BROOKLYN, MICH - On a day of record speeds on Michigan International Speedway's new pavement, tire conservation became the key element in the RainEater Wiper Blades 200. Chris Buescher played the game better than anyone, leading the final 14 laps to score his seventh ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards victory.
Buescher made a Lap 74 pit stop and kept his No. 17 Roulo Brothers Racing Ford on the track while race leader Alex Bowman (No. 22 12abc/abc13/St. Jude Children's Research Hospital Dodge) pitted 12 laps later. Bowman started second on a restart with 10 laps to go, but could not pass Buescher, who extended his lead to over a half-second four laps later. Bowman, who led 12 laps, charged toward Buescher and attempted a low pass at the checkered flag, but just missed his fourth series win by 0.054 second.
"It was definitely a tight finish right there at the end," said Buescher, who started ninth and is sponsored by BeavEx and Reliance Tool. "It was a blast. The whole race was a lot of fun. I really liked the new pavement. A slower (lapped) car got us jammed up on the last lap and made it quite a battle right there, but hats off to Alex Bowman for racing us clean coming across the line there."
Matt Lofton (No. 16 Strutmasters.com Chevrolet) finished third after leading 15 laps to finish just ahead of Brennan Newberry (No. 92 NTS Motorsports Chevrolet), who made his ARCA debut. Brandon Davis (No. 99 Roulo Brothers Racing Ford) finished a career-best fifth, one place in front of John Blankenship (No. 66 Coal America's Energy Toyota), who also achieved a career high.
Displaying the speed that he had in leading every green flag six days earlier at Pocono, second starter Brennan Poole took the lead from Menards Pole Award presented by Ansell winner Joey Coulter, who earlier in the day had set a new ARCA qualifying record of 192.149 mph on the two-mile oval. Poole was already extending his lead on the second lap when one of his teammates experienced trouble and brought out the race's first caution flag.
Racing behind Frank Kimmel in Turn 3, Nelson Canache lost control of his car and spun on the track. Tom Hessert made slight contact with Canache's right side as he drove by, but Larry Barford Jr. caught significantly more damage as Canache drifted to the bottom of the track. Barford struck the rear of Canache's car and then rolled into the wall with his back end, marking a finish to his own day as well.
The race started again at Lap 12 but Jared Marks spun in the fourth turn to yield the race's second caution flag. The caution period was short, and Poole led the field in a single line to another green flag at Lap 16. He created a 1.277-second lead by Lap 19, a two-second advantage by Lap 25, and nearly a three-second lead by a Lap 29 caution which ARCA officials called to check tire wear, an issue since the start of practice Thursday.
Poole, followed by Kevin Swindell, Coulter, Bowman, and Buescher, all pitted to close Lap 31, with each taking new tires. Buescher improved to second after his stop, with Bowman, Coulter, and Swindell following. Given the heavy tire wear to that point in the race, ARCA officials announced at Lap 37 that teams would be provided an extra set of Hoosier tires, extending the total race allowance from 12 to 16 per car.
Coulter passed Bowman for second while Swindell fell back on Lap 39; Poole still led by over two seconds. Aleks Gregory then scrubbed the Turn 4 wall as the leaders finished Lap 43, causing the race's fourth caution. Swindell, Bowman, and Kimmel all drove to pit road, putting themselves on a different cycle than Poole and the race leaders. The top seven cars stayed on track.
Poole continued to lead, but not pitting on Lap 46 might have cost him the race. He started to struggle on Lap 58, and Lofton passed him for the lead two laps later after restarting third. Lofton, though, had not pitted for new tires either. While Coulter, his teammate, drove to the pits on Lap 62, Lofton charged ahead and came out with a 4.456-second lead on Chris Buescher.
Having only changed two tires the first time, Poole and Coulter pitted again, severely hurting their chances. Lofton's lead on Buescher extended until Bowman finally passed for second. Bowman quickly closed the margin on Lofton, moving from within 6.029 seconds on Lap 70 to 1.399 four laps later. Lofton finally pitted with 25 laps to go, and Bowman suddenly had a 30-second lead on Buescher, who also pitted.
A caution flag for debris flew with 15 laps to go, and Bowman pitted one lap later. Buescher stayed out, having just pitted 12 laps earlier. He led Bowman by 0.332 second after the final green flag start at Lap 91, and extended the lead slightly in the following laps. With slightly fresher tires, Bowman was able to close Buescher's advantage but Buescher ultimately held him away for his second win of the year.
Kimmel, Spencer Gallagher, Coulter, and Buster Graham finished in the seventh through 10th positions.
Poole finished 11th, three laps off of the pace, but maintained a 20-point advantage in the series standings over Buescher after eight of 20 races. With two wins each in the last four races, Poole and Buescher are the only multiple winners in the series in 2012.
The race lasted for one hour, 34 minutes, and eight seconds, at an average pace of 127.479 mph. Five cautions slowed the field for 30 laps.
An ARCA tripleheader is on the schedule next week at Indiana's Winchester Speedway, as the ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards headlines a weekend that also features the ARCA CRA Super Series and ARCA Truck Series. The ARCA Racing Series will hold two 45-minute practices on Saturday, at 12:05 and 2:05 p.m. Menards Pole Qualifying presented by Ansell will follow at 4:30, just before the Truck Series race at 5:30 and the Super Series event at 6:30.
The 200-lap, 100-mile Herr's Chase the Taste 200 will begin at 2 p.m., with live timing and scoring and live audio coverage presented by the ARCA Racing Network available at ARCARacing.com.