The final ARCA race of the season took place today at the short track in Toledo, Ohio. Short tracks always lead to short fuses but no one could have predicted the tempers that would flare on this sunny Sunday in October.
The ARCA championship battle was supposed to be waged this day. And the rivalry was predicted to be between NASCAR up-and-comers Scott Speed and Ricky Stenhouse, Jr.
Scott Speed was indeed only running slightly ahead of Stenhouse, Jr. in the points standings. And one of these two racers was expected to claim the championship.
The trouble between the top contenders started early. On lap 29, Stenhouse, Jr. got into Speed, forcibly riding him hard into the wall. Stenhouse, Jr. stayed all over Speed's bumper until the hit, which resulted in heavy damage on the right side of Speed’s Red Bull car.
Stenhouse's driving was so aggressive that the ARCA officials warned him for his hard driving. Speed limped into pit lane, with his car askew and fuel leaking out of the back end of the car.
After spending time in the pits, Speed came back out onto the track. At first, it appeared that he was slowly making laps in his damaged car.
But Scott had another plan in mind. As soon as he saw the No. 99 car of Stenhouse, Jr., he tagged him, pushing Stenhouse into the outside wall.
Speed did as much damage to his own car, hitting the inside wall, resulting in smoke billowing from the engine. Scott hobbled out of the car, disgustedly throwing off his protective gear.
Both crews tried to repair the cars, but the ARCA officials ruled that Scott Speed was parked for the day, penalized for his retaliation, and could not return to the race. Speed left the track, being taken to a local hospital for evaluation after complaining of discomfort.
Stenhouse's crew worked feverishly to basically rebuild the race car from scratch just to get it back on the track to log laps. Ricky returned on lap 106 but basically limped around for the remainder of the race as a non-factor.
So, the championship battle was then handed down to two new drivers, young Justin Allgaier and seasoned veteran Frank Kimmel. The two ran in the top five for most of the remainder of the race.
David Ragan, fresh from his top ten finish at Lowe's Motor Speedway in the Cup race last night, assumed the lead of the race. He then blew a tire, ending his hopes of a race win.
Justin Lofton in the number 20 car also ran strong all day. He assumed the lead after Ragan's troubles, only to see trouble of his own, tussling with another driver and spinning.
That left Justin Allgaier amazingly in the lead of the race, with Matt Crafton in second place and Frank Kimmel in the third position. With 16 laps to go, Crafton and Allgaier briefly traded the lead, with Allgaier prevailing.
With a few laps to go, the 12th caution of the day flew, setting up the final two laps of the race to the checkered flag. Justin Allgaier hit his marks, held his line, and finally took that checkered flag after one of the wildest races in all of ARCA history.
This was Allgaier's sixth win of the race season. He did not even realize that he had also won the championship as his team had been holding that detail back from him to keep him calm, cool and collected for the race finish.
The celebration then truly got underway. In Victory and Championship Lane, Justin Allgaier said there "were no words to describe" how he felt and that his "car was awesome".
He also wanted to "thank God" and his family who gave him the opportunity to be in Victory Laneand to claim the title of ARCA champion.
Veteran Cup driver, Kenny Schrader, was one of the first to congratulate young Allgaier on his accomplishments. He said that Justin "drove like a veteran," a high complement coming from one of the greatest racing veterans on the circuit.
Justin shared that he could not wait to go to the banquet to claim that championship trophy. And after that, he surely will not be able to contain his excitement as he moves up with the Penske organization to the next level in the Nationwide series.
Congratulations Justin Allgaier for your race win and your ARCA championship!