For the second time in four races this season, there was a first-time ARCA/CRA Super Series winner Saturday night at Kil-Kare Raceway (OH). This time around it was rookie Austin Kunert’s turn to visit victory lane for the first time after winning the Gem City 125.
Kunert took the lead from early race leader Josh Brock just before halfway and held off repeated challenges from Brock and fast qualifier Justin Alsip to pick up the victory.
“I started seventh, which was deeper than I liked,” Kunert told Speed51.com. “But this car was hooked up. I was able to stay right on the bottom and get underneath them. It was good on top too. I had to get around a couple on the top. It was a good race. I knew I would have to get a good jump on him, because I knew how good Justin (Alsip) is here. I just kept rolling, trying not to use up my tires. If he would start to get close, I would start to pick it up a little bit.”
Kunert started seventh in qualifying after a nine-car invert and quickly worked his way through the field. He took the lead for the first time in ARCA/CRA Super Series competition on Lap 62 and would not give the lead up for the remainder of the race.
Alsip, the local favorite, set fast time for the second year in a row, but was unable to do anything with Kunert on the final restart with 25 laps to go, settling for a runner-up finish.
“We just missed the long-run setup,” Alsip said. “We weren’t bad there on restarts early on, but not a bad night. Being our home track, I really wanted this one bad. But all in all, fastest in practice, fastest in qualifying and second in the race. You can’t complain too much. Not a bad night.”
ARCA/CRA Super Series points leader Josh Brock led the majority of the first half of the race a and ran inside the top three throughout the race, but was relegated to a sixth-place finish at the end of 125 laps.
“The car really started tightening up and when it was all said and done, our stagger closed up over a half inch,” Brock explained. “Overall, the car and setup was probably on; we were saving a little bit. Right before halfway, it was like a flip of a switch and something happened, but we definitely lost a lot of stagger. We’ll make that the blame and move on to the next race.”
The big story of the evening was Kunert, who became the series’ newest winner. He had previously competed at the .333-mile oval last year with the JEGS/CRA All-Stars Tour, when he finished 10th.
After the race, Kunert expressed his thoughts about returning to the track one year later and picking up the win at a track he admitted to struggling at.
“I was a little confused when we came here and was super-fast because last year we struggled,” Kunert said. “If someone would’ve told me at the beginning of the year we would win at Kil-Kare, I would be like you’re joking. Last year, I struggled at this place. This year, I don’t know what it was. It could’ve been the new VanDoorn Chassis, but it was hooked up. I just came out here and did what I had to do. And we just showed up and won.”
The next race for the ARCA/CRA Super Series is a non-points event at the Berlin Raceway in Michigan for the Money in the Bank 150. 2015 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Champion Kyle Busch will be competing with 40-plus car field that also includes two-time NASCAR Truck Series champion Matt Crafton and NCWTS driver/Dirt Modified star Stewart Friesen.
-By Koty Geyer, Speed51.com State Editor (IN & MI) – Twitter: @kgeyer3
-Photo credit: Speed51.com