Since returning to the track last year, the one-mile oval has awarded two talented drivers with their first career victory but with a very familiar team. NASCAR Sprint Cup Series rookie Joey Logano literally dominated the event last year before Sean Caisse took advantage of Ken Schrader’s misfortune in April to power his Venturini Motorsports Chevrolet into the coveted victory circle.
But with Caisse nor Logano expected to be present for the 21st event of the season, the Rockingham door is wide open for a slew of potential first-time winners not to mention a few sleepers too.
Should Parker Kligerman take the ARCA RE/MAX Series crown, Joey Coulter who is winless thus far in his rookie season would take the Rookie-of-the-Year award and is a prime candidate for his inaugural ARCA victory. The Harold Holly led team stepped up their game in the second half of the season that has propelled the No. 16 Tempest Cycles Chevrolet Monte Carlo SS to a solid top-five contending spot in the point standings.
With Justin Lofton setting the tone for Eddie Sharp Racing this season, Craig Goess Jr. is behind but not far. The No. 81 team led by former Cup crew member extraordinaire Patrick Donahue could easily shine the limelight away from the Lofton Cattle team and maneuver their way to victory lane. With Goess’s plans unknown for 2009, a celebration in victory lane would give the former Legend’s driver confidence heading into the off-season.
Rockingham wonder Bryan Silas catapulted to his career best finish in the ARCA RE/MAX Series of fourth in April and there’s little doubt he wants to reward his car owner and Rockingham Speedway President Andy Hillenburg with a celebration in style. Silas will have a busy weekend at “The Rock” as he’ll also compete in the USARacing event at Rockingham on Saturday. Should the Stuart, Florida native pull off the win in his 71st career start, the celebration is expected to last well into the 2010 ARCA RE/MAX Series season.
Maneuvering between Eddie Sharp Racing and Venturini Motorsports in his first season of competition may have stalled Steve Arpin’s momentum at times but after bolting to the fastest time in pre-race testing in September, the No. 25 is a prime candidate for a third consecutive victory in Rockingham, North Carolina. Should the Venturini Motorsports team pull off the feat, it will be one of the most accomplished attainments in ARCA history.
Tom Hessert III is another driver who shifted team’s mid-way through the ARCA RE/MAX Series. From a pole-role at Andy Belmont Racing to RAB Racing with Ken Schrader Racing, Hessert hopes to finish what Schrader started in April in the Carolina 200 and soar to win number one not only for himself but for RAB Racing as well. With Hessert’s plans also unknown for next year – a win would seclude him from the off-season shadow.
Without a doubt Robb Brent is happy to be racing at Rockingham, especially since the Shelby Township, Michigan native had no plans to race a full-schedule in 2009. But then came Justin Allgaier Motorsports to the rescue and they offered the 22-year old a full-season ride and a chance at stardom. With a sour engine failure in his Rockingham debut – he is looking for redemption in the loosest sense of the way. Without a second thought the connection between crew chief Dave Leiner who steered his way into the No. 36 team three-fourths into the season has put Brent in the hunt.
So, there’s a look at the top-10 in the ARCA RE/MAX Series championship chase that without a doubt have the potential to steal the show away from Parker Kligerman or Justin Lofton and end their season on the highest pedestal.
Other drivers who are hoping to rumble at Rockingham include: Female sensation Alli Owens, Cunningham Motorsports newest protégé Dakoda Armstrong, USARacing sensation Drew Herring and Matt Merrell, who hasn’t been officially announced as the driver of the No. 32 Win-Tron Racing Dodge Charger but is a likely candidate.
As for the sleepers, Patrick Sheltra and Frank Kimmel lead the top of that chart.
Kimmel, the nine-time ARCA RE/MAX Series Champion is still winless in his No. 44 Ansell / Menards Ford Fusion but a solitude win at Rockingham Speedway would be a great way for him to end his second year as part-owner and driver.
Indiantown, Florida native Patrick Sheltra finished second in a Dodge Charger but the Sheltra Motorsports has reinforcements for Rockingham in the name of Germain Racing and Toyota for the season finale. Sheltra will look to take his No. 60 Buffalo Wings & Rings Toyota Camry to victory lane on October 11. It would be one spot better from his impressive second place run in April. Mike Abner has been overseeing the Germain Racing’s control of the Camry and is expected to work closely with the Whitesville; Kentucky based organization in their third stab at Rockingham. Todd Bodine, Germain Racing’s NASCAR Camping World Truck Series driver is a former winner at “The Rock” in the NASCAR Nationwide Series driving for Ron Parker.
So what’s going to be in the next Rockingham installment? Stay tuned, you never know what I just might come up with!