Robb Brent added his name to the long list of first-time winners in the 2010 ARCA Racing Series presented by RE/MAX and Menards season, driving away from the field to win the Weis Markets 125 at Pocono Raceway by 2.844 seconds over Dakoda Armstrong.
Brent and the No. 36 Orchard Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram Dodge seized the lead on Lap 36 and did not look back over the final 15 laps, holding off a challenge from Armstrong, the winner at Talladega this spring, and Craig Goess, winner of the Messina Wildlife Animal Stopper 200 at Pocono in June.
Brent became the 10th different winner in 11 series races this season, and the ninth driver to win his first race this season.
"I am just thrilled to death. Everyone kept winning and I was like, 'When's it my turn?' We've had some great cars and just don't have the finishes to show for it. Today, everything worked exactly right for us," said Brent, whose previous best finish was a runner-up result on the road course at Palm Beach International Raceway in February. "We got our yellow when we needed it, and we had the green flag running when we needed it."
Brent reflected on the series' last race at Pocono, when he finished one lap down but felt he had the fastest car on the track.
"If you actually watched the whole thing last time, I think I had the best car here. But we got caught a lap down pitting and we were on the tail end and we drove away from them. I think we were the best car here, and we just needed a chance to show it," Brent said.
"The car was so good, especially on the long run. I just bided my time because I saw I was reeling it in. We kept catching traffic a little bit. I knew we'd have time."
Mikey Kile was leading the field at the race's halfway point and continued to do so when debris on the track yielded the race's second caution on Lap 31, sending the race's contenders to pit road for a mandatory pit stop. Series officials instituted the mandate in consideration of the race's shortened 50-lap distance, down from 80 in June.
Despite Kile's lead, however, Brent had already started to make his move. After starting 11th, the 23-year-old from Shelby Township, Mich. battled to fourth place by Lap 15, taking advantage of his vast road course experience on the Pennsylvania superspeedway that with three markedly different corners occasionally resembles a road circuit.
"I really love road courses. They're my first passion, and I think this resembles a road course a little bit. I felt fast from my first lap here in 2008. You get a different corner every time, and that tunnel turn, a lot of guys dive in too hard, but I got some nice flow going into and coming out of it to really gain on people," said Brent, who has finished seventh or higher in each of six starts at Pocono. "Whatever it is, I just really like this place."
Frank Kimmel, the pole winner and leader for the first 20 laps, encountered lapped traffic, allowing Kile, Goess, and Brent to gain ground on his lead. Kile and Goess drove around Kimmel on Lap 21, and it was only four laps later that Brent found himself in third place by also passing the nine-time ARCA Racing Series champion. Brent supplanted Goess in second place on Lap 28, and moved within just more than one-tenth of a second of Kile by Lap 30, driving around the lapped car of Will Kimmel to put himself closer to the point.
When the caution flew, Kile's Venturini Motorsports crew struggled to jack up the right side of his Toyota, and Goess took the lead off of pit road, with Brent remaining in second.
The ensuing restart on Lap 36 saw lapped traffic in front of the leaders, and Brent navigated through the tangle just better than Goess, taking the lead before Sean Corr spun in Turn 2 to force another caution. Armstrong, too, had taken advantage of the lapped cars, and moved into second.
Brent led the field to the green flag on Lap 39 and did not relent, expanding his lead from under one second the next time past the start/finish line to 2.174 seconds by Lap 45. Brent coasted to the finish, extending his advantage all the way to 3.24 seconds after Lap 49 before cementing his final margin.
Armstrong's second-place finish was the fifth top-five finish of his young ARCA Racing Series career, and his best finish since winning at Talladega Superspeedway in April.
"It was a great run for my guys. We were a little worried after qualifying 13th. It's not what you hope for. I thought we had a good race car, and it was way better than I thought it'd be," Armstrong said. "We made no changes under pits and got out front. I knew track position was going to be pretty key with this race being so short."
Armstrong relished the chance to share the Saturday card with the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, which had raced earlier in the day in its first visit to the 2.5-mile triangular track.
"You know, it's always good to even be out here behind the (NASCAR Sprint) Cup guys and the trucks when they run and have that atmosphere, and it's good exposure for the ARCA Racing Series and all of these drivers," he said.
Goess finished third after leading three laps late in the race, but had hoped to back up his spring victory with a better finish.
"I'm disappointed in third place, so I guess that's a good thing. We picked up some points so that was a positive for us today," said Goess, who moved to within 30 points of Justin Marks for the ARCA Racing Series standings lead. "We missed out on a lot of practice, and switched out motors, transmissions, and the rear end because we weren't happy with the way it felt.
Tom Hessert ended the race fourth after a thrilling three-wide battle late in the race with Marks and Frank Kimmel. Marks preserved his position atop the ARCA Racing Series point standings with a fifth-place finish, and Patrick Sheltra rebounded from separate tire and transmission issues to finish sixth after falling outside the top 20.
Kimmel finished seventh after what was his best recent bid to win for the first time since September 2008, and Kile ended eighth. Bryan Silas and Brandon McReynolds completed the top 10.
Three cautions slowed the race for 12 laps, and the 50-lap event finished in 57 minutes, 32 seconds, at an average speed of 130.359 mph.
The ARCA Racing Series presented by RE/MAX and Menards visits Berlin (Mich.) Raceway, near Grand Rapids, on Saturday, August 7. The 200-lap, 88-mile Berlin ARCA 200 begins at 8:30 p.m. Eastern, with live timing and scoring on ARCARacing.com and live audio coverage presented by the BAS Racing Network available on ARCARacing.com. Frank Kimmel is the leading winner at the track, with three victories (1999, 2003, 2004).