Practice: check. Qualifying: check. The Menards 200 Presented by Federated Car Care at Toledo Speedway: Huge, emphatic, victorious check.
Chris Buescher led 126 of 200 laps in the No. 17 David Ragan Fan Club/Shriners Ford, including the final 76, to cruise to victory Sunday in the sixth race of the 2010 ARCA Racing Series Presented by RE/MAX and Menards season.
The 17-year-old Roush Fenway Racing development driver from Prosper, Texas became the 18th driver in 67 series races at the 0.5-mile oval to win from the pole, and in turn gave the Roulo Brothers yet another victory on a track that has provided much success.
"It's awesome. Unbelievable, to say the least," Buescher said. "All the guys with the Roulo Brothers team, Roush Fenway, David Ragan, my parents, my family, were backing this. To be fastest in practice, qualify on the pole, and win the race, it's an ideal weekend."
The win is Buescher's sixth top-10 finish in just nine career ARCA Racing Series starts, and his first in two starts in 2010. Buescher employed the assistance of Roush Fenway NASCAR Sprint Cup driver David Ragan on the spotter's stand.
"Just like I told everybody, he's a racer," Buescher said of Ragan. "He knows exactly what needs to happen, and you understand it more when you get several points of view. He was really able to point me in the right direction."
Buescher was quick to point out, however, that his mentor from NASCAR's top ranks was not the only voice to be thanked.
"(Crew chief) Gary Roulo's on the radio just as much as my spotter. He really helped," he said.
Joey Coulter made a late charge, closing to within a half-second of the lead, before finishing as the runner-up for the second consecutive ARCA Racing Series race at Toledo.
"We just had a great car. We knew going into the race that we were going to have a good car," Coulter said. "We were patiently aggressive coming through there. I was able to keep the tires pretty good, but we just used it up there at the end."
Buescher knew Coulter was a threat; as such, he kept his focus in front of him, not on the menace in his rear window.
"I didn't look in the mirror once," Buescher said. "I didn't want to see him. They were all on the radio saying, 'Get all you can get,' so I drove the wheels off that thing."
Buescher exploded from the pole and built a sizable advantage through the first 20 laps, before the race's second caution. Veteran Ken Schrader, who was making his first ARCA start of the season, wouldn't let Buescher away on the ensuing green flag, and eventually passed the youngster on the first turn of the 51st lap.
Schrader built his lead to just under a full second, but Buescher closed in as the race neared its halfway point. Contact between Patrick Sheltra, Tim George Jr., Robb Brent, Craig Goess, and A.J. Frank brought out a red flag just after the completion of Lap 100, and Tom Hessert took the lead when Schrader drove to the pits on the yellow flag that followed.
Buescher, who had fallen to fifth off of pit road, surged back to the point, overtaking Dakoda Armstrong on the backstretch of Lap 113. A crafty backstretch crossover move would give Buescher the advantage on Lap 125, and the lead was his for good.
Hessert maintained the second position until Lap 183, when Coulter made the final pass on his surge to the front. Coulter's 1.727-second deficit to Buescher with 17 laps remaining fell to a half-car-length advantage with just five laps to go, but victory was not to be. The finish was all too familiar for Coulter, who led 70 laps at Toledo last fall before finishing second to Justin Lofton.
Hessert finished third, and Frank Kimmel and NASCAR Camping World Truck Series veteran Matt Crafton - in his first ARCA Racing Series start - filled out the top five. Schrader, Armstrong, and Sheltra were the last three drivers to finish on the lead lap, and Jerick Johnson and Mikey Kile completed the top ten. The race was slowed by ten cautions.
Ragan, who traveled to northern Ohio only this morning after finishing sixth in last night's Sprint Showdown at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway, was quick to heap praise on the winning driver.
"That's a big win for myself, Gary Roulo, Roush Fenway. We'll give Jack Roush a call and let him know," Ragan said. "Chris Buescher did a nice job and he deserves it.
"It's my first win as a spotter. I guess if something doesn't work out driving, I'll have something to do. It's just a lot of fun to come back to the short track. It makes me wish I was out there but Chris did an excellent job.
Sheltra assumed the series points lead by 10 over previous leader Justin Marks, who lost ground with a flat tire late in the race. Steve Arpin, Hessert, and Kile comprise the remainder of the top five through six races.
The ARCA Racing Series Presented by RE/MAX and Menards features 20 events at 17 tracks on its 2010 schedule. The series has crowned an ARCA national champion each year since its inaugural season in 1953, and has toured over 200 racetracks in 28 states since its inception. The series tests the abilities of drivers and race teams over the most diverse schedule of stock car racing events in the world, annually visiting tracks ranging from 0.4 mile to 2.66 miles in length, on both paved and dirt surfaces as well as left- and right-turn street and road courses.
Founded by John Marcum in 1953 in Toledo, Ohio, the Automobile Racing Club of America (ARCA) is recognized among the leading sanctioning bodies in the country. Closing in on completing its sixth decade after hundreds of thousands of miles of racing, ARCA administers over 100 race events each season in two professional touring series and local weekly events.