Topics: Tom Hessert, Herr’s Live Life With Flavor 200, Ken Schrader Racing
OREGON, Wisconsin (August 29, 2011) - If you would have asked Tom Hessert if he had a car capable of finishing inside the top-five in Friday night’s Herr’s Live Life With Flavor! 200 at Madison International Speedway, his response wouldn’t have been confident as he would have liked. But, after the conclusion of the 15th race of the season, Hessert stormed his way to his fourth consecutive top-five finish in the ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards.
Hessert, in the No. 52 Federated Auto Parts Chevrolet Impala for Ken Schrader Racing (KSR) headed into ARCA’s return at Madison in 37 years on the heels of a superb runner-up finish on the dirt at the Illinois State Fairgrounds (Springfield). The team led by veteran crew chief John Monsam, the group was hoping to keep their second half surge alive.
During the only practice session on Friday, Hessert posted the 18th quickest lap overall with a time of 19.110 seconds at 94.192 miles per hour, an uncharacteristic placing for the veteran team and driver. Fighting an incredible tight No. 52 Federated Auto Parts Chevrolet Impala.
Throwing everything but the “kitchen sink” at their Chevrolet bowtie before qualifying Friday afternoon, Hessert climbed into his racecar optimistic about where he would land for his 79th career ARCA start. Mounting a lap of 18.697 seconds transferring to 96.272 miles per hour, the KSR team landed 13th in the lineup.
“We’re making some progress,” said Hessert following qualifying. “We’re still tight, but it’s not as bad as it was in practice. A good finish won’t be handed to us; we’re going to have earn it.”
The green flag waived shortly after 8:30 p.m. with Hessert quickly thundering his way towards the front. By lap six the Cherry Hill, New Jersey native moved into 11th and maintained his position just outside the top-10 through the race’s first 25 circuits.
Knocking on the door of the top-10, Hessert would find himself in a close battle with Sean Corr for 10th. Tight quarters at Madison International Speedway meant a lot of incidental contact on-track including the incident on lap 30 when the No. 52 and No. 82 made contact going into turn one. No harm no foul for Hessert as the caution flag waived with Hessert claiming 10th.
Moving into eighth when the yellow flag waived on lap 87, Monsam elected to bring his driver to pit road for tires, fuel and a chassis adjustment to combat the tightness on the No. 52 Federated Auto Parts Chevrolet Impala.
By lap the half-way mark, good work by the team on pit road and a determined driver saw them into the top-five claiming fourth. Fending off his prey behind him, Hessert would maintain a safety-net inside the top-five until a spin on lap 157.
With his coveted track position now gone, Hessert would bring his No. 52 Federated Auto Parts Chevrolet Impala where the team inspected the vehicle and bolted on new Hoosier rubber sending their driver back into the hunt, now restarting 10th.
On the restart, Hessert knew that patience was out the window. If he wanted to revive his team, some harmless aggressiveness from behind the wheel would have to be in the playing cards to battle his way back through.
Using the new rubber to his advantage, Hessert was quickly and impressively able to climb the leaderboard moving back into eighth by lap 166. A few laps later, Hessert continued to motor his way back towards the top-five and found himself their by lap 176.
Continuing to stay focused on the wheel, Hessert set his sights on fourth place runner Ty Dillon. Inside the final 10 laps of the race, a caution flag waived which set the field for a three-lap shootout. Despite trying to make the move around Dillon, Hessert would have to protect fifth from nine-time ARCA champion Frank Kimmel. Despite being unable to pass point’s leader Dillon, Hessert was able to keep Kimmel at bay and take the checkered flag in fifth, recording his sixth top-five finish of the season.
“This team never gave up,” said Hessert after the race. “We were awful tight in practice, still tight in qualifying and even during the race. We kept working on it all day and all night and I had to drive my heart out to get up there into the top-five. Madison is an extremely difficult track to pass on and it showed during the race. While a win is what we came to accomplish, under the circumstances we faced, we’ll take this and head back to the dirt and see if we can’t complete the puzzle there.”
Completing the puzzle consists of Hessert bettering his runner-up finish earlier this month at Springfield which would have put him in victory lane for the second time in his career.
“I’m always thrilled to go back to the dirt. I think you’re going to have to battle Chad (McCumbee), Frank (Kimmel) and the likes of Josh (Richards), but I feel we have a good of a shot as anyone to celebrate in victory lane on Labor Day.”
Hessert’s sixth top-five of the year and 12th top-10 overall has him detached from McCumbee whom he entered Madison tied for fifth in the championship standings. With four races remaining, Hessert solely controls the spot at 3,450 points. 165 points separates the former USARacing Pro Cup Series star from fourth in the championship standings hoisted by Grant Enfinger.
Next up for the ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards is the second and final installment on the dirt when the sanctioning body makes their annual trip to the DuQuoin State Fairgrounds for the running of the Southern Illinois 100 presented by Federated Auto Parts on Labor Day, Monday, September 5. Hessert will make his fifth start at the one-mile dirt track and look to better his runner-up finish their last year with Cunningham Motorsports.
In addition to Federated Auto Parts, Cherry Hill Classic Cars served as an associate marketing partner for Hessert’s 79th career ARCA start. In those outings, he has maneuvered one win, 18 top-fives and 42 top-10s.
For more on Tom Hessert III, please visit tomhessert.com.
To join Hessert and Ken Schrader Racing in their plan to spread the message about Breast Cancer awareness and to order you own “Pink” KSR memorabilia, please visit SchraderRacing.com.
NAME: Chris Knight, Knight Motorsports Management