ARCA: Strait to Victory Lane at Winchester
28 September 1998WINCHESTER, IN--ARCA Bondo/Mar-Hyde Series veteran Bob Strait and 6-time series champion car owner Jack Bowsher each erased the longest winless streaks of their careers when Strait wrestled his Zinsser Paint Specialties Ford Thunderbird past Andy Belmont with 8 laps remaining to win the Snap-On Tools 150 at Winchester Speedway Saturday afternoon.
"This team has been a winner for the past two years, we just haven't been in victory lane," said the 49-year-old Mokena Illinois driver, who snapped winless streaks of 5 years for himself and 2 seasons for Bowsher. "Jack Bowsher puts a great car under me every week; Zinsser has been a great sponsor these past couple seasons and Joe Rhyne has loaded plenty in the motors. It just shows how competitive this series has become. I won 13 races in my first 8 seasons, but it's been since 1993 getting this 14th win. To say that it feels good and it's satisfying is an understatement. We felt like Salem and Winchester would be our best shots to win. I love these fast high banked half miles."
Strait put the Zinsser machine atop Talladega Pole Award qualifying with a lap at 107.552 mph to top the 34-car field, but not before a violent 5-car practice accident forced the cars driven by Jeff Finley, Wes Russell, Dave LaDuke, A.J. Henriksen and Josh Baltes to withdraw from the event. Finley was hospitalized overnight with a cracked sternum and bruised heart but planned to compete at Charlotte September 30. The 150-lap race began on a familiar note, with series point leader Frank Kimmel jumping out front in Larry Clement's Visionaire-Advance Auto Parts Chevrolet. Kimmel led 3 times for 68 laps in search of his 10th victory in 1998, with Strait also leading on 3 occasions for 67 circuits. Eric Smith's Southtown Motorsports Ford and Joe Cooksey's Brandon Industrial Parts Chevy also led, but on the final green flag restart with 12 laps left it was Belmont's America Online-Jasper Engines Ford that held the point. Belmont then drove away from 2nd place Kimmel, who suffered rear end trouble on the restart. Strait and Cooksey also raced past Kimmel, with Strait chasing down the determined Belmont and loosening him up off turn 2 on lap 142 to make the final pass for the lead low on the backstretch. Strait drove on to a 2.88 second margin of victory over Belmont in 2nd and Cooksey 3rd, both in their best career series finishes. Outside polesitter Kimmel nursed his mount to 4th, with Michigan short track veteran Scott Baker 5th a lap down in his MC Sports Chevrolet. Bob Schacht piloted the Engineered Components Ford to 6th, with Cavin Councilor 7th, Iowa rookie Eric Jones 8th, David Boggs' Power Alliance Olds 9th and Alan Bigelow a career-best 10th in the Winchester Furniture-SP Tool Chevrolet.
Strait collected $13,120 on the day, including the Auto Value Parts Stores Halfway Leader award and AC Delco Wire & Cable Pole-Win bonus. Chuck Weber, driver of the Cardinal Tool-Young Chevrolet, won the Prestone Advanced Formula and Hoosier Tire Midwest Hard Charger awards while Belmont was the STP-Prestone Highest Finishing Rookie.
Series Point Leaders: Frank Kimmel 5015, Mark Gibson 4495, Bob Strait 4400, Bill Baird 3950, Jeff Finley 3870, Andy Belmont 3700, Norm Benning 3295, Curt Piercy 3175, David Boggs 3125, Brian Conz 2965.