick Sheltra, Tom Hessert, Frank Kimmel and Craig Goess completed the top-10 finishers respectively.
With the championship points battle tied at the top, the ARCA RE/MAX Series heads to the Salem Speedway short track in Salem, Indiana next for the Kentuckiana Ford Dealers ARCA Fall Classic 200 Saturday night, September 19th.
Official Results, ARCA RE/MAX Series
South Jersey Building Trades 150, New Jersey Motorsports Park, 9-13-09
Millville, N.J., (AP) _ The official finish for Sunday's South Jersey Building Trades 150 at New Jersey Motorsports Park for ARCA RE/MAX Series stock cars with starting position in parenthesis, driver, hometown, type of car, laps completed, and reason out of race, if any:
1. (1) Patrick Long, Thousand Oaks, Calif., Dodge, 67; 2. (2) Parker Kligerman, Westport Conn., Dodge, 67; 3. (5) Spencer Pumpelly, Concord, N.C., Chevrolet, 67; 4. (6) Robb Brent, Shelby Township, Mich., Dodge, 67; 5. (31) Tim George, Jr., New York, N.Y., Toyota, 67; 6. (4) Justin Lofton, Westmorland, Calif., Toyota, 67; 7. (8) Patrick Sheltra, Indiantown, Fla., Chevrolet, 66; 8. (11) Tom Hessert, Cherry Hill, N.J., Ford, 66; 9. (13) Frank Kimmel, Clarksville, Ind., Ford, 66; 10. (9) Craig Goess, Grenville, N.C., Toyota, 66; 11. (17) Joey Coulter, Miami Springs, Fla., Chevrolet, 65; 12. (16) Gabi DiCarlo, Phoenix, Ariz., Toyota, 65; 13. (18) Chase Mattioli, Long Pond, Pa., Chevrolet, 65; 14. (14) Nick Igdalsky, Long Pond, Pa., Ford, 64; 15. (20) Tom Berte, New Berlin, Wis., Chevrolet, 64; 16. (21) Kory Rabenold, Slatington, Pa., Ford, 63; 17. (34) Alli Owens, Daytona Beach, Fla., Toyota, 62; 18. (23) Jason Basham, Henryville, Ind., Chevrolet, 62; 19. (22) Jeremy Petty, Smolan, Kan., Chevrolet, 61; 20. (32) Darrell Basham, Henryville, Ind., Chevrolet, 60; 21. (3) Justin Marks, Rocklin, Calif., Dodge, 57, electrical; 22. (12) Bob Schacht, Lombard, Ill., Chevrolet, 56, transmission; 23. (26) Brad Smith, Shelby Township, Mich., Ford, 55; 24. (28) Barry Fitzgerald, Sykesville, Md., Ford, 50; 25. (15) Ken Butler III, Lilburn, Ga., Ford, 36, transmission; 26. (24) James Hylton, Inman, S.C., Ford, 29, engine; 27. (19) Ed Bull, Chapin, S.C., Ford, 28, suspension; 28. (30) Bryan Silas, Stuart, Fla., Chevrolet, 26, engine; 29. (10) Jeff Buice, Charlotte, N.C., Chevrolet, 25, clutch; 30. (33) Willie Mullins, Fredricksburg, Va., Chevrolet, 24, oil pressure; 31. (25) Todd Antrican, Lebanon, Ohio, Chevrolet, 15, brakes; 32. (7) Steve Arpin, Fort Frances, Ont., Chevrolet, 14, transmission; 33. (27) Marc Easton, Saranac Lake, N.Y., Chevrolet, 1, transmission; 34. (29) Dwight Laird, Toms River, N.J., Ford, 0, vibration.
Time of race: 1 hour, 53 minutes, 5 seconds; Margin of victory: .311 seconds; Lap leaders: Long 1-25, Pumpelly 26-27, Kligerman 28-30, Pumpelly 31-35, Kligerman 36-46, Long 47-67.