August 7th, 2011 (Flat Rock, Michigan) — Most are familiar with the saying “what a difference a year makes”! And, if that applies to anyone, it’s the #17 C.A. Bailey Excavating Chevy team. Winners of the 2010 ARCA Truck Series championship in their first year of trying, driver Chris Bailey Jr. was new to most tracks on the circuit and he still managed to stay in the hunt at most events, and won two out of seven and didn’t place out of the top ten in any of them. This year, despite a sixth place finish at Toledo Speedway May 14th, the season — and the year as a whole — have been trying to say the least! Bailey Sr. had started the New Year battling serious health issues. Then, the first attempt at Flat Rock May 28th (before being postponed until today), the team fell out with a mysterious fluid leak. Then a devastating crash at Winchester cost them their truck for a month for repairs and despite working out a deal with Ed & Co.’s Ed Yoak to stay in the title hunt, the Bailey’s seemed behind the “8 ball” in “unfamiliar” equipment despite some decent finishes.
At 8AM race morning, the team finally got their #17 back fixed, then headed to the southeastern Michigan track for another go at the ARCA Truck 100 at the quarter mile Flat Rock Speedway tonight. But, weather appeared it may again pose a problem as the skies opened up an hour before the green flag was scheduled to wave. But, the clouds parted, Bailey started fourth and drove to the front and raced to career win number three! Victory lane for the 22-year-old was a bit emotional. “Yah, it’s been a tough year, and not just at the race track! But to win, with just the three of us here — my mom, my dad and me — it’s pretty special and it means a lot to us! I was just telling someone earlier that it’s a blessing that we’re even here!”
Fire Tiger Pole Qualifying was held originally on May 28th with Paul Hahn taking that award, but after that race was postponed after 38 laps due to rain, it was slated for this date with only practice scheduled, then the green flag. However, rain again greeted competitors as they rolled into the paddock, but the shower was brief and co-point leaders Kenny Kirsch Jr. and Hahn set the first and second fastest times. Hahn rolled a seven for the inversion in May and that was where he would start, while Kirsch lined up on the inside of the front row, but with skies threatening after more rain at race time, the Trucks started the 100 lapper under the green and yellow for the first seven circuits to finish drying the surface, and it was also determined that caution laps would count to ensure a completed show in case the skies opened up again, though the rest of the night was hot and humid but dry.
When Chief Starter Mike Bridge turned ‘em loose for green flag racing on the fifth event and midway point of the season, Kirsch bolted out front with Nathan Trepkowski second and Ash Hawkins third. However, it wasn’t long before lapped traffic was a factor as Trepkowski and Hahn were trying to lap Kerry Rouse Jr. (who was making his series debut), there was contact as Hahn got into Trepkowski’s B & J Auto Parts/Ubly Auto Supply Chevy and although he almost had it saved after driving through the muddy infield grass, Trepkowski slid up onto the track and was nailed in the passanger door by Bobby Noe in the #5 Advocare Ford. Chad Poorman stopped without contact but was unable to move for a lap in the high groove. Trepkowski and Poorman (also in his first Series event in the Double B Garage #99 Chevy) finally drove on, Noe was through and Hahn was sent to the tail for the contact. During the caution, Jerry Harlan pulled his #51 THIKtees.com Chevy into the pits and out of the race.
The field was slowed while all the fluid was cleaned and racing resumed on lap 30 with Kirsch in front of Hawkins, Mike Young, Bailey and DJ Safety Rookie challenger Shawn Szep. Hawkins began to fall back with an ill-handling truck and Bailey passed Young and was now gaining on the leader. Ron Wells #6 Oakley Blacktop Chevy dropped off the pace on lap 42, then Craig Meyers looped off turn two on lap 45 and his Classic Racing Coupes/Regency Kennels Dodge was through.
The green was back out at lap 49 with Bailey chasing Kirsch, who held the preferred inside grove. However, coming through the last corner to complete lap 59, Kirsch’s NAPA Legends Batteries/Kirsch Automotive Chevy spun and Bailey caught a piece of it with his right front, sustaining noticeable damage bit decided not to pit which gave him the lead. Kirsch, though, was now back to sixth with Hahn’s Turbo Air Drying/Hahn’s Collision Chevy right behind. Poorman was given the “free pass” but did not take it, claiming he was not a lap down and running third and officials tried sorting out the order. Finally, they decided to let Poorman stay where he was and the green was out again at lap 69 and Bailey began to pull away from Young’s Dave White/Auto Credit Chevy. Rouse and Tim Schafer’s Kirsch Auto/Double S Chevy were out of the running by now, but Szep’s THIKtees.com Chevy was the new man on the move, challenging Young for second. Behind them, Kirsch spun off turn two as Hahn followed, prompting the yellow at lap 79. Officials again offered the free pass to Poorman and reminded him he was down after stopping for a lap in the race’s first incident and Poorman, who was on Bailey’s bumper before the caution, finally went around.
Racing resumed at lap 86 and Bailey would not be challenged again. Behind him, though, was a different story, as Szep lost second to Young, and then Hahn, while Rick Groetsch’s Specialty Fitter’s Chevy got to his bumper. Poorman was also making a charge through the field, getting by Brad Yunker’s Owens Community College/CGS Imaging Chevy on lap 92 and then Hawkins for sixth with two to go. Hahn was also taking inside looks on Young for second, trying the inside off turn two with two remaining, getting to his door. Young, however, shut the door and held on to runner as Hahn settled for third as Bailey streaked across under the checkered flag the winner followed by Young, Hahn, Szep, Groetsch, Poorman, Hawkins, Bob Mikolajczyk’s Schorling Racing Engines Ford, Yunker, DJ Safety Rookie challengers Brandon Huff in the Brad’s Towing/Martin’s Auto Body/Embroidery By Renee Chevy and Marcus Jones’ Best One Tire/Jones and Sons Chevy, Trepkowski, Kirsch and Deana Groves in the Kentucky Builders/Team Wilson Ford V-8.
They say “there’s no crying in baseball”, but Bailey’s eyes welled with tears as he climbed out to greet the cheering Flat Rock throng in victory lane and didn’t hide how he was feeling at that moment, rightfully so. “This probably the worst year we’ve had in racing, and I just wanted to get back into the seat of our truck and we got it back this morning, we tried something underneath it and it was working good, but when I got into Kirsch there, I thought it was kinda like our season has been going! But actually the truck seemed to run better after that! This just feels great, and after all we’ve been through this year, I’d say this one of my biggest wins!”
The next event for the ARCA Truck is the Series inaugural visit next Saturday, August 13th at the Newport Speedway, in Newport, Tennessee. The Newport Speedway is located in Newport, Tennessee in the southeast corner of where the I-81 and I-40 Interstates intersect and just east of I-75. Nestled deep in the heart of the Great Smoky Mountains between Knoxville and Johnson City, Newport Speedway caters to both competitors and race fans who live in Eastern Tennessee and Western North Carolina. A 4/10ths mile asphalt oval, the track (which was paved in 1988) boasts banking of 26’ in the turns.
The ARCA Truck Series features 10 events at 9 tracks on its 2011 schedule, and is operated for the second season by the Phoenix Management Group, LLC, under a licensing agreement with ARCA. The ARCA Truck Series ran its first full season under ARCA sanction in 1999, after evolving from the Pro-4 Series, which was sanctioned by ARCA for the previous nine years. Today, the series has grown into one of the most versatile series in short track racing, having taken popular V-6 & V-8 powered trucks to asphalt tracks of many sizes under one mile, a road course, and numerous dirt tracks in its history.
Founded by John 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 two professional touring series and local weekly events.
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