DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Venturini Motorsports driver John Wes Townley took the checkered flag Saturday after an amazing sequence of events inside the finals 10 laps left him at the front of the Lucas Oil 200 presented by MAVTV American Real.
Townley won from the pole in what was the 50th ARCA Racing Series event at Daytona Int’l Speedway.
“It’s one thing to win your first race in ARCA, it’s another to win at Daytona,” Townley said after the first win in the 31-year history of Venturini Motorsports at Daytona International Speedway.
“This is just a great day for Venturini Motorsports,” Townley said. “This is priceless. I almost wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world. It’s a real honor.”
The final 49 laps were all under the green flag.
Kyle Larson finished second, Ricky Ehrgott third and Frank Kimmel fourth. Sean Corr came in fifth.
Townley passed eight-time Daytona winner Bobby Gerhart with seven laps to go when Gerhart slowed.
“I don’t really know what happened there,” Townley said. “He checked up. We made a little contact.”
After going green after the third caution at lap 22, Gerhart, Townley, Ehrgott and Larson broke away from the pack along with the lapped car of Chris Buescher, which tucked in right behind Gerhart and remained there for about 50 laps. The five cars created their own pack and coasted for nearly 40 laps while the second set of cars were much further back, but continued on the lead lap.
Things remained in that order until Buescher moved out of the way with just under 10 laps to go and Gerhart slowed, eventually rocketing down pit lane at high speed. He returned to the track before eventually pulling off the track and finishing 29th because of a fuel pump problem. Gerhart was attempting to win his ninth time at Daytona.
In the pre-race drivers meeting, ARCA officials stressed to the drivers to remain patient and be courteous to others. Townley, of Watkinsville, Ga. said that wasn’t an easy thing to do.
“It’s a tough thing to do,” he said. “A few times I wanted to duck out and see what I could do. I’m glad that I didn’t.”
Larson, racing in the No. 4 Cessna Chevrolet, said he couldn’t get any closer to the front.
“The race went pretty smooth,” he said. “But, I couldn’t really make any moves. I was wide open. We’ll take second.”
Milka Duno was the early race leader until her car had troubles and she had to make repairs and ended up four laps down in 28th. Matt Kurzejewski and Josh Williams also led laps during the race.
The crash on lap 19 sent drivers Justin Boston, Darrell Wallace Jr. and Steve Kemp to the infield care center. They were treated and released. Julien Jousse caused the first caution when his motor blew up. The final caution came during a six-car crash that occurred after the green flag dropped and several cars never got up to speed.
There were only three cautions for 19 laps in the event and five different leaders. The race was completed in 1:29:18.
Billy Venturini, general manager for the VMS team, said the win meant everything for his family and team.
“This is the first time I cried in victory lane,” he said. “This was definitely the highlight of our entire racing career. I think we’ve won at just about every other track we go to except here.”