(TOLEDO, Ohio) – SCOTT Rookie Challenge contender Mason Mitchell is in it to win it. The W. Des Moines, Iowa driver could also use some good luck to go with it.
Most everything else is already in place – an ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards championship Roulo Brothers Racing (RBR) team, a sponsor who can see the potential, a talented up-and-coming racer in the chair – everything’s there, except some good ole-fashioned luck. If he can get the good luck to go along for the ride this weekend, Mitchell says he can “get it done” in the Herr’s Chase The Taste 200 at Winchester Speedway Sunday, June 30.
“I really think we can get it done,” Mitchell said.
“The track is similar to Salem, and we ran really well there. If I can get into a rhythm and groove in the race (at Winchester) like we did at Salem, I think we can win it. If we could just get some good luck on our side for once.”
Beyond the necessary good luck, Mitchell is also arguably challenged for the fact that he’s not seen most of the tracks where ARCA goes, let alone raced on them. Having not been to 80% of the tracks, Mitchell has to rely on another sensory app – that would be hearing.
“Like most of the tracks in ARCA, Winchester’s another one I haven’t seen yet. I’ve seen pics obviously, but, right now, I’m going on what I hear. I take advice from my team; I take every tip I can get.”
Taking advice from the Roulo Brothers is certainly not a bad idea. The Roulo Brothers – Gary and Russ – just added their 32nd career ARCA win last weekend at Road America where 2012 ARCA champ Chris Buescher, in a second RBR Ford, passed two cars on the final lap to win the race. While Buescher has raced on road courses before, it was Mitchell’s first experience on a road course.
“It was fun; I love it,” added the driver on the No. 99 Happy Cheeks Ford.
It was fun for a while anyway, until he ran out of gas.
“I don’t fault anyone for getting low on fuel. The road course thing was all new to me; I had never been to a road course in my life, and I was not that fast in practice. But once we got in the race, my confidence started to build, and we got a lot faster – so much faster that we were probably burning more fuel than we realized. I think if that didn’t happen, we had a top-five in the making. I was getting more confident with every lap.”
It’s been that kind of year for Mitchell, who seemed to be turning things around at the onset of June when he finished an impressive fifth at Pocono Raceway, his first time on the ‘tricky’ 2.5-mile triangular track.
Then it turned on him at Michigan where he had a tire go down followed by a subsequent trip into the outer retaining wall. Then, the rotten luck at Road America. There was also Salem Speedway in April where, on a track he had never seen before, he had figured out in short order, and charged up to third in the race, all the while tracking down the leaders. Then, according Mitchell, he got crashed off turn four, thus ending another promising run.
“If we can take away the bad luck, I think we can impress a lot of people.”
Actually, he’s already impressed a lot of people. In fact, it hasn’t been all bad for Mitchell this year. He did also finish seventh at Toledo, eighth at Mobile, and 11th at Elko. And, heading into this weekend’s big show at Winchester, Mitchell is still fifth in championship standings.
“I’m really looking forward to Winchester. I’ve heard about it for a long time – always followed the Winchester 400.”
It would certainly not be surprising that Mitchell has heard about Winchester “for a long time.” The track, which predates World War I, is one of the oldest operating speedways in the country, debuting in 1914 as a flat half-mile dirt oval. It remained as such through 1921 before the legendary high-banks were added in time for the 1922 season. The track would not be paved until 1952. But the track configuration, which includes 33 degrees of banking in the corners, has remained unchanged for 90-plus years.
“Winchester’s just one of those tracks that everyone in the racing business has heard of because it’s been around forever. And everyone wants to win on it, and that includes me. Today (June 25) is my 19th birthday, so this would be a really cool birthday present – a win at Winchester. It doesn’t get any better than that. I’m going to be an old racecar driver soon, so I have to win fast.”
Indiana native Frank Kimmel is the leading ARCA Racing Series winner at Winchester, with five victories (1996, 2000, 2002, 2003, 2006) followed by three-time series champ Tim Steele, who won four times (1993, 1995, 1997, 2001). Billy Leslie won from the pole in 2007. Leslie’s father and 1988 series champion Tracy Leslie was also a winner at Winchester, triumphing in 1988 and 1999. Cunningham Motorsports has gone back-to-back with Winchester wins with Dakoda Armstrong in 2011 and Alex Bowman in 2012.
Don O’Dell won the inaugural ARCA race at Winchester in 1957. Other ARCA winners at Winchester over the years include Jack Bowsher (1964), Ralph Latham (1972), Bobby Watson (1972) and two-time series champion Marvin Smith, who won back-to-back races in 1982 and 1983. Other winners include Bob Keselowski (1990), Gary Bradberry (1994) and Bob Strait (1998).
The Herr’s Chase the Taste 200 serves as the grand finale in an all-ARCA branded weekend during which the ARCA Truck Series will kick things off with a 50-lap feature followed by the main event from the ARCA CRA Super Series Saturday, June 29. The big ARCA triple header race weekend will culminate with the Herr’s Chase the Taste 200 finale Sunday afternoon.
All three divisions will divide track time Saturday with back-to-back practice sessions beginning at 11:30 a.m. Menards Pole Qualifying presented by Ansell for the ARCA Racing Series is scheduled for 5 p.m., followed by the ARCA Truck Series race at 6, and the ARCA CRA Super Series race at 7.