No shortage of excitement in ARCA finale
Now that’s what I call a great final race of the season … and it was great to see, because it’s nothing we’re likely to see in a Cup season finale anytime soon.
For those of you who missed it, Penske developmental driver Justin Allgaier won his sixth ARCA race of the season Sunday at Toledo Speedway and also claimed the series title, while driving for a team run by his family. It was an amazing story, but his win and championship weren’t even the most exciting news to come out of the race.
Entering the race, Allgaier was in third, 110 points behind the leader, soon-to-be Red Bull Cup driver Scott Speed. Roush developmental driver Ricky Stenhouse Jr. was close behind in second place. Going into Sunday, the smart money was on one of these two drivers taking the championship.
But shortly after the race started, Stenhouse and Speed were doing some furious racing against each other and Stenhouse apparently felt he had waited long enough to pass Speed, giving him the chrome horn and sending him up into the wall, ruining Speed’s car.
So the title is Stenhouse’s, right? Wrong.
Speed decided that if he couldn’t win, Stenhouse wouldn’t either. Limping his wounded car back on the track, he drove straight into Stenhouse and send him hard into the wall. Right after the wreck, Speed freely admitted it, saying “He wasn’t going to win the championship that way.”
So after all the smoke had cleared, Allgaier -- who also made an impressive run in his Nationwide Series debut this weekend in Charlotte and will run at least 10 races for Penske Racing in the series in 2009 -- was in the points lead. Assuming he stayed out of trouble, and there was a lot of trouble on Sunday, the title was his. He avoided all the wrecks, and even stayed racy and battled for the lead with a few laps to go even though a wreck could have cost him the title.
That kind of attitude and dedication to winning is what could make him a NASCAR star one day, though hopefully by the time he makes it to Cup the equipment at Penske is a little more reliable.
Allgaier ended up beating nine-time series champ Frank Kimmel by 50 points in the final standings, and Speed and Stenhouse dropped to third and fifth in the standings, respectively.
Though I hope I’m wrong, I doubt the Homestead weekend will be anywhere near as exciting, as I fear Jimmie Johnson will have the Cup title sewn up before the drivers even arrive in South Florida. I find it strange that in series like ARCA, the competition can be so tight, but NASCAR can’t make Cup racing more competitive despite the implementation of the Chase, which is supposed to keep things closer toward the end. I suppose it's possible Johnson's team is just that much better than everyone else.
Regardless, it’s OK.
After watching this ARCA finale, at least I can say I saw an exciting final battle for a stock car racing title this year.