Like Father, Like Son: McReynolds Wins at 'Dega
Brandon McReynolds passed Matt Lofton on the final lap at Talladega Superspeedway this evening to win the International Motorsports Hall of Fame 250, his first ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards win in seven career starts.
The win was sweet redemption for the 20-year-old Turner Motorsports driver, who ran out of fuel and lost the lead on the final lap at Daytona International Speedway two months ago. McReynolds' (No. 32 Turner Motorsports/Win-Tron Racing Chevrolet) drive to Talladega's Victory Lane came 20 years and one day after Davey Allison's NASCAR Sprint Cup Series win at the track - an effort led by crew chief Larry McReynolds, Brandon's father.
"Talladega's one of these places where anything can happen," McReynolds said. "It's a big race track, as big as we go to, and everyone seems to reach down and find a little more confidence. It's just cool to go to Victory Lane, knowing that Dad, and Dale Earnhardt and Davey Allison and those people that Dad worked with had so much success here. That's what means most to me. Being able to do that with Turner Motorsports and all the people involved means that much more, because they're the only people that have given me a shot to come out here and race and not worry about the politics, not worry about money. They have a great organization, and I wouldn't want to do it anywhere else."
Lofton (No. 16 Strutmasters.com Chevrolet) finished 0.195 second behind in second place, having led 55 total laps. Chad Hackenbracht (No. 58 Kindify Chevrolet) led 38 laps late in the race and provided most of the winning outside push for McReynolds before finishing third.
"The 58 was really fast and I just backed up into him and he stuck with me," said McReynolds, who started 10th. "He could have hung me out to dry. 16 bounced off us a bit. That's just good, hard racing, and that's how it looked from my eyes. It was a lot of fun."
Lofton led from the green flag, having accepted the first position by virtue of leading the 2011 owner points when Menards Pole Qualifying presented by Ansell was rained out Thursday. Lofton kept the lead, even as Frank Kimmel (No. 44 Ansell/Menards Toyota) improved one position from the third starting spot. The two led a breakaway fluctuating between eight to 10 cars over the first 10 laps, with Lofton holding just more than a 0.1-second advantage the entire time.
Talladega's classic "big one" came early, when Steve Blackburn spun after contact and started an 11-car incident on the frontstretch, causing a red flag for 17 minutes and 43 seconds. Notable drivers eliminated early were Daytona winner and runner-up Bobby Gerhart and Drew Charlson, respectively, Salem winner Alex Bowman, Joey Coulter, and Milka Duno.
Lofton led the field to the green flag to start Lap 17, but Roger Carter smacked the wall to bring another caution at Lap 20. Kimmel was one of several drivers to pit for fuel, closing Lap 21 with a visit to his crew from the second position. Just before the Lap 28 green flag, Kimmel drove to pit road again to top off his tank, and re-entered the race 22nd.
An eight-car pack broke away by about five seconds over the next 10 laps, with Lofton leading Brandon Davis, Hackenbracht, Chris Buescher, McReynolds, Kevin Swindell, Steve Blackburn, and Ryan Reed. The eight cars ran approximately 1.4 seconds apart, with the ninth-place driver about six seconds off of the lead.
A Lap 52 yellow flag for debris on the race track sent the leaders to pit road to close Lap 53, with Lofton surrendering the first position for the first time all day. Hackenbracht won the race off of pit road, just edging Lofton and McReynolds. McReynolds had originally lined up second, with Corr and Lofton following him, but review showed that Lofton had earned the second position out of the pits.
Nonetheless, Corr had improved substantially into the fourth position, with Davis and Blackburn filling out the top six. Kimmel, having not pitted, improved to seventh with nephew Will Kimmel eighth for the Lap 57 restart.
Reed, having just experienced trouble moving out of his pit stall to lose numerous positions, spun in Turn 4 quickly after the green flag, forcing another caution period. Mikey Kile spun after contact from Larry Barford Jr., and John Ferrier crashed into the backstretch wall soon after the next restart, but the field got away clean after the Lap 69 green flag.
Hackenbracht, Lofton, McReynolds, and Corr continued to lead, with Hackenbracht's advantage over Lofton mirroring Lofton's earlier in the race - about 0.1 second. The single-file train continued to hug the yellow line, as 13 cars ran within 1.628 seconds at Lap 71.
Mike Affarano crashed on Lap 75, rolling several times down the frontstretch before having to be rolled over by Talladega Superspeedway and ARCA safety crews. He walked to a nearby ambulance. Meanwhile, the field continued to drive under the yellow flag, having been forced to drive down pit road each time around.
The green flag flew at Lap 85, with Hackenbracht getting a good jump away from Lofton and McReynolds. An 11-car break formed, but Brett Hudson lost his hood as it flew off of his car and just over Chris Buescher, who drove behind him near the back of the top 20. The caution flag flew again, setting up a final dash to the finish.
Hackenbracht continued to lead out of the Lap 91 restart, but Lofton looked to the outside in Turn 1, a piece of foreshadowing in a race otherwise dominated by driving on the bottom line. McReynolds and Corr started to follow him on the outside line, but Corr was eventually shuffled away. Lofton took the lead and McReynolds followed for second; Tom Hessert moved into fourth.
Lofton took the white flag with a 0.094-second lead, but McReynolds and Hackenbracht held back to create a run. Hackenbracht started to push McReynolds on the outside, giving McReynolds just enough to pass Lofton. Light contact at the finish could not deter McReynolds, as he held a 0.195-second advantage at the start/finish line and, more importantly, an invitation to Victory Lane.
Hessert finished fourth, and Blackburn was fifth. Will Kimmel, Frank Kimmel, Brennan Poole, Davis, and Corr completed the top 10.
Six caution periods slowed the race for 38 laps. The race finished in two hours, 11 minutes, and 19 seconds, at an average speed of 114.246 mph.
Toledo Speedway is the next stop for the ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards, as the Menards 200 presented by Federated Car Care brings ARCA's top tour back to its home track for the only time in ARCA's 60th Anniversary Season.
The race will begin at 2 p.m. and air live on SPEED. ARCARacing.com will feature live timing and scoring from the half-mile oval.