Sunday, June 26, 2022

ARCA: Dallas Frueh turns three laps at Elko

ALL PHOTOS: William Soquet

by William Soquet Staff Writer

Dallas Frueh finished last for the first time in his ARCA Menards Series career in Saturday’s Menards 250 at Elko Speedway when his #27 Circle Track Warehouse / Immigration Law Center Chevrolet retired with mechanical issues after three laps.

The finish came in Frueh’s second career start.

Frueh got his start in ARCA in a very unique way. Like many ARCA crew members, Frueh attends the University of Northwestern Ohio, but was not a part of the group that pits the cars for Andy Hillenburg’s Fast Track Racing - at least, not at first. In fact, an old racing competitor was the gateway into ARCA. Former street stock driver Zachary Tinkle invited Frueh to come along to Tinkle’s ARCA debut with Wayne Peterson Racing. During that weekend, Frueh was introduced to Andy Hillenburg and started working on Hillenburg’s cars at some tracks. At Watkins Glen later that year, he was shuffled over to the Tim Richmond entry as a pit crew member. As it turns out, the Richmond shop is located only an hour from Frueh’s residence, and he began helping out at the shop more often. At the end of the 2021 season, team owner David Richmond approached Frueh about helping out the team with some "start-and-park" opportunities in 2022, which Frueh happily obliged. He made his debut at Berlin Raceway last week, and said that the plan for the race was to run two laps at Elko. The purpose of the start-and-park was twofold: to not make the damage suffered at Iowa any worse, and to not put any more wear on the Ilmor motor that was in the car.

The entry list featured 20 cars, a stout field for the Elko race. One of the two drivers making his debut in Saturday’s race was 17-year-old Colton Collins, driving for CCM Racing. Collins is a crew member for CCM, and just received the offer to drive the car last week. After a racing career that has taken him through the quarter midget, super truck and Legends car ranks, Collins took his first ARCA competition laps in practice at Elko. “It’s very abrasive. I was on the splitter on the first run, on the right front. Came in, made some adjustments, got off the splitter, it was a lot better,” Collins said after practice. He pegged the top-ten as a realistic goal for the race ahead of an additional appearance at Indianapolis Raceway Park later this year. The other driver making his debut in Saturday’s race was Venturini Motorsports driver Landon Pembelton, who was signed to the Toyota driver development pipeline after winning the Martinsville late model stock race last year. Tom Hessert returned to a track that he finished second at in 2012, and Willie Mullins also joined the field, as he annually does at Elko. Fast Track Racing filled their cars with Bryce Haugeberg from nearby North Dakota, Zachary Tinkle, and D.L. Wilson.

Alex Clubb's #03 on track Saturday

The Alex Clubb machine was the slowest car in practice, turning a fastest lap of 18.59 seconds. Brad Smith was the only car in the 16-second range, and eight cars wound up in the 15-second time bracket during qualifying. Smith said after qualifying that he was still debating whether to run the full race or not. Smith noted the need to save his only chassis throughout the course of the year, saying that the first race break may present a logical time to pull off the racetrack. 

Clubb was facing his own set of challenges this weekend. Team driver Josh White crashed the car at Charlotte and then defaulted on the crash clause, something that White claimed Clubb knew could happen, in a GoFundMe to raise the funds for the crash clause. Regardless, Clubb footed the bill for repairs, and that money came from the tire budget for the next few short track races. Additionally, the car blew a rear master cylinder in practice, leaving the race in doubt for the team. Clubb did not take a lap in qualifying, and neither did Amber Balcean. The 30 car was up on jackstands for the entirety of qualifying, and a crew member said later that it was due to issues with the oil line. 

However, those issues were resolved shortly after qualifying, as the car was pushed to the lineup before the autograph session. Clubb and crew, on the other hand, were looking for a replacement master cylinder. They tried one from a local late model racer that didn’t work, but eventually found one that did and got it installed, getting the car on the grid a mere handful of minutes before driver introductions. With that, all 20 cars were set to take the green. A Fast Track crew member said before the race that the plan was to have Haugeberg run the full race and have Tinkle and Wilson run "start-and-park" efforts.

Both Freuh and Smith dropped to the rear of the field at the start of the race. For the first lap, the two held side-by-side - Freuh on the inside and Smith on the outside - with Smith falling behind about a half-car length at the stripe. Freuh cleared Smith on Lap 2 and gapped him on Lap 3, running on the bumper of the Alex Clubb machine before pulling into the pit entrance on the backstretch during Lap 4. After the race, Freuh said that he was fine with how his race went and that he looked forward to tuning up his CRA street stock in the near future. He also is excited about the Watkins Glen race, where the Richmond Racing team will be have a new chassis with a legacy engine for "start-and-park" efforts, potentially leading to more laps completed. For the remainder of the race, Frueh sat in a lawn chair eating sandwiches and chatting with other crew members and drivers.

Fast Track teammates D.L. Wilson and Zachary Tinkle both retired while Amber Balcean was in the pits, her crew trying to repair nose and hood damage from an on-track run-in that happened before the first caution, but only got worse after the green flag dropped again. Balcean, a number of laps down, eventually made it back on track, but a nagging trail of smoke forced the 30 machine into the pits for a final time before the first stage break, ending a miserable race day for the team. Brad Smith rounded out the Bottom Five, having a couple extended stays on pit road but still making laps after the final race break before retiring from the race.

20) #27-Dallas Frueh / 3 laps / mechanical

19) #01-D.L. Wilson / 15 laps / mechanical

18) #10-Zachary Tinkle / 15 laps / mechanical

17) #30-Amber Balcean / 56 laps / damage

16) #48-Brad Smith / 116 laps / mechanical

1st) Chevrolet (4)
2nd) Ford (3)
3rd) Toyota (1)

1st) Fast Track Racing, Richmond Racing (3)
2nd) CCM Racing, Jones Racing (1)


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