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The Fourth Turn
Author: Paul Gohde
September 5th 2012 -

We’ve written quite a bit lately about the ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards, and especially their event at Madison International Speedway just over a week ago.

But there is something that needs to be shared that puts that rain-threatened race into clearer focus.

With heavy, rain-laden clouds hanging over most of southern Wisconsin on race morning and with the few fans who had gathered for the Herr’s Live Life With Flavor 200 hiding in their cars, it seemed obvious that the race would be postponed and likely run on Saturday, September 1.

But ARCA had a race scheduled for Monday, September 3, hundreds of miles away on the one-mile dirt oval in DuQuoin, IL.

Would the teams have to drive home, come back to the Dairy State for the rescheduled Madison event, go back home to load their dirt cars and drive all the way to southern Illinois; all in the period of two days? It seemed like the only solution until the teams came up with a better plan.

“The teams said that it would cost them a lot of money to come back here in a week. They asked if there was any way they could help make the decision any easier to wait this out (and hopefully race),” related Mark Gundrum, ARCA Vice President of Business Development and Corporate Partnerships.

“The top-ten teams asked if they could help make the decision any easier if they bought tickets (said to be 1,500) that they didn’t plan to use, to help the promoter out in order to make the race go off today instead of coming back in a week.

“It says a lot that our teams understand the business model and how important the host race tracks and the sponsorships are to our whole series,” Gundrum explained. “It was a very smart thing for our teams to do and generous as well. It was very much a partnership between ARCA, MIS and our race teams to get this race run.”

Track owner Terry Kunes was also pleased with the dealings he had with ARCA.

“We’re bringing ARCA back (in 2013) – absolutely; consider it done”, said Kunes. “They put on such a great show and they’ve been super to work with. As long as I own the track, I’ll try hard to have them back. The same weekend is our target. Without rain.”

In my almost fifty years of covering races I’ve never heard of this kind of arrangement ever happening before, but the fans, race teams and track management all came out ahead. The race started more than three hours late after the track was dried, but the 200 laps were run in just over an hour and everyone was on the road early thanks to a spur-of-the-moment plan that sent fans and participants home happy. Other sanctioning bodies should be so fortunate to have teams of the caliber of ARCA racing for them.

•    If ARCA does return to Madison next year, the series may have a surprise for fans of the Kenseth family. Father Matt has always put son Ross’s college education ahead of his blossoming racing career. And with twenty-nine short-track races scheduled for Ross this season, Matt saw that starting the fall semester at Clemson University was more important than having Ross run at Madison in an ARCA car. But it did almost happen according to Mark Gundrum: “Matt pretty much told him that he’s going to school. But there was some talk between Matt and Kenny Schroeder about putting him in a second Federated Auto Parts Chevrolet (as a teammate to veteran Tom Hessert) here at Madison. But I know that Matt’s focus for him is his education. We’d like to see him in a car. There’s some natural opportunity for him here (since the Kenseth’s are from Cambridge, WI, just a bit east of MIS). I think we’ll see him here eventually. This would be a great place for him to make his (ARCA) debut.”

•    We also spoke at Madison with ASA Midwest Tour boss Steve Einhaus about the ASAMT cars returning to the Milwaukee Mile in 2013. He said he’ll be in Richmond, VA this weekend trying to get some NASCAR Sprint Cup drivers to commit to next season’s event. With the inaugural Howie Lettow 150 having been a success on its mid-week June date, Einhaus is looking to make some improvements for the second run. He hopes to secure better lighting, make sure that the State Fair is better prepared in the areas of food sales, rest rooms and staffing, and perhaps have a concert on qualifying night. Early July is the targeted date.