Photo: ARCA Racing Series

Gus Dean Survives Wild Night at Elko to Score Second Career ARCA Victory

By Brian Eberly, Contributing Writer

Winning races usually requires the right combination of skill sprinkled with a little bit of luck, as often times drivers will say they would rather be lucky than good. With 50 laps to go in Saturday night’s ARCA Racing Series Sioux Chief PowerPEX 250 at Elko Speedway, Gus Dean was a lap down in the 10th position. When the dust and speedy dry settled at the checkered flag, Dean was pulling the No. 32 Gree Cooling Products/Baker Distributing Chevrolet into victory lane for his second career victory.

It was the first victory for Chevrolet this season and the first race of 13 in 2018 that was not won by a Toyota from either the MDM Motorsports or Venturini Motorsports organizations.

Dean took the lead for the first time at Lap 60 by staying out as the leaders hit pit road under the second caution flag of the evening. That call would prove problematic as the extended green flag run trapped Dean one lap down before spinning in Turn 2 at Lap 160 to fall two laps off the pace. After hitting pit road for four fresh General Tires, Dean would take advantage of the free pass with timely cautions at Laps 210 and 225 to return to the lead lap.

Dean regained the lead at Lap 237 after a hard-fought, side-by-side battle with Chase Purdy. Purdy would fall back before his No. 8 Bama Buggies Toyota erupted in flames at Lap 241 and brought out a red flag for 28 minutes while officials worked to clean the track. Dean and Joe Graf, Jr. were on the front row when the field returned to green with just three laps to go and Dean was able to hold off Graf’s No. 77 Big Tine Ford and beat Christian Eckes’ No. 15 JBL Audio Toyota to the stripe by 0.857 seconds.

Graf would hang on for third followed by Riley Herbst and Natalie Decker.

Herbst earned the top-five finish after starting from the rear of the field due to unapproved adjustments after qualifying. Decker earned her second top-five finish of the 2018 season and her first since the season-opener at Daytona International Speedway.

“Joe (Graf, Jr.) got a little better restart that we did,” Dean said in victory lane. “We went down into one and he tried to crowd me down a little but I wasn’t going to give. It’s a couple of laps to go and we’re fighting for the win and we really needed this. I owe it all to my crew chief Jamie Jones. We needed to do something a little different and we tried some tire strategy. We were two laps down at one point but the cautions fell just right and we got back on the lead lap, got the two right side tires and here we are.”

There were eight caution flags for 62 laps which held the average speed to 62.570 miles per hour in a race that lasted one hour, 29 minutes and 54 seconds. There were 12 lead changes among four drivers with Chandler Smith leading 160 of the race’s 250 laps.

Smith, Travis Braden, Blaine Perkins, Eddie Fatscher, and Robert Bruce rounded out the top-10 as just nine cars finished on the lead lap.

The ARCA Racing Series continues their busy summer stretch next weekend in Michigan for the Primera Plastics 200 at Berlin Raceway.

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