Just over a month ago, Alex Bowman was in danger of losing his ARCA Series ride due to lack of funding, this despite having won a race and sitting sixth in the Series standings. The easy response would be to go home, run a partial schedule and hope for better results in 2013.
Instead, Bowman chose to live race-to-race, the motorsports equivalent of ‘paycheck-to-paycheck' and despite the hardships has managed to win twice more, including Friday night's Prairie Meadows 200 at Iowa Speedway.
He didn't just win. He dominated, leading 93 of 200 laps to win his Series-leading third race of 2012 and fifth overall. With the win, he closed to third place in the championship standings, just 75 points behind Chris Buescher. (Remember that unlike NASCAR, ARCA Series race winners get 200 points. This is a competitively close championship battle.)
Brennan Poole entered the race as the championship leader and even qualified on pole but Friday wasn't meant to be for the driver nicknamed "The Bull." Poole led the first 75 laps but slapped the wall on lap 75 to bring out the first caution, never got the car fully repaired, and hit the wall again on lap 114. He finished 28th, 30 laps down.
Poole's bad luck did little to change the complexion of the race, trading Poole for Bowman as the event's primary leader. The only exception was a 27-lap stretch from laps 125-152 where Frank Kimmel assumed the lead by choosing to stay out on older tires. The gambit did not completely pay off and the nine-time champion finished in fifth.
The race results was good for those expecting championship parity as the points leader entering the race crashed-out while the fourth-place contender won and led the most laps. Unlike last year, where Ty Dillon won the crown by 340 points, the 2012 season features no such super-team - the championship is still wide-open entering the second half of the season.
Meanwhile, the Prairie Meadows 200 was a typical Iowa race: Decent side-by-side racing in the middle of the pack, but never out front where the leading car, usually in clean air, can easily run away from the rest of the field.
I understand why SPEED doesn't broadcast all the one-off ARCA Series races, as most of their broadcasts coincide with NASCAR race weekends, including tomorrow's Truck Series race at Iowa. But the televised broadcasts don't really show the best of what the ARCA Series has to offer.
Their best races take place at short tracks like Mobile, Salem, and Elko Speedway. The same can be said of their one road course race at New Jersey and their annual dirt track spectacle at DuQuoin Raceway Park, all untelevised.
ARCA provides race fans a lot of things that NASCAR doesn't in 2012 - door-to-door high-impact racing. Here's to hoping SPEED can put some of that on display in 2013 and beyond.
A complete finishing order and lap-by-lap can be found after the jump.
The race was extended two laps due to an accident involving Erik Jones and Spencer Gallagher but it didn't matter as Bowman easily outpaced Grant Enfinger on the final restart. Bowman was tested by restarts several times over the final 50 laps, but Bowman got away every time.
"I could be up here talking three wins in a row, if it wasn't for our mechanical issues at New Jersey," Bowman said. "But I can't complain about two of the last three. Look, I'm not a points racer. I'm here to win every race the rest of the year. I think I have every opportunity to win nine more races this year. [Crew chief] Paul Andrews is the best at what he does, so I don't expect anything less."
Bowman started second, but Brennan Poole dominated early, leading the first 75 and pulling away to a two-second advantage on Bowman by Lap 15. By Lap 30, his lead exceeded six seconds. But the race's major game-changer occurred on lap 75 when Poole hit the wall, while leading, to bring out the first caution.
He cut a right front tire, chased the car up the track, and made contact with the turn two wall. He didn't make especially hard contact but did irreversible damage to the suspension and finished the race in 28th.
Bowman picked up where Brenna Poole left off, dominating the laps after Poole's crash and came away with his fifth-career ARCA Racing Series victory. Enfinger finished second, with Chad Boat completing the podium in his ARCA Series debut.
Clay Rogers, Frank Kimmel, Chad Hackenbracht, Matt Lofton, Spencer Gallagher, Ryan Reed, and Mason Mitchell completed the top-10.
Chicagoland Speedway is the next stop for the ARCA Racing Series, and will take place next Friday, July 20, for the Ansell ActivArmr 150. The 100-lap, 150-mile race will be televised live on SPEED Channel at 5 p.m. EST.
Iowa ARCA race interview (via SPEED TV recording)
2012 ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards Event #11
Iowa Speedway, Newton Iowa, 7-13-12
Prairie Meadows 200
July 13, 2012 / 11:04 PM
FIN STR NO DRIVER/HOMETOWN TEAM & CAR LAPS STATUS
1 2 22 Alex Bowman/Tucson AZ St. Jude Children's Research Hospital Dodge 202 Running
2 8 36 Grant Enfinger/Fairhope AL Breland Homes Dodge 202 Running
3 4 98 Chad Boat/Phoenix AZ Curb Records-Celebrity Fight Night Chevrolet 202 Running
4 5 45 Clay Rogers/Troutman NC Beard Oil Chevrolet 202 Running
5 10 44 Frank Kimmel/Clarksville IN Ansell-Menards Toyota 202 Running
6 7 58 Chad Hackenbracht/New Philadephia OH CGH Motorsports Chevrolet 202 Running
7 11 16 Matt Lofton/Roxboro NC Strutmasters.com Chevrolet 202 Running
8 16 23 Spencer Gallagher/Las Vegas NV Allegiant Air Chevrolet 202 Running
9 3 15 Ryan Reed/Bakersfield CA RaceHard.com-Renton Coil Spring Toyota 202 Running
10 9 6 Mason Mitchell/W. Des Moines IA J&S Ag Services-Make A Wish Foundation Chevy 202 Running
11 6 55 Erik Jones/Byron MI Paragon Corvette Reproductions-CG Financial Chevy 202 Running
12 18 32 Mason Mingus/Brentwood TN Iowa One Call-811 Call Before You Dig Chevrolet 202 Running
13 14 17 Chris Buescher/Prosper TX BeavEx-Reliance Tool Ford 202 Running
14 27 5 Bobby Gerhart/Lebanon PA Lucas Oil Chevrolet 199 Running
15 13 95 Michael Leavine/Bullard TX WRL General Contractors Ford 198 Running
16 22 94 Milka Duno/Caracas Venezuela Milka Way Toyota 198 Running
17 19 41 Michael Simko/White Lake MI Hendren Motorsports Chevrolet 197 Running
18 24 3 Drew Charlson/New Bremen OH Aluma Aluminum Trailers-Heitkamp Crop Ins Dodge 196 Running
19 26 88 Buster Graham/Lafayette LA Batter's Dream-RoushYatesParts.com Ford 195 Running
20 23 90 Zach Ralston/Springville IA ORingSales.com Chevrolet 192 Running
21 30 10 Rick Clifton/Circleville OH BASF Chevrolet 192 Running
22 32 34 Darrell Basham/Henryville IN Darrell Basham Racing Chevrolet 189 Running
23 28 04 Larry Barford Jr./Denton MD First Mariner Bank-Trauma Doc Dodge 188 Running
24 35 48 James Hylton/Inman SC Radon.com Ford 187 Running
25 12 12 Jared Marks/Napoleon OH Premium Energy VIP-SRT Motorsports-UNOH Dodge 184 Accident
26 34 35 Tom Berte/New Berlin WI CGS Premier-Staytuned Customs Chevrolet 180 Accident
27 20 99 Brandon Davis/Huntington Beach CA Roulo Brothers Racing Ford 178 Accident
28 1 25 Brennan Poole/The Woodlands TX The Ad Man-Midas Chevrolet 172 Running
29 15 52 Tom Hessert/Cherry Hill NJ Federated Auto Parts Chevrolet 161 Accident
30 33 66 Nelson Canache/Caracas Venezuela Venezuela Tourism Chevrolet 133 Accident
31 38 79 Mike Koch/Mountain Home AR K&K Racing-Karl's Plumbing Chevrolet 71 Oil Leak
32 17 02 Josh Williams/Port Charlotte FL SW Florida Cable Construction Ford 57 Handling
33 29 40 Roger Carter/Sunfield MI Carter 2 Motorsports Dodge 54 Handling
34 36 06 Tommy O'Leary/Cygnet OH GreatRailing.com Ford 18 Suspnsn
35 37 0 Scott Null/Lake Mills WI Wayne Peterson Racing Ford 10 Rear End
36 39 64 Joseph Hughs/Springfield IL Jack Hughes Racing Dodge 9 Engine
37 25 69 Korbin Forrister/Cedartown GA Tilted Kilt Ford 7 Brakes
38 21 68 Will Kimmel/Sellersburg IN Clarksville Schwinn & Cyclery Ford 5 Radiator
39 31 18 Mike Affarano/Shorewood IL North Grand Auto Parts Ford 4 Brakes
40 40 73 Dale Shearer/Chillicothe MO Shearer Racing Ford