MARNE, Mich. – Over the first 160 laps at Berlin Raceway, the story centered on just how long the ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards field could stay green.
At the end, the story was a familiar one, as Chris Buescher drove to another short track victory in the Berlin ARCA 200 presented by Hantz Group. The win is his third of 2012 and the eighth of his career, and gives him a sweep of the series’ Michigan events after a superspeedway win at Michigan International Speedway two months ago.
Buescher led the final 17 laps and 40 overall in a race that featured just two cautions for 14 laps, and none until lap 161 – with just under 20 percent of the race remaining. Buescher passed Erik Jones on lap 184 to make his final move to the front, and he extended his advantage to a 2.739-second victory margin.
With the win, Buescher assumes the points lead in the ARCA Racing Series, edging Brennan Poole, who finished ninth. Buescher now leads Poole by 35 points. Frank Kimmel, who finished second, is 70 points from the lead.
Menards Pole Award presented by Ansell winner Chad Hackenbracht led the first six laps before being passed by Buescher, who led until lap 31. It was at lap 32 that the 16-year-old Jones, making his fourth start across numerous series at Berlin this season, took the lead in his home state.
Kimmel, who started fourth, snuck by for the lead at Lap 50, and started then to show the same dominance he exhibited in winning his 75th career race just two weeks ago. He lapped Chase Elliott on lap 69, leaving just seven of the 29 cars that started on the lead lap.
Kimmel led by three seconds at lap 90 and twice that at the halfway point 10 laps later. He led by over 10 seconds as early as Lap 114 and as late as lap 120, but began to conserve his car as it became evident that the green flag racing could continue for a long time. A pit stop under fast conditions would be harmful, and Kimmel knew it.
As he slowed, Elliott began to move toward the front. At one point three laps down, he passed Kimmel several times and moved onto the lead lap at Lap 146. By then, Kimmel’s advantage over Mason Mitchell, who qualified second and had not pitted, was just over three seconds.
Just four cars were on the lead lap with 50 to go, and Elliott was the one charging the hardest. He moved into second place on lap 155 and passed Kimmel for the lead on lap 159. Just as lap 161 started, a car spun on the frontstretch to yield the race’s first caution period with Elliott having made a substantial comeback to take the first position.
The green flag flew on lap 170, with Elliott leading Jones, Kimmel, Mitchell, and Buescher. Elliott and Jones had only taken two tires, while Kimmel had taken four. Elliott maintained the lead for the first several green flag laps, but Jones passed him on lap 173.
Another caution flag flew quickly, at Lap 176. The green flag flew at lap 181 with Jones continuing to lead. Buescher charged to the outside on the restart while Kimmel went inside, but Jones maintained a slight lead. He could not hold Buescher back, though, and the Roulo Brothers Racing driver passed him on Lap 184. Kimmel made his way to second, but could not pass Buescher as the 19-year-old pulled away while the final laps ticked down.
Buescher joined Alex Bowman as a three-time winner in the series this season. Bowman, who is fourth in points, finished 13th. Not only did Poole lose the points lead, but he also lost most of the front of his car in a last-lap crash with Ricky Ehrgott. Neither driver was injured.
Jones finished third, his third top-five in eight starts this year. Tom Hessert ended the race fourth after battling back onto the lead lap, edging Mitchell. Clint King finished sixth, his fourth top-six in five races this year.
Elliott ended the race seventh, topping Matt Lofton, Poole, and Hackenbracht.