NASCAR Race Weekend Central

Lucas Oil 200 presented by MAVTV American Real

John Wes Townley has been the brunt of many a joke in racing during his career. However, the joke on Saturday at Daytona International Speedway was on the rest of the competitors in the Lucas Oil 200 at Daytona presented by MavTV American Real. Townley sat on the pole, had a good pit stop when the field came down the pit lane for the one stop in the race, and then pounced when Bobby Gerhart, Mr. Restrictor Plate in ARCA, had a fuel issue late in the event. As a result, Townley gave Venturini Motorsports their very first victory at Daytona International Speedway.

Townley started the race next to Milka Duno and had a poor start, which gave Duno the chance to take the top spot at the drop of the rag. Duno led until the first caution flag of the race flew for a blown engine for Julien Jousse. The field came down the pit road and Gerhart was the first car out of the pits on lap 12. Matt Kurzejewski had the lead for two laps, followed by Josh Williams. Gerhart muscled his way to the outside and grabbed the lead on lap 18. Just as Gerhart took over the top spot, there was a melee in the middle of the pack that collected six cars. As the races of Darrell Wallace, Jr., Brett Hudson, Steve Kemp, Drew Charlson and Caleb Armstrong came to a finish, Gerhart assumed control.

On the restart, Gerhart was able to put Chris Buescher, who was six laps down due to various issues (including stalling under a yellow after apparently hitting the kill switch), between himself and Townley in second. Buescher may have been six laps down, but he was at pace with the leaders. He rode in the second position on track for the 54 laps that Gerhart led before ARCA put out the blue flag, effectively forcing him out of line to allow the leaders to settle the battle with eight laps to go.

As Buescher pulled out of line, Gerhart’s car coughed due to low fuel and slowed. The lead pack scrambled with Townley having contact with Gerhart, sending the eight-time Daytona winner down pit road at speed. Townley inherited the lead, while Kyle Larson snatched the second spot with Ricky Ehrgott in third. Gerhart rejoined the field in fourth, but his Lucas Oil/MavTV Chevrolet ran out of gas a couple of laps later. Gerhart would pull off on the backstretch, out of harm’s way. He would be credited with a 29th-place finish.

Townley held onto the top spot and took the white flag as the top cars closed rapidly on some of the backmarkers. Townley and Larson took it three-wide on the outside to overtake the slower cars, which made it impossible for Larson to mount a charge as Townley led the field back to the finish line to score his first ever ARCA series win. Larson, working on being certified to run next week’s Nationwide race, did what he had to do, finished all of the laps, and ended up in the runner-up spot. Ricky Ehrgott crossed the line in third ahead of Frank Kimmel and Sean Corr.

The next event for the ARCA series will be the ARCA Mobile 200 at Mobile International Speedway on March 9th.

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