TOLEDO - One race remains in ARCA's 60th Anniversary Season, and Chris Buescher's vision of becoming the series' 30th different champion is as clear as it's ever been.
Buescher's 85-point lead atop the standings after last month's race at Salem Speedway is greater than any other lead by a first-place driver in the 17 races prior to that event. Friday, he will race in the Kansas Lottery 98.9 at Kansas Speedway with a chance to win the ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards title just 10 days before turning 20 years old.
Buescher (No. 17 Roulo Brothers Racing Ford) will clinch the championship by finishing 12th or higher, regardless of any other driver's result in the 99-lap, 148.5-mile race. In 52 career ARCA starts, Buescher has finished in the top 12 on 44 occasions, a success rate of 84.6 percent. He has finished in the top 12 in each of his last seven starts and in 15 of 18 races this season, a similar success rate of 83.3 percent.
The top four drivers in the standings remain eligible for the championship; however, fourth-place driver Alex Bowman will drop from contention if fewer than 40 cars enter and start Friday's race.
Frank Kimmel (No. 44 ThorSport Racing Toyota) is 85 points behind in second. Numerous scenarios in which Kimmel can clinch his 10th title do exist, but the veteran would have to finish at least 12 positions ahead of Buescher to have a chance.
Brennan Poole (No. 25 Venturini Motorsports Toyota) is third, 175 points out of the lead, and would need to finish at least 30 spots ahead of Buescher and 13 in front of Kimmel for an opportunity. Bowman stands 220 points below Buescher.
Cancellation the First since 1990: Sunday's rainout at the DuQuoin State Fairgrounds marked the first completely cancelled ARCA Racing Series event since August 11, 1990, when a race scheduled to be run at Michigan's ARCA-owned Flat Rock Speedway was called off because of weather. Since then, 478 series races transpired before Sunday's decision.
The event had already been postponed once, from Labor Day, for rain stemming from Hurricane Isaac's progression through the Midwest. Rain again this weekend caused ARCA and track officials to call the race off yet again after determining that at no time Sunday would the track be suitable for racing, no matter the effort. Rain continued throughout the afternoon in southern Illinois.
Sunday's race was planned to be the 60th Southern Illinois 100 at DuQuoin, but was the first to be totally called off for any reason.
Bowman Clinches Menards Pole Award for 2012: With Sunday's race cancellation, Alex Bowman and Cunningham Motorsports clinched the $10,000 Menards Pole Award presented by Ansell for the 2012 season. Bowman has five poles this season; no other driver has more than three.
Top-20 All Poole Needs for Hoosier Superspeedway Title: Brennan Poole leads Frank Kimmel by 95 points for the $35,000 Hoosier Tire Superspeedway Challenge championship, and needs only a top-20 finish to clinch the title in the season finale at Kansas.
Rookie Title Still in Balance: Though Bowman and Poole are close to cashing in other awards, the two drivers remain battling for Team Messina Rookie Challenge honors, the $10,000 prize presented to ARCA's top newcomer in a given year.
Counting the best 15 rookie scores for each driver - counted on a 30-28-26-etc. basis for rookies in each race - Bowman leads Poole by four points, 422-418, with one race remaining.
Poole would have to win Team Messina Rookie Challenge honors for Friday's race by beating all registered rookies to have any chance at the award. With that, Bowman would have to finish outside the top two registered rookies to open the door for Poole.
This season, Poole has won the race rookie honor five times. However, Bowman has won nine, including each of the last three.
Buescher Still on Track for Every Lap: Chris Buescher has completed every lap - 2687 in all - over 18 races so far this year, and leads the pursuit of the S&S Volvo Laps Completed Award. If Buescher can complete all 99 laps in the Kansas Speedway finale, he will become the first driver to complete every lap in an ARCA Racing Series season over a full year's schedule. Frank Kimmel, Buescher's closest challenger for his first series title, has completed only four fewer laps and stands in second place for the award, but Buescher is the driver on the brink of finishing the milestone of race-over-race reliability.
Firsts Aplenty at Kansas: The ARCA Racing Series has a history of "first" milestones at Kansas Speedway, and that will continue this weekend. Among those notable events:
1. ARCA raced at Kansas on the track's opening race day, June 2, 2001. The inaugural ARCA race at Kansas immediately followed the NASCAR Winston West Series race, won by ARCA's Frank Kimmel. Jason Jarrett won the ARCA race, passing Kimmel for the lead with just three laps remaining.
2. ARCA was the first series to race under the new lights at Kansas on October 7, 2011.
3. ARCA will crown its national champion at Kansas for the first time on October 19, 2012.
4. ARCA will crown its Team Messina Rookie Challenge champion on October 19, 2012.
5. ARCA will be the first to race on Kansas's newly-paved speedway on October 19, 2012.
Winchester 400 Goes to Kenseth: On a day at Winchester Speedway in which ARCA and the Champion Racing Association announced the renewal of the ARCA CRA Super Series sanction for 2013, Ross Kenseth won the biggest race on that series' schedule, the Winchester 400.
Fourteen-year-old Kyle Benjamin took the lead from Kenseth less than 100 feet from the start/finish line on the last of 400 laps, and finished half of a door ahead of the 19-year-old for a presumed victory. However, ARCA CRA Super Series officials discovered a RPM limiter infraction in Benjamin's car in post-race inspection, giving the win to Kenseth.
Chase Elliott finished second, ahead of three-time and now-reigning series champion Johnny VanDoorn. Bubba Pollard was fourth and Jay Niewiek fifth.
An accident on Lap 8 took out pre-race favorites Kyle Busch and Anderson Bowen and fast qualifier Rick Turner.
VanDoorn, who also won titles in 2009 and 2010, joins Scott Hantz as a three-time series champion. Hantz won in 2000, 2006, and 2008.
Banquet 54 Days Away: The 2012 ARCA Racing Series Championship Awards Banquet is scheduled for Saturday, December 8, and will be held in conjunction with the International Motorsports Industry Show (IMIS), which will begin two days prior. The banquet will take place in a new location, the Indiana Convention Center in downtown Indianapolis.
The ARCA Racing Series season will close in the Kansas Lottery 98.9 at Kansas Speedway on Friday, October 19 - four days from today - with race action starting at 8:30 p.m. ET (7:30 p.m. local) on SPEED. ARCARacing.com will also feature live timing and scoring coverage for the season finale.
2012 is the ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards' 60th Anniversary Season, featuring 20 races at 18 tracks. The complete 2012 event schedule is available at ARCARacing.com.
The ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards has crowned an ARCA national champion each year since its inaugural season in 1953, and has toured over 200 race tracks in 26 states since its inception. The series has tested the abilities of drivers and race teams over the most diverse schedule of stock car racing events in the world, visiting tracks ranging from 0.375 mile to 2.66 miles in length, on both paved and dirt surfaces as well as a left- and right-turn road course in its most recent season. This year, the series visited Alabama's Mobile International Speedway and Minnesota's Elko Speedway for the first time.
Founded by John and Mildred 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 three professional touring series and local weekly events.