TALLADEGA, Ala. – official series release – ARCA photo —
ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards rookie Blake Jones gave Cunningham Motorsports two straight wins at Talladega Superspeedway, taking the lead from teammate Tom Hessert on the final lap of the International Motorsports Hall of Fame 200 Friday night.
“This is a dream come true,” said the 18-year-old Jones. “To come here and win at Talladega in just my second restrictor plate track is unbelievable.”
Jones took the lead on the final restart of the race, surviving four cautions and a red flag to pull in front of his Cunningham Motorsports teammate when Hessert ran out of gas after taking the green and white flag together. Venturini Motorsports driver Cody Coughlin, in the No. 55 JEGS Toyota, was second after winning the Menards Pole Award while Cole Powell was third in the No. 58 Lira Motorsports Ford.
Brandon Jones, in the Tide-Menards Toyota, finished fourth with Russ Dugger trailing in fifth.
“We had been working on restarts all day trying to get a jump on him (Hessert),” Jones said. “I don’t know if we would have been able to get him on that one or not, but when he dropped down I just had to hang in there.”
Jones, driving the No. 22 Uncle Ray’s Potato Chips Dodge, will graduate high school in Tennessee next week. He said Crew Chief Paul Andrews played a big role in the win.
“I can’t thank him enough for the car he gave me,” Jones said. “It’s just unreal.”
The race went 79 laps, three laps more than the advertised 76-lap distance when a caution came out for a Josh Williams spin just after Hessert had taken the white flag. The extra laps proved to be too much for Hessert, who ran out of gas.
Matt Kurzejewski finished sixth in the Costy’s Energy Service Chevrolet and Scott Sheldon seventh in the Allegiant Travel Chevrolet. Sarah Cornett-Ching placed a career-best eighth in the Race101.net Chevrolet while Bo LeMastus also gained a career-best finish ninth in the Crosley-T&T Construction-Glad Performance Dodge. Tyler Audie finished a career-best 10th in the Audie Expo Toyota.
It was a big point day for SCOTT Rookie Challenge point leader David Levine, who finished 11th in the Gary Yeomans-Ford Performance-TraqGear Ford. Buster Graham was 12th in the Louisiana Tech Ford. The top three drivers in the point standings entering the race – and four of the top five – had trouble during the race. Grant Enfinger crashed with 10 laps to go. Austin Wayne Self, who was second, crashed on lap 53, and Josh Williams finished 18th after the spin on lap 76. Hessert finished 15th.
Self and Brad Smith were involved in a crash that caused the first caution. Smith was transported to a local hospital for further evaluation after a hard hit into the Talladega safer barrier. Will Kimmel, Enfinger and Clay Campbell were involved in a late-race crash on the backstretch as well.
“We were trying to make a run back to the front,” Enfinger said. “I feel like we had the car to do it in. It’s disappointing.”
Powell climbed 18 spots, from 21st to third.
“Great run,” Powell said. “We didn’t start our day off like we wanted to, but we never gave up all day. I’m ecstatic about third place.”
Hessert led the most laps, 60, and Coughlin led 11 laps and Jones eight. The race took one hour and 40 minutes to complete.
The ARCA Racing Series next races at Toledo Speedway, the home track for the series. The Menards 200 presented by Federated Car Care will be May 17.
CREDIT: ARCA Racing Series