By Vincent Delforge, special to KickinTheTires.net
Step by step we are getting closer to the 1000th race. This time we are going to talk about the 800th race in the history of the current ARCA Menards West Series, then called the NASCAR West Series. The race was held on May 20, 2007 at Iowa Speedway located in Newton, IA. This 0.875 mile short track resembles Richmond Raceway in shape and one of the initiators of which is none other than the 1989 Winston Cup Series champion Rusty Wallace.
Opened in 2006, it hosted the NASCAR East and West series for the first time in 2007. Indeed it is a combined race between the West and the Busch East that we will have in 2007. The Featherlite Coaches 200 are the fifth race of the West championship and the third for the East this year.
2007 ARCA West Background
2007 is a milestone in the history of the NASCAR regional series West and East. The minimum age for drivers is lowered from 18 to 16, which will allow a whole series of young and talented development drivers from Cup Series teams to perfect their learning of NASCAR in order to integrate one of the three national series. 2007 is also the first year with common regulations between the two series, the appearance of fiberglass bodywork, the spec engine, etc. It is a year of transition before the arrival of a common title sponsor for both series as early as 2008.
NASCAR also decides to organize combined races between the two series. The premiere just took place at Elko Speedway in Minnesota two days prior. And it was a success with 46 cars entered for 30 places available at the start of the race on this short track of 0.375 mile. Sean Caisse won the race under the East Series banner. Mike David, third, is the best representative of the West.
New thing, the best classified in the race of each series is credited by NASCAR with an official victory. For David is his second victory of the season after the one obtained in Altamont, CA. And this point of the regulations has its importance for the championship.
The Race at Iowa
Two days later, the Iowa combo race attracted 53 drivers for 42 places on the starting grid. Of the 53 drivers, there are 25 from the West Series. The pole sitter is Cup Series star Kevin Harvick. He rides under the West Series banner with his own Kevin Harvick Incorporated team. He is ahead of rookie Joey Logano, a 16-year-old development driver from Joe Gibbs Racing who is the best representative of the East.
Mike Duncan (West) is third ahead of Peyton Sellers (East). This perfect mix between the drivers of the two regions is proof of the validity of the new regulations introduced by NASCAR.
On the side of the West, the big disappointment in qualifying concerns Tim Woods III, the second in the championship, who did not manage to integrate the 42 drivers who will take part in the race. It will be a blow for the 32-year-old driver who will not be able to continue his season full time.
Green Flag at Iowa
The start of the race is given and Harvick will immediately realize that the rookie Logano will be a sacred rival. Logano who won his first West Series race in Phoenix on his first start. Sellers, Duncan and Caisse complete the top-five at the end of the first lap. This start to the race is wild within the pack.
The first yellow flag came on lap five when John Wes Townley (East) spun off on turn 2 and was hit hard by Tim Schendel (East). The two pilots escaped unscathed even if Townley took a few seconds to regain his lucidity.
At the restart Logano puts direct pressure on Harvick. Caisse attacks Duncan for fourth position. They will stay side by side for more than two laps. Scott Lynch (West) who won the first race of the season at Thunderhill battles door to door with Tim McCreadie (West) for eighth position. The two drivers have gained more than 15 positions each since the start!
Jeff Barkshire (West), in 10th position, will be at the origin of the second caution when he violently rubs the wall coming out of turn 2. With the entire right side of his Dodge damaged, he loses all hope of a good result.
Harvick is surprised by Logano at the restart. The two drivers will ride side by side for four laps. Harvick is faster in turns 1 and 2 while Logano is faster in turns 3 and 4, allowing him to cross the finish line half a length ahead. Finally Harvick manages to regain control on the 42nd lap but not for long.
On lap 45 Logano dives inside on turn 3 and regains the lead. At the same time Lynch passed Duncan for fifth position. Lynch is the fastest driver on the track. Eric Holmes, who rides under the banner of the East Series this year, is in sixth position. Sellers, who had remained in the top five for a long time, gave up, engine broke shortly after the 50th lap.
Cautions, Cautions, Cautions
The third yellow flag is brandished in the 57th lap following the spun of the Mexican Jesus Hernandez (East) in turn 4. And it is this spun that will allow him to obtain a very good result at the end of the race. Why? Thanks to the offbeat strategy that will result from his passage through the pitlane to change tyres. Caisse, Jason Bowles (West), Justin Lofton (West) will also in the pitlane.
At the restart, Harvick is quicker to get back into action and passes Logano. Note that Johnny Borneman III (West) who had started from the back of the field following unapproved adjustments entered the top 20 on the 70th lap.
Five laps later Holmes retired with a broken engine. With all this we almost forgot to follow the incredible recovery of Brian Ickler (West) who had to change his engine after qualifying because he was overheating too much. Starting dead last, he joined the top five shortly before the fourth yellow flag caused by Sean Caisse who hit the wall at turn 4 following the burst of his right front tire. The beginning of the ordeal for the driver of No. 44.
This time it is Logano who is faster at the restart. With Harvick, they will exchange the leadership of the race four times in six laps! The fight is just as intense between Lynch and Ickler for third position. On lap 99, Caisse, who was five laps behind, crashed on turn 4. His race was over. The leaders take advantage of this fifth yellow flag to go through their pit box. Same 2-tires strategy for Logano and Harvick who emerge in this order from the pitlane.
Mike Duncan, Lofton, Mike David, Brett Thompspon (West) stayed on track like all those who had an offbeat strategy. Halfway through the race, the Logano-Harvick duo found themselves in 21st and 22nd position for the restart. A green flag that will only last two laps before the spun of Jamie Hayes (East) in turn 2.
We will only do 10 laps before the seventh yellow and the big crash between Matt Kobyluck (East) and Mike Olsen (East). Kobyluck hits the wall hard in turn 4 and was hit by Olsen. Kobyluck’s Chevrolet No. 40 is destroyed.
Duncan and his crew chief Bill Sedgwick discuss whether to stop or not… But to late because the pace car turns off its lights and Duncan is forced to stay on the track. At the restart, he still precedes Lofton, David and Eric Richardson (West). While Harvick is doing well in traffic and has moved up to 15th position, Logano has remained stuck in 22nd position.
Duncan will lead until the eighth yellow flag caused by the accident between Michelle Theriault (East) and Daryl Harr (West) on turn 2. This time Duncan returns to the pit but is angry on the radio. He knows that victory is now going to be a very difficult goal to achieve. Lofton is the new leader. Harvick is now at his side. Lofton makes a good restart but with his fresher tires Harvick will make short work of it and take control from turn 2 on the outside line! Logano is in the top 10.
It will be the longest green flag of the race, 41 laps. This will allow Logano to methodically climb back to the first position on the 163rd lap. They brawl as they weave through straggler traffic.
On lap 177, a big accident on turn 2 involving Lynch, Theriault and Pierre Bourque (East) will require a red flag to clean up the fluids.
Run to the Finish
At the restart Harvick redid the stroke at the start of the race and directly took command but this time Logano was like a leech stuck against him for two laps until the 10th and last yellow flag due to the accident between Mike David and Andrew Myers (West). David, who has to brake to avoid contact in front of him, surprises Myers who hits him on turn 4.
And like at the start of the race, Logano managed to make a superb restart and surprise Harvick. This is the crucial overtaking because it will allow him to win the race. Mike David, frustrated, masterfully jumping the restart from the outside by overtaking more than ten cars and finds himself third… He receives the black flag directly.
A victory that NASCAR credits to Logano for the East Series while Harvick, second, is officially credited with the victory for the West Series, his sixth in his career. The other five dating from 1998. With their shifted strategies Hernandez and Borneman finish respectively in third and fourth position. Duncan is fifth and closes the championship gap on the leader David, finally ranked 20th. Note that if an East driver wins the race overall, there are seven West drivers in the top 10.
Mike David who will become the West champion at the end of the season. David who is still in the West Series today as Tim Spurgeon’s crew chief.
The recap for the 700th race in ARCA Menards Series West history can be found here.
Featured Photo Credit: Photo Courtesy of Iowa Speedway Program via Vincent Delforge’s Archives.