The ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards once again made the trek North to the great state of Minnesota for the 3rd annual Akona 250 at Elko Speedway. Located just 30 miles south of Minneapolis, Elko’s 3/8 mile track is shortest on the ARCA circuit.
One week removed from victory lane at Michigan International Speedway with driver Austin Theriault, Venturini Motorsports (VMS) returned to short track action under the lights with drivers John Wes Townley, Justin Boston, and young J.J. Haley ready to answer the call.
It was J.J. Haley who impressed, becoming the youngest driver (15-years old, 53 days) in ARCA series history to win the pole as he set a new track record during Saturday’s qualifying session behind the wheel of his No.55 Braun Auto Group-Braun Ability Toyota.
At the onset of the race Haley spun his tires allowing several cars to pass him, including eventual race winner Grant Enfinger who qualified behind the rookie. Although his immediate hiccup set him back, crew chief BJ McLeod kept the young driver focused as Haley remained cool, maintaining a top-5 car throughout the race before passing teammate Justin Boston during the final laps for an impressive third place finish in only his second career start.
“I made a mistake on the start of the race,” said Haley. “I spun the tires! But as the race went on we were better. That’s what we are here for, to learn those things. It was a good race. The Venturini team gave me a fast car and great pits stops all night long.”
In addition to becoming youngest pole sitter Haley also set series record last month in Toledo by becoming youngest driver in series history. In both cases Haley took the distinction away from another youngster, Kyle Benjamin, who obtained both records while driving for VMS in 2013.
Justin Boston, driver of the VMS flagship No.25 ZLOOP Camry rebounded nicely from a blown engine at Michigan capturing his second top-5 finish of the season finishing one spot behind Haley in the fourth position. Boston, whose season has been as inconsistent as your local weatherman’s forecast, hopes Elko is the positive turning point of the season.
“I’m happy we finished the race,” said Boston. “Those first 25 laps were interesting. Our ZLOOP Toyota was good but ready to move onto Winchester after a week away from the track.”
Occupying the fourth position in the ARCA series point standings, John Wes Townley qualified eight behind teammate Justin Boston in his No.15 Zaxby’s Toyota. Townley was involved in an early race incident which did little more than cosmetic damage, but forced the 24-year old driver to race his way back through the field while fighting a loose race car.
After one pit stop to pull away sheet metal and another for tires/adjustments the Brad Parrott led Zaxby’s team was able to get Townley back in form for an eventual ninth place finish. Finishing two spots ahead of Frank Kimmel, Townley was able to pick up valuable points hitting the half-way point of the season.
In addition to Grant Enfinger’s fourth victory of the season and Haley’s record-setting pole award, it was a milestone night for the ARCA Racing Series as it was the first race to be broadcast on CBS Sports Network.
“This is the first live stock car race on CBS Sports Network,” said Billy Stone, a CBS executive on hand for the race. “This is a big moment for us.”
The race will re-air on CBS Sports Network tonight at 8:00pm ET.
The ARCA Racing Series will take a break in the action before returning on Sunday, July 6th for the HERR’s Chase the Taste 200 presented by Federated Car Care from Indiana’s Winchester Speedway.
– Venturini Motorsports Press Release. Photo Credit: ARCA Racing