The scene for the 2012 ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards season finale at Kansas Speedway resembled the setting one year ago at the track, when Alex Bowman won his second career start and Chris Buescher wrapped up the Hoosier Tire Superspeedway Challenge on his way to winning top rookie honors one week later.
Tonight, though, the two impressed even further at a year older apiece, with Bowman defending his victory from the pole and Buescher clinching the ARCA Racing Series championship with a conservative eighth-place finish.
For Bowman (right, No. 22 St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital Dodge), the win tied him with Buescher at a series-high four each in 2012, and was the sixth of his career. By beating Brennan Poole (No. 25 Colt Ford/Average Joes Entertainment Toyota) by one position in the race, he held off Poole to win the Team Messina Rookie Challenge, supplanting the now-experienced Buescher for top newcomer honors.
Buescher (top, No. 17 BeavEx/Reliance Tool Ford) is the 30th different champion in ARCA Racing Series history, and the second youngest at 19 years, 356 days. Before Buescher, only one driver had won ARCA Rookie of the Year honors in one year and the championship in the next – Bill Baird in 1998-99.
The championship is the first for Midlothian, Ill.-based Roulo Brothers Racing and co-owners Gary and Russell Roulo. Since 1986, the family-led organization has won 31 races but had never run a full season until 2011. Now, in two complete seasons, the team has finished second and first, with the top two ARCA milestones securely in the trophy case.
“This is definitely exciting,” said Buescher, of Prosper, Texas. “It’s definitely going to take a little while for this one to sink in. It’s hard to race that way, trying to conserve tires. We had a couple issues, but I was just trying to do everything I could so nothing crazy happened there. Hats off to the Roulo Brothers and Roush Fenway. David Ragan’s been a huge part of my career, and there are a lot of others that mean a lot to my career.”
Bowman won the Menards Pole Award presented by Ansell with a qualifying lap of 29.259 seconds (184.559 mph), easily topping the 2008 track record set by Ken Butler III. The new pavement not only increased the practice and qualifying speeds, but also made drivers slightly cautious going into the race.
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