KANSAS CITY, Kan. – official release — ARCA photo — Spencer Gallagher’s first trip to victory lane in the ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards was a memorable one, coming in the final race of the 2014 season at Kansas Speedway.
“It’s been a long road for us,” Gallagher said. “We had a very fast car in practice, but I knew it was going to be tough to come from 32nd place to the front.”
Mason Mitchell secured his first ARCA championship, finishing fifth in the race for his 12th top-five and 18th top-10 finish of the season.
Gallagher led the final 53 laps of the ARCA 98.9, taking the lead on pit road under a caution and never relinquishing it. He stayed out front during a couple of restarts, including one with two laps left in the race. Josh Williams was second and Ross Kenseth placed third in his first race ever on a track bigger than a mile.
Gallagher said the key to the race was the pit stop that got him the lead.
“When we came to pit road, my team gave us a blazing stop,” he said. “We went from sixth to first, plus we made major changes. That ended up being dead-on point. We didn’t hit it a little; we took a big swing at it. And, it worked. Once I got out front, the Allegiant Travel Chevrolet just set sail.”
The first 44 laps of the ARCA 98.9 were caution free. GMS Racing’s Grant Enfinger led the first five laps, John Wes Townley laps six to 24 and Matt Tifft from laps 25 to 44 when he had a tire issue and struck the wall. Three more caution flags flew before the end of the race.
The win was the third of the season for GMS Racing, the first two coming from Enfinger.
After the win, Gallagher exited the car and made sort of a snow angel in the Kansas Speedway grass.
“I don’t know what that was,” Gallagher said. “It just came to me.”
“Those last couple of laps, let me tell you, were terrifying. You just keep thinking of things that could go wrong. I don’t think I took a breath for three laps.”
Gallagher also confirmed post-race that he will be moving full-time to the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series in 2015 for GMS Racing.
Williams tied his career-best finish with the second-place result.
“It gives us some momentum for 2015,” Williams said. “It’s probably our best effort of the season.”
Kenseth, in the PitStopsForPoverty.com Chevrolet, was third, the highest finish for the No. 3 car of the season.
“I had a lot of fun out there,” Kenseth said. “It was definitely a lot different than short track racing and so much fun.”
“It definitely gives us, the No. 3 team, some confidence. We worked on the car a little bit at Kentucky and talked about coming here. The guys worked really hard to put it together. We learned a lot about the car and racing at these kinds of tracks.”
Kenseth was the SCOTT Rookie of the Race.
Cody Coughlin tied his career best by finishing fourth in the No. 55 JEGS Toyota despite having to go to a back-up car due to a crash in practice. His Venturini Motorsports teammates’ Townley placed sixth and Justin Boston seventh. Brandon Gdovic was eighth, Justin Allison ninth and John Lowinski-Loh 10th in a Team BCR car.
Tom Hessert completed the season in third place in the driver point race with his 11th place finish while Leilani Munter was 12th in another Venturini car.
Enfinger finished 17th after an accident ended his night early. He still finished second on the season, with six total wins and 15 top-10’s.
Mitchell, meanwhile, clinched his championship simply by taking the green flag to start the race. He had built up a nearly insurmountable 200-point lead entering the ARCA 98.9. Qualifying was canceled due to an early morning rain, meaning Mitchell started on the front row alongside Enfinger.
“I was really just focused on the race and trying to win the race,” Mitchell said. “I thought about it a little bit, but I wanted to win for my team.”
The 20-year-old became the third-youngest ARCA champion and 32nd in series history.
“It’s been an unbelievable year,” he said. “l can’t really put into words all of the hard work it took to get here.”
Mitchell said he definitely planned to enjoy the championship, which came about three hours from his hometown of West Des Moines, Iowa. The crowd at Kansas included a lot of family and friends.
“I had a lot of people here tonight,” he said. “I just want everybody to enjoy the moment and not sleep until tomorrow.”