Concord, North Carolina (September 11, 2017) – The ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards rolled into Salem Speedway for the 102nd all-time track visit for the final short track event of the ’17 season Saturday night under the lights for the Eddie Gilstrap Fall Classic 200.
Featuring a stout driver lineup including six-time series winner, Tom Hessert, rookie standout, Christian Eckes, and VMS newcomer Bo LeMastus, the team returned to familiar territory seeking short track supremacy.
Stacked with a strong field for the Fall Classic the duo of Eckes and Hessert flexed their muscle early before both drivers ended up suffering catastrophic issues ending their nights before the checkered flag waived.
Making his final ARCA Series appearance of the season, Christian Eckes returned to his familiar No.15 NEW YORK BUS SALES Toyota seeking his first series victory. Laying the ground work early the 16-year old New York state native showed speed early finishing practice and qualifying fourth for Saturday’s night’s race under the lights.
Set for 200-laps of racing, Eckes quickly used his strong starting spot to stay up front and pressure the leaders throughout the first half of the event. Bouncing back between the second and third positions Eckes showed patience and dominant race car up until the midway point of the race. Bidding his time Eckes and crew chief Jeff McClure were riding along waiting for their time to jump to the top spot.
Plans however would be short lived as his night turned sour at the midway point of the race when Eckes clicked on the radio informing his team the 15-car was blowing up. Riding nose to tail in the third position Eckes pulled down onto the inside of the track and rolled into the pits. Moments later his crew lifted the hood and confirmed Eckes earlier suspicions – Eckes was done and rolled back into the garage credited with an 19th place finish. Saturday’s finish marks Eckes’ only DNF of the season.
Also making his final appearance of the season Tom Hessert challenged for the win but in the end had similar disappointment finishing 15th after contending for his fourth track victory in the final stages of the 200-lap event.
After focusing on setup and getting his No.25 Musselman’s BIG CUP Apple Sauce Toyota dialed in during Saturday’s 90-minute practice session at Salem Speedway, Hessert started the race from the eleventh place position.
Hessert, the only multi-race winner at Salem, got down to business at the drop of the green flag. Hovering inside the top-8 positions early on and bidding his time, Hessert on the strength of a strong pit stop on lap 137 of 200 drove to the point and led laps. Inside the final 25-laps Hessert would drop to third position hanging strong and within striking distance.
Chasing his fourth track victory Hessert’s night would come to an abrupt end on lap-183 after getting slammed into the outside wall exiting turn two. Originally thought to be right side surface damage Hessert’s Musselman’s BIG CUP Applesauce Toyota began to slow dropping quickly back in the pack.
The damage more severe than originally thought knocked off-power the fast machine. With lap quickly ending down Hessert was unable to return to action settling for a 15th-place finish.
Team newcomer and ARCA Series veteran Bo LeMastus made his 41st series start and second consecutive under the Venturini Motorsports banner driving the No.55 Crosley Radio Toyota. LeMastus, a native of nearby Louisville, Kentucky finished 12th after qualifying 14th.
Amidst its busy late-summer stretch, the ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards is headed next to Chicagoland Speedway for the SCOTT 150 Thursday, Sept. 14, marking the 17th consecutive appearance of the 65-year-old tour on the 1.5-mile speedway in Joliet, Illinois.
The SCOTT 150 is LIVE on FS1. General Tire Pole Qualifying will accompany race day activities at 4:35p.m. The SCOTT 150 starts at 7p.m. Thursday night, Sept. 14. ARCAracing.com will provide live timing and scoring and live chat of all on-track activities.
ABOUT VENTURINI MOTORSPORTS:
Venturini Motorsports (VMS), fielding cars for over 30-years in the ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards, is one of the premier NASCAR driver development programs in the country. Multiple team championships and consistent on-track success, VMS has evolved into one of the most recognizable names in motorsports. Since 2007, VMS has assisted in the career development of notable NASCAR drivers such as Joey Logano, Erik Jones, William Byron, Christopher Bell, Justin Allgaier, Alex Bowman, Ryan Blaney, Brennan Poole, Kyle Benjamin, Daniel Suarez, and Brandon Jones. Over the years the Venturini name has become synonymous with modern-day racing in America. In 2012, the Venturini family was inducted into the National Italian American Sports Hall of Fame and now find themselves enshrined with such sports icons as Joe DiMaggio, Mario Andretti, Vince Lombardi, Tommy Lasorda and Rocky Marciano.