Joey Coulter had experienced it enough. This Saturday night short track show would not end with his car in second place.
Coulter won the Berlin ARCA 200 at Berlin Raceway Saturday night, beating Patrick Sheltra by 0.768 second in the 200-lap race on the 0.4375-mile oval. The win is Coulter's first in ARCA Racing Series presented by RE/MAX and Menards competition.
Coulter became the 11th different winner in the 2010 season, and the 10th first-time winner this year.
"It's unbelievable," Coulter said. "We've worked so hard, and we've been so close so many times, and to have it pay off, we had such an amazing car. (Crew chief) Harold (Holly) did such an awesome job setting it up, the guys did an amazing job working on it in the pits, the pit stops were awesome, and nothing happened. It seems like every time we get close, something happens, but nothing happened tonight. It's awesome. Everybody did great."
Coulter's No. 16 Darrell Gwynn Foundation/Rip It Energy Fuel Chevrolet started the night in the fourth position, but didn't stay there long. Menards Pole Award winner Brian Campbell was swallowed up by the top three drivers on the outside line - Dakoda Armstrong, who started second; Coulter; and Frank Kimmel, the sixth starter. Coulter remained in second place for the first 11 laps until eventually being passed by Kimmel on the backstretch on Lap 12.
With Kimmel on a clear charge to the front, where he would take the lead on Lap 17, Coulter only seemed to slip backward, allowing both Campbell and Tom Hessert to pass him on Lap 15. With the caution flag yet to fly and Kimmel coasting well in front of the field, Coulter slipped to eighth by Lap 35 and 10th by Lap 50.
The race's first caution came at Lap 54, when Levi Youster's No. 23 Ford spun exiting Turn 1.
Sheltra, who had started 16th and moved to fourth by Lap 50, began to make his move on the ensuing green flag. Kimmel came out of the restart first, followed by Campbell, Hessert, and then the driver of the No. 60 Boatwerks Restaurant/Speed Media Dodge. Hessert encountered trouble, however, and fell to seventh place; the initial fall allowed Sheltra to move to third.
Campbell, a Wyoming, Mich. resident racing in front of his hometown crowd, was within two car lengths of Kimmel, who had formerly held leads much larger. Campbell even threatened to pass on Lap 70, but his attempt was thwarted by the nine-time series champion.
The lapped cars of Robb Brent and Nick Igdalsky threatened Sheltra's charge to the front, but he cleared both by Lap 78 to have only Kimmel and Campbell between him and the lead. More substantial lapped traffic stood in the leaders' way on Lap 88 and again on Laps 96 and 97, allowing Sheltra to move ever closer to second place with Campbell struggling.
Kimmel led at Lap 100 to take the Messina Halfway Leader Award, but his advantage would not hold for long. Sheltra moved around Campbell for second place on Lap 103, and found his way to Kimmel's inside on Lap 107 before passing for the lead one lap later.
Meanwhile, Coulter was rebounding. After pitting during the first caution period over 50 laps earlier, Coulter had moved up to fourth place just past the race's halfway point.
Campbell had passed Kimmel for second and continued to threaten Sheltra for the lead, gaining runs in the backstretch and into Turns 3 and 4 in the southern end of the track. Sheltra was too strong exiting the turns, and fended Campbell away every time - until Lap 133.
With a great roar from the hometown crowd, Campbell moved to the front with just 67 laps remaining and held a lead of more than one second just four laps later. However, Coulter had moved to second and was prepared to pounce. After second-place finishes on the short track at Toledo in May, on the superspeedway at Michigan in June, and on two other occasions in his career, the Miami Springs, Fla. driver was not about to settle for next-best - especially when considering that he was the highest-returning finisher from the series' 2009 race at Berlin Raceway.
His growing speed, shrinking margin, and a slight bit of misfortune gave him a chance.
Incoming points leader Justin Marks and Michael Simko - Campbell's teammate - had been battling for position on the tail end of the lead lap when Campbell approached them to put both cars a lap down. Marks and Simko made contact just in front of Campbell entering Turn 2 on Lap 146, and Campbell had nowhere to go. His own ride into the fringe of the infield allowed Coulter to pass, and the lead was Coulter's for all but one lap the rest of the way, when he went to pit road for a second time just several laps later and allowed Hessert to take the advantage.
Hessert then pitted, and Coulter assumed the lead again on Lap 150 during what became the race's longest of four cautions. Behind Coulter were Mikey Kile, Sheltra, and Steve Arpin, making his return start in the ARCA Racing Series after missing the events at Mansfield Motorsports Park and Pocono Raceway for a commitment to the NASCAR Nationwide Series.
Kimmel, who had been in the top five, fell to eighth after a slow pit stop. Marks, meanwhile, was suffering transmission issues, and came in to his pit for lengthy repairs. He would finish 21st.
The race went green again on Lap 159, with Coulter immediately receiving pressure from the lapped car of Max Gresham. Coulter turned the Mansfield winner away and started to drive from the pack as Arpin and Sheltra waged an intense battle, beating and banging for the third position behind Kile. Both would pass Kile by Lap 165, rendering Kile to fourth.
Campbell yielded the race's third caution when he, still on the lead lap but far from the front of the field, bumped Kimmel, who then collected Chad McCumbee, on Lap 168. Not even the following restart would allow the field to catch Coulter, who had to get away yet another time after Tim George Jr. brought out the race's final caution by contacting the wall on Lap 175.
The race became a two-car battle in the waning laps, with Arpin falling off the pace and Sheltra appearing as Coulter's lone rival. The margin rose above and fell below one second numerous times in the final laps, but Sheltra could come no closer than a half-second, giving Coulter his elusive first win.
Sheltra was second, followed by Arpin and Hessert. Kimmel rebounded in the final 10 laps to finish fifth.
Armstrong finished sixth, Kile seventh, and Simko eighth. Craig Goess became the new series points leader with a ninth-place finish, and McCumbee filled out the top ten.
Campbell, who entered with much promise as a hometown favorite, finished 23rd.
Though in ninth place in the series standings, Coulter maintained that his victory is enough to give him confidence with eight races remaining in 2010.
"It's one of those things where I can walk into a track now and say, 'I've done it.' We've been so close and now we've done it, and everybody told me that after you get your first win, your second one comes easier," Coulter said.
Goess leads the ARCA Racing Series standings by 25 points over Kimmel, and Marks is third, 45 points from the lead. Sheltra advanced back to fourth, trading spots with Hessert. Armstrong, Kile, and George maintained their positions in the top eight, and Coulter used his win to bump Robb Brent into 10th place.
The race finished in one hour, 17 minutes, and 37 seconds, at an average speed of 77.297 mph, a new race record.
The ARCA Racing Series presented by RE/MAX and Menards visits New Jersey Motorsports Park on Sunday, August 15. The 67-lap, 150-mile Garden State ARCA 150 presented by American Red Cross begins at 1 p.m. Eastern, with live timing and scoring and live audio coverage presented by ARCA Nation at ARCARacing.com.