ERIK DARNELL DOMINATES THE "KALAMAZOO 150" by Nick Smith
Diercks, Carlson Set To Battle Out Championship
The NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division Midwest Series returned to the Kalamazoo Speedway (MI) for the first time in eight years on Saturday night. The last time the series raced at Kalamazoo, the series ran under the name of the ARTGO Challenge Series.
The field was stopped at lap 144 due to a wreck on the frontstretch. They then restarted the race on lap 148 for a two-lap shootout, but points leader Justin Diercks had nothing for Darnell.
As Darnell crossed the line first to capture his first career NASCAR Midwest Series victory (following his first Southeast Series win earlier this year at Caraway Speedway in North Carolina), Diercks was second followed by Steve Carlson, Blakeley and Hoffman.
Erik Darnell posted the fastest time of the 18 cars with a 13.367 second lap. The inversion draw was 10 and that put the #99 of Bryan Roach and the No. 22 of Russ Blakeley on the front row.
Blakeley pulled out to the early lead but by lap 32, Darnell had moved from his 10th starting spot to the front and never looked back.
"I talked to some of the series veterans like Carlson and Hoffman and they told me that the bottom was the fastest way around the racetrack and that's where I stayed most of the race," said Darnell. "It also helped that I was able to get through lapped traffic pretty easy, my spotter told me that Justin (Diercks) was having a hard time getting through traffic and that he was losing ground."
Meanwhile, Brian Hoppe and Eddie Hoffman put on a good battle for the seventh spot for about 20 laps until Hoppe spun to avoid the #21 car of Tim Schendel who had spun on the inside of turns three and four.
Hoppe then pitted and had to settle for a 10th place finish, one-lap down.
Darnell (#7) chases down Russ Blakeley''s No. 22 in a battle for the lead at Kalamazoo.
Father Danny (left) and grandfather Bay (right) help Erik celebrate his win. (Steve Benesh Photos)