…While Hessert Almost Duplicates Best Finish at Speedway
Kansas City, KS – October 19, 2015 – As the ARCA Racing Series’ 2015 season came to a close, Cunningham Motorsports’ drivers, Tom Hessert and Kyle Weatherman earned two top-10 finishes at Kansas Speedway. Weatherman grabbed his fifth runner-up finish, while Hessert finished one spot shy of his best finish at the speedway with a seventh.
Kyle Weatherman – After seeing the 1.5-mile track for the first time at the test with his team two weeks before the race, the 18 year old continued to chalk up fast speeds in the lone practice. As the last driver to take his qualifying time, Weatherman knew what time he needed to post in order to grab his fourth Menards Pole award of the season. In an effort to take that pole, that would have given him the season-long award, he scrubbed the outside wall on his first qualifying lap, but recovered enough to sit on the outside pole.
With uncertain damage done to the right side Hoosier tires, Crew Chief Paul Andrews elected to change the tires and repair the damage done. The unapproved changes forced Weatherman to start the race at the rear of the field. As soon as the green flag flew, Kyle set sail for the front…making it back to his starting spot of second by lap 24. He remained in the top-5 for the remainder of the race, even as he made pit stops three times, under caution. With an “almost perfect” race car, Weatherman was able to run close to the leader until the final yellow flag. He settled for another second place finish, after his car didn’t handle as well on the final restart.
After climbing out of his No. 22 Crossley Brands Dodge, the runner-up commented, “Something really changed on my car, after that last caution. It just wasn’t handling as perfectly as it had been.” Upon further examination, the Dodge had a fender brace from a competitor’s car lodged up under the right side, which had caused the No. 22 to visibly spark on the final restart.
The rookie earned his eighth SCOTT Rookie of the Race award, which sealed Cunningham’s fifth Rookie of the Year award in seven years. The teenager, whose original intentions included running only 7-10 races, completed the season with fifteen starts….the minimum number that are considered for the rookie award. The other rookies in contention for the award competed in all twenty races, giving them the chance to “throw out” their five worst finishes. All of Weatherman’s fifteen finishes were included.
In addition the teenage Roush Fenway development driver earned the inaugural Calypso Short Track Challenge award and grabbed the Bill France Four Crown award for Cunningham Motorsports, with teammate Blake Jones. In his post-race interview, Weatherman said, “I have been blessed to be with this Cunningham organization this year. I can’t thank Briggs Cunningham, Kerry Scherer and Paul Andrews enough. Without them I wouldn’t be here. It has been an incredible year for me.”
Tom Hessert – Hessert, the eight year ARCA Series veteran, posted the thirteenth speed during practice. During qualifying, he picked up three tenths to start ninth. Hessert fell back to thirteenth before Crew Chief, Chad Bryant called him into the pits on the final lap of the caution before the restart on lap 33. Bryant’s plan was to make the Full Throttle S’loonshine 98.9 a fuel mileage race.
As Hessert and Bryant continued to stick with their plan, Hessert picked up spots as his competitors continued to pit during the remaining cautions. With 24 laps remaining, Tom restarted in third, before “getting a bit tight” in the final laps….finishing seventh in his seventh Kansas race.
Bryant earned his second Cometic Crew Chief of the Year award this season. As the 2014 winner, he is the first repeat winner of the award since Bill Kimmel in 2004-2007.
The Cunningham organization’s final event of the 2015 season is the annual awards banquet, which will be held December 12 in Indianapolis, IN. The black-tie affair is held in conjunction with the Performance Racing Industry’s annual convention.