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ARCA: Mark Gibson Takes Texas

21 September 1998

By Don Radebaugh

Fort Worth, Texas -- Mark Gibson drove his Jani-King Ford Taurus to victory here Saturday in the inaugural running of the Z-MAX 250 at Texas Motor Speedway, his second ARCA Bondo/Mar-Hyde Series victory of his career and first ever for the Taurus body style in ARCA competition.

With hundreds of people present from his locally-based team sponsor, the victory had to have been especially sweet. "Our sponsor is from Dallas," said Gibson after the race. "We had 250 people from JaniKing here today, so I wasn't going to let anybody beat us. We lost the lead briefly there towards the end after we make a tire change to a set of scuffs and the others put on stickers. But when the tires came in we took off again. We found a good set of scuffs and we saved them."

Bill Baird, more than nine seconds back, held off Mike Ciochetti for second with Bobby Gerhart trailing in fourth. Former sprint car driver and ARCA rookie Gus Wasson in his first ARCA start finished fifth in the Chris Hoiles Motorsports Chevrolet, the last car on the lead lap.

After the final round of pit stops 40 laps from the finish, Gibson led the way off pit road with Baird, Ciochetti and Wasson behind him. For the next 10 laps Gibson, Baird and Ciochetti swapped the lead back and forth each taking their turn on the point while Wasson and Gerhart looked on. But as Gibson's scuff tires began to take hold, the Winder, Georgia driver took charge and raced back to the point with 30 laps to go and drove away from the field. Baird and Ciochetti then settled in to wage war for second while Wasson and Gerhart staged a furious battle for fourth. On several occasions Ciochetti drove his Hughes Supply Ford alongside Baird's Spee-Dee Pop Chevrolet but Baird refused the challenge every time. Wasson did everything he could to keep Gerhart's Kewadin Casinos-Knight Ridder Chevrolet in his rear-view mirror before giving up the position just six laps from the end.

It took several pace laps before the race went initially green to remove Jeff Finley's Chevrolet from the track after his rear brakes had apparently locked up. When the green flag finally waved the polesitter and current point leader Frank Kimmel led the first 27 rounds before his race car got loose off turn two, spun down the backstretch and collected the inner retaining wall. "The car got loose in both turns and when I checked up Mark (Gibson) was there," said Kimmel. "It wasn't Mark's fault. I was loose before he got to me." Frankston, Texas driver Billy Meazell, who ran as high as second in the race in a 1994 Chevy Lumina, brought out the fifth of six cautions when he hit the outer retaining wall on the frontstretch and slid across the track and hit the inner retaining wall. He was taken to the infield care center where he was treated for minor burns and released.

Gibson, who led 119 laps of the 167 lap contest, earned $23,050 for his effort including the Auto Value Parts Stores Halfway Leader award. Gerhart, who started 20th, won the Thermo Tec Cool Drive award and the Hoosier Tire Midwest Hard Charger honors for advancing the most positions. Baird was credited with the STP-Prestone Highest Finishing Rookie honors and continues to lead Andy Belmont, who finished ninth in the race, by a slim margin in the chase for the ARCA rookie of the year title.

Series Point Leaders: Frank Kimmel 4765, Mark Gibson 4390, Bob Strait 4140, Jeff Finley 3845, Bill Baird 3845, Andy Belmont 3470, Norm Benning 3135, Curt Piercy 3090, David Boggs 2940, Brian Conz 2815