MOBILE, Ala. and CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Report by Race Chaser Online Midwest Correspondent Aaron Bearden — ARCA photo —
Call Grant Enfinger the jukebox hero.
Enfinger fended off Brandon Jones on a late green-white-checkered finish to win the ARCA-Mobile 200 at Mobile Intl Speedway, his second-straight win to kick off the 2015 ARCA season and third-straight victory at Mobile.
The Fairhope, Ala. native started the race from the front row in his GMS Racing No. 23 after both practice and qualifying were rained out on Friday afternoon. Enfinger quickly jumped to the lead early, asserting his dominance through a caution-filled first half and pacing 161 laps of the 205 run (extended due to the ‘overtime’ finish) en route to his 10th career ARCA victory.
“I have so many people here today, watching this,” Enfinger said. “It’s unbelievable. It seems like it took forever to get the first one.”
Early on though, it seemed like the winner may not be the biggest story of the race.
ARCA veteran Will Kimmel was restarting inside of the top-five on lap eight when his throttle stuck heading into turn one. Mobile is unique in that it doesn’t have walls — instead, a large hill and concrete barriers separate drivers from the parking areas outside of the track. Kimmel, unable to slow down, hopped the hill, going airborne and crashing through one of the barriers before hitting a fan’s vehicle.
Amazingly, Kimmel came out of the wreck unhurt.
The race remained under caution for over 10 laps, including a brief red-flag as ARCA officials tended to Kimmel and replaced the barrier. Racing eventually resumed, with Enfinger leading the way before a pit stop on lap 55 handed the lead to Tom Hessert for three circuits. Thomas Praytor led lap 58 before the hometown driver resumed command at the front.
Enfinger wasn’t the only one to lead outside of pit stops at Mobile, however. Late in the first half, defending ARCA champion Mason Mitchell worked his way around Enfinger to take over the top spot for an instant at lap 99 before seizing control for a 37 lap stint at lap 106. Teammate Austin Wayne Self followed Mitchell around Enfinger, even leading the race briefly at lap 143.
However, once a caution fell with roughly 70 laps remaining, Mitchell, Josh Williams and Self stayed out, while all of the other contenders came to pit road. The move ultimately led Enfinger to the lead and the win — as he rose through the field quickly on the ensuing restart. Enfinger took the lead on lap 145, and he would not relinquish it again.
“I felt like we had the class of the field for 50 laps, but we had to hold on after that,” Enfinger said of his race car. “At one point, we sort of fell back a little bit. But, the cautions played out the way we needed it to. (Crew chief) Jeff Stankiewicz pulled us in to pit road at the right times.”
Meanwhile, Mitchell suffered mechanical problems after it looked like he might have the car to contend with Enfinger. The Iowa native came home in 19th, 43 laps down.
With Mitchell out, other contenders took a step up. Brandon Jones quickly asserted himself as Enfinger’s biggest threat, running consistently in the top five. He was reeling Enfinger in when a late caution for a crash between Brian Finney and young rookie Ronnie Osmer forced a green-white-checkered. Jones, restarting on the outside, was passed by underdog Josh Williams on the restart, falling to third temporarily.
Williams, who drives for his own family-owned team, shocked the field by running consistently inside of the top-10. He appeared to be cruising to a second-place finish when Jones knocked him out of the way coming off turn four to the checkered flag. Jones would beat Williams to the line, but an angry Williams turned Jones into the outside wall after the checkered flag — leading to a fight between the two drivers’ teams.
“We had fresher tires than Grant,” Williams said. “The No. 25 got into us a bit. I don’t know. I’ve been taught to race clean. I never touched him all day. We should have been in victory lane right now.”
Jones said he tried to maintain his line in the final laps to have a shot at catching Enfinger.
“We struggled in three and four a little bit and he struggled a bit in one and two,” Jones said. “I thought if I could maintain that I could get there. Grant is a great driver.”
Self ended a solid day in fourth, with Kyle Weatherman rounding out the top five in his first start with Cunningham Motorsports.
Matt Tifft, Praytor, Michael Lira, Dominic Ursetta and Finney rounded out the top 10.
And as for the Crosley jukebox — the custom trophy presented to winners of the ARCA-Mobile 200? Enfinger has a third one to take home after Saturday’s efforts.
“It’s going back to the shop for now,” Enfinger said. “I’m not sure who is going to claim it. All I know is there are a lot of people that mean a lot to me that are here today. It’s a pretty great feeling.”
The ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards will return to action on April 11 at Fairgrounds Speedway for the Nashville ARCA 200 in Nashville, Tenn. The event will be the first ARCA race at the facility since 1992.
RESULTS: ARCA Racing Series; ARCA-Mobile 200; Mobile International Speedway; March 14, 2015
- Grant Enfinger
- Brandon Jones
- Josh Williams
- Austin Wayne Self
- Kyle Weatherman
- Matt Tifft
- Thomas Praytor
- Michael Lira
- Dominic Ursetta
- Brian Finney
- Tom Hessert III
- David Levine
- Bobby Hamilton Jr.
- Sarah Cornett-Ching
- Brad Smith
- James Swanson
- Ronnie Osmer
- Corey Howard
- Mason Mitchell
- Bo LeMastus
- Greg Hutto Jr.
- Richard Doheny
- Will Kimmel
- Allen Milton
- Wayne Peterson