(MILLVILLE, N.J. - July 4, 2012) - Tom Hessert was one of the pre-race favorites for this past weekend’s All-American Race Weekend presented by Global Barter Corporation and the Cherry Hill, N.J. native lived up to the expectations in the 10th ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards race of the season despite the overall finishing result.
Hessert, driver of the No. 52 Federated Auto Parts Chevrolet Impala knew that his chances of potentially netting his second career ARCA victory and first with Ken Schrader Racing (KSR) were feasible at the track’s 2.3-mile paved Thunderbolt Raceway.
The weekend however did not come without its challenges. Mother Nature first affected the area on Friday night into Saturday morning with a stream of severe weather which knocked out power in the local area including the facilities of NJMP. Despite the lack of electricity, the weekend pressed forward with a delay of one-hour with two practice sessions and qualifying on-tap.
After racking in the fourth quickest lap in the first practice session, the ARCA veteran conferred with crew chief Donnie Richeson about changes to make for the final practice sessions of the weekend which would take place a short time later. By the end of “happy hour”, Hessert’s team had negotiated the top spot and at the time had posted the fastest time of the weekend breaking into the 98 miles per hour barrier.
Confident with the setup on the No. 52 Federated Auto Parts Chevrolet Impala, the team was looking forward to Menards pole qualifying presented by Ansell which would be held European style. The team’s hopes for a pole were dashed as the driver informed his team that his car unexpectedly shut down on his first lap. Still, the Cherry Hill, New Jersey native recovered to mark the third quickest lap and gain five crucial points in the championship standings.
During the course of the 67-lap event, Hessert saved his equipment but remained comfortably inside the top-five. Starting third, Hessert had moved into the second position by lap six but would be overtaken by fellow competitor Alex Bowman on lap 12 which placed Hessert back in third where he rode comfortably until the event’s first full-course caution on lap 25 which sent the teams to including Hessert to pit road for tires, fuel and adjustments.
Different teams elected to change their strategy on pit road which shuffled the running order for the restart which saw the No. 52 Federated Auto Parts Chevrolet Impala sitting 11th for the lap 28 green flag.
In just 13 laps and by lap 41 Hessert had sliced his way through the competition and returned to the top-five holding steady in fourth by closing in on the hungry pack ahead of him.
Lap 43, Hessert maneuvered past Nelson Canache Jr. for third place now sitting behind leaders Alex Bowman and Chase Elliott. Stalking the No. 9 of Chase Elliott, the two was able to inherit first and second place respectively when Bowman dropped off the pace while leading with Hessert making the move on the teenager for the top-spot on lap 51.
Sitting atop of the charts, it appeared that Hessert was right where he needed to be but another full course caution would jumble up the field for a 10-lap shootout with Hessert in command.
On the restart, Hessert received a shove from Elliott which knocked his car off-course, sending a wad of cars past him. Hessert, masterfully avoided carnage from the slam but immediately became irritated by what had just transpired. On the same lap, through the New Jersey devil, Hessert still trying to motion forward received a tap from the No. 68 car of Will Kimmel on fresher tires which sent the No. 52 Federated Auto Parts Chevrolet Impala into a spin and quickly shuffling him out of the top-10.
Beyond frustrated by the two incidents in the same lap, Hessert completed lap 57 outside the top-10. Still, with encouragement from Richeson, Hessert was able to solider on and move past four lead-lap cars to take the checkered flag in ninth.
“Words cannot even begin to describe how I feel,” offered Hessert. “I was sitting right where I wanted to be and the win was snatched from us unfairly. We got dumped twice on the same lap and all of the team’s hard work throughout the weekend just vanished before our eyes. It sucks, because our No. 52 Federated Auto Parts Chevrolet Impala was good all day and definitely capable of winning. We also had a chance to make a dent in the championship standings and that evaporated too. The whole end of the race was just a shame – but we’ll move on with our heads held high.”
Next up for the ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards tour is a trip out to Iowa Speedway for the running of the Prairie Meadows 200 set for Friday, July 13. The event will be televised live on SPEED beginning at 8:00 p.m. Central. The annual-event at the .875-mile paved oval signifies the beginning of the second-half of the 60th anniversary season for the Automobile Racing Club of America (ARCA). In 2010, Hessert recorded his first-career ARCA victory at the Newton, Iowa racetrack driving for Cunningham Motorsports.
After 10 races, Hessert occupies sixth in the championship standings and has posted three top-fives and six top-10 finishes thus far in 2012.
Exiting New Jersey, Hessert has 93 career ARCA Racing Series starts. In those outings, he has maneuvered two poles, one win, 22 top-fives and 49 top-10s.
For more on Tom Hessert III, please visit tomhessert.com.