(ELKO NEW MARKET, Minn.) – Brennan Poole passed Frank Kimmel for the lead in the Akona 200 presented by Federated Car Care on Lap 134 of 200 and did not relent, winning his second race in the ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards.
Poole (No. 25 Venturini Motorsports Chevrolet) led 148 laps in all after first taking the lead from Matt Lofton (No. 16 Strutmasters.com Chevrolet) on Lap 12 and leading until the caution flag was out on Lap 92, then ultimately running first for the final 67 laps.
Matt Lofton finished second over Chris Buescher (No. 17 BeavEx/Reliance Tool Ford), and they were followed by Kimmel (No. 44 Ansell/Menards Toyota) and Tom Hessert (No. 52 Federated Auto Parts Chevrolet).
“The car was really good,” said Poole, whose last win came in his series debut last spring at Salem Speedway in Indiana. “I can’t thank Venturini Motorsports enough. It’s pretty awesome to win the inaugural race at Elko. I had a lot of fun here tonight. The track’s a blast. Of course, it’s always fun when you’ve got such a good race car. I was slipping and sliding and trying to get everything out of it coming into the corner, dodging traffic. It was crazy.
“We’ve never been to a place like this. I’m proud of my guys and all the work they did.”
The race was the first for ARCA at Elko Speedway, just south of Minneapolis and St. Paul. ARCA’s top division had never before appeared in Minnesota.
Poole had shown his dominance early in the race, pulling away to leads of over three seconds on second place and more than 10 seconds on third. When Poole drove away, he truly got away from the field. Often, he would cross the start/finish line when someone as high as third place was just exiting Turn 2 on the 0.375-mile oval.
His final margin of victory was 1.205 second, perhaps a conservative margin.
“The car was really good out front and it worked really well in traffic,” said the 21-year-old from The Woodlands, Texas. “We were just a little bit tight, so we had to save the right front once we got into the lead. I kind of used up what I had to get into the lead so once I got there, I just tried to let it ride and protect that right front. That first run, I was good up front, but I used up my right front tire and started to get tight late in the run.
“I thought our pit strategy was great. (Crew chief) Billy (Venturini) made a great call on that. We came down and got four tires a little later than some of the other guys and our car was good enough to march to the front of the field.”
Alex Bowman (No. 22 St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital Dodge) won the Menards Pole Award presented by Ansell for the third time in six races this season, but could only hold the lead for eight laps before being passed by Lofton. Poole opened up a quarter-second lead at Lap 12 and extended it to more than three seconds by Lap 42. His lead over Lofton had fallen off to less than two seconds when a car spun on Lap 67 to bring out the race’s first caution. While Kimmel, Buescher, Bowman, Lofton, and other contenders elected to pit, Poole stayed out and got away clean at the Lap 76 restart.
Kimmel, driving on fresh tires, rose to third by Lap 86 and second over Hessert on Lap 89, but Poole still led by more than a second. Another spin on Lap 91 brought out the race’s second caution flag, causing Poole to pit.
Kimmel took the lead under the yellow flag on Lap 93, driving ahead of Lofton, Buescher, Poole, and Ryan Reed. He led out of the Lap 97 restart, and stayed there through two more caution periods, which concluded with green flags on Laps 117 and 123.
The Lap 123 restart would prove to be the race’s last, and Kimmel led a two-by-two pack as cars moved back to speed. On his outside was Buescher, and the two were trailed by Lofton on the inside and Poole on the outside, in fourth. Kimmel originally got away and the group became a single line six laps later, but Poole moved inside Lofton for third on Lap 130. Three laps later, he passed Buescher on the backstretch, and one lap later he took the lead from Kimmel in the same place. Buescher moved past Kimmel for second, but Kimmel eventually regained the spot.
Side-by-side traffic throughout the race’s late stages allowed Poole to get away. Hessert climbed to fourth in the final laps and had a look at third place. Larry Barford Jr., driving several laps down, drove into Hessert and Buescher as they all drove to the checkered flag, setting off some personal fireworks between Hessert and Barford as Poole coasted to a final victory margin of 1.205 seconds. He now leads Hessert by 10 points in the unofficial series standings.
Joey Miller, making his first ARCA start since last August, finished sixth at his home track; Miller is from Lakeville, Minn., and was looking for his sixth ARCA win after leading the first practice. Chad Hackenbracht, who won a national legends championship at Elko in 2008, finished seventh. Erik Jones, Mason Mingus, and Jared Marks filled out the top 10.
From the green flag to the checkered flag, the race last just 44 seconds over an hour, a 74.09 mph pace. Four caution flags slowed the field for 26 laps.
The ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards will visit Pocono Raceway for the first of two events this season next Saturday, June 9. SPEED will air the race at 2:30 p.m. on a same-day delay, one of 10 broadcasts for the series on the network this season. ARCARacing.com will feature live timing and scoring of all on-track events Friday and Saturday.