Justin Marks made ARCA history Saturday afternoon, winning the rain-shortened Tire Kingdom 150 presented by ModSpace at Palm Beach International Raceway.
Marks, in the Construct Corps Dodge for Win-Tron Racing, earned his first career ARCA Racing Series victory utilizing rain tires provided by Hoosier Racing Tire, the first time ARCA has used a "wet" tire compound in its 58 year history.
"It was a great race - a great win for me...for Win-Tron, for Construct Corps," a soaked Marks proclaimed in victory lane. "It was the perfect rain conditions to run a rain race. The track was just wet enough to slide around, get on rain tires and find that line, but it never rained too hard, except for the last three laps when it just poured, and we could barely see."
Marks led on two occasions, first pacing the field on laps 41 through 56, and opening up leads as much as 15 seconds. Marks would give up the point to Robb Brent during the final round of pit stops of the day on lap 56 but would resume the lead when Brent pitted on lap 59. From there, the Rocklin, CA driver maintained a comfortable 30 car length cushion over Brent until the skies opened up on lap 68, and the 3rd and final caution flag of the day waved over the speedway. Marks crossed under the yellow and checkers waving together in a torrid down-pour, and the celebration was on.
"It feels great to win for my sponsor, Construct Corp," Marks exclaimed, who took over the points lead. "I ran my first ARCA race in 2005, so it's been a long time coming. I have had a lot of help along the way in the ARCA series, in RAB Racing, Jeff Buice at Shaver Motorsports, Germain, Venturini - I have raced for a lot of different teams, and they all have played a part. They have all helped me. To be able to take everything I learned and apply it to what I feel is the best team out here, Win-Tron Racing, and really go for a championship, this is sort of vindication. It lets us all know that we have a winning combination, and we can really contend for the championship."
Series officials were forced to throw the checkered flag on the event five laps short of its original distance, completing 70 of the advertised 75 laps, due to the heavy rain. The 2.034 mile PBIR course was the victim of rain showers on and off throughout the afternoon, which led to most teams changing from the Hoosier Short Track Radial "slick" tire to the grooved "rain" tires during the 2nd caution period on lap 22.
ARCA and Hoosier Tire Officials had been preparing for the first season in ARCA history in which a pair of road course races would dot the schedule. Hoosier developed the rain tire based off the successful introduction of their short tack radial two years ago, and the new tire made its first competitive debut just 20 laps into the event when Steve Arpin pitted under green for tires...rain tires.
Arpin's stop triggered a historic moment for ARCA, as teams began to transition into racing in the rain for the first time. Most teams ran a full fuel run on the wet tires, and both Hoosier and ARCA Officials were very pleased with the results.
"Based upon the feedback we got from both the teams and Hoosier, we are pleased with the performance of the new rain tire," commented Joe Wells, ARCA VP of Competition. "This has truly been an historic day for our series."
Race winner Marks agreed.
"It was awesome - great rain tire," Marks explained.Â "Hoosier has always built a good rain tire. This tire was very consistent. It had great grip. What is great about it is that when you have Hoosier rain tires, you worry about driving the car, finding grip on the racetrack and having good rain racetrack, you never worry about the tire. You never have to worry about driving around on an ill-handling tire. It's just consistent and you know it's going to be there for you."
Robb Brent finished second in ARCA's first visit to Palm Beach, a career best for the Shelby Township, MI driver. A pit road infraction might have caused him a chance at the win, after the 2nd year driver was forced to bring his #36 JAM Dodge back down pit road on lap 24 after a tire got away from the team on pit road.
"Unfortunately, we had a pit error," Brent admitted.Â "Our tire got out of the box, so we had to restart at the tail end of the lead lap, which pretty much eliminated us from the win."
Rookie Blake Koch, in his first career ARCA Racing Series presented by RE/MAX and Menards start, finished third in the #6 ESR Racing Toyota.
"We had a real good car, especially in the dry conditions," Koch stated. "It started coming down hard, and we put that rain tire on, and we weren't set up for it. But, for a road course in the rain, I'm happy with a third. I'll take it. I just want to thank Tire Kingdom and Eddie Sharp Racing."
Menards Pole Award winner Casey Roderick saw a very impressive weekend washed away on lap 40 while leading the race. Roderick, a Bill Elliott Racing Development Driver from Lawrenceville, GA, slipped coming off of turn 11 on lap 40, giving the lead up to eventual winner Marks. Just 5 laps later, Roderick pulled the Monolith Hospitality Dodge down pit road and into the garage, done for the day with a broken axle. He would wind up finishing 21st.
"We had the best car out there," the seventeen year old Roderick stated. "We were rolling, but I lost first gear which caused me to slow down. Justin Marks got by me, and I was just dealing with second [gear] through the slow turns. I was hanging right there with him. I thought I might pressure him a little bit, and he'd make a mistake. Then, we lost third, and then, it just quit. It's unfortunate for this Monolith Hospitality team, Bill Elliott Racing and Phoenix Racing. Everybody's done a heck of a job. It's just unfortunate.
The ARCA Racing Series presented by RE/MAX and Menards will take a six week hiatus prior to its next event, scheduled for Sunday afternoon, April 11 at Salem Speedway.
-Courtesy ARCA PR