by Gregg Paul
The ARCA Midwest Tour presented by SCAG Power Equipment and Lester Buildings 2013 crop of rookies vying for the top spot have a lot of pride, prestige, and awards to shoot for this season. The pride and prestige of being named the top rookie in any given year is always reason enough to fight to win. However, the awards package that the ARCA Midwest Tour has supplied definitely makes it more than worthwhile to throw your hat in the ring.
Those awards consist of a free engine lease for the 2014 season from McGunegill Engine Performance, a bare chassis from Pathfinder Chassis and $2,500 in tech support, an “A” body package from Five Star Bodies, and a $5,000 Roltek transmission.
Certainly a prize list such as this, has garnered the attention of those drivers competing for the awards.
“This is a pretty good deal that’s actually better than winning a championship at most tracks,” said Dennis Prunty. “My track championship didn’t do anything like that.”
Team Spiked Island Touring Star and current Rookie points leader James Swan concurred with Prunty’s assessment on the rookie program.
“The Midwest Tour rookie of the year program is second to none,” said Swan. “The awareness and list of possible contingency prizes make it so worth giving it everything you have! With the exceptionally high level of competition and knowledge among my competitors, I never thought I would have a chance at being this year’s “ROY” because this is my first year driving a super late model.”
Team Vita Ice Touring Star Jeremy Miller added his take on the rookie program.
“The rookie program has great incentives to it,” said Miller. “Pathfinder Chassis giving you a chassis. Roltek Transmissions, McGunegill going to let you use a motor, these incentives are great. It’s definitely worth trying to run the series full time.”
The 2013 Rookie battle began as a race amongst five drivers. Through attrition and the perils of racing the battle has left just three drivers in contention for the coveted rookie title. Heading into the Marshfield 100 at the Marshfield Motor Speedway on August 31st, James Swan holds a twenty point lead over Dennis Prunty. Jeremy Miller is in third place, 67 points behind Swan.
Each contender has had their share of ups and downs throughout the 2013 campaign. Each has missed making the starting lineup for a race. Each has had their share of good and bad finishes as well. Jeremy Miller set fast time at Madison International Speedway for the Border Wars 2, and has one top five and three top ten finishes. Unfortunately Miller failed to start two feature events and has had bad luck in several others.
“We started the year with a brand new car and ended up destroying it at Madison,” said Miller. “We rebuilt the car and just have been struggling ever since. We had a few hit and miss runs where we ran decent, then the next race we’d struggle. I’m definitely taking my rookie lumps, I know that. It’s just been one of those years where I’d wish I could forget it. I’ve never had a year like this, I’m used to season after season of running for points and have quite a few championships and then this year I had a lot higher hopes than where we’re at. I know the competition is a lot tougher ”
Prunty never figured he would be in a position to contend for the rookie title, yet has persevered through the hardships this season.
“We really had no intention on racing the full season,” said Prunty. “There were some conflicts in the scheduling and we were just going to take it easy and do whichever ones we could and see how it goes. We went to Toledo and finished in 7th and thought we’d be in the top five in points, and thought we’d have a shot at this. We’ve had some horrible luck and I am surprised I am as close as I am being only 20 points out. We broke the rack in Madison, broke an axle in Wausau, had the engine missing at the Milwaukee Mile, and go to Grundy and had a mishap. So it’s pretty amazing that we’re within 20 points.”
James Swan looks at the ARCA Midwest Tour in a whole new light now that he is competing in it. Swan leads the rookie points, but it is mainly due to his consistent finishes. Swan has only one top ten, but has been the highest finishing rookie at several other events.
“I am even more impressed with the ARCA Midwest Tour than I was before,” said Swan. “I have always looked from the outside at the Tour, as the ultimate racing series in the country. Now that I’ve been racing with the series, I’ve come to realize that most of the fans I meet during the autograph sessions have the same opinion! The owners, competitors, sponsors, and officials are all so professional, it’s no wonder the Tour has prospered, and continues to grow.”
Swan discussed how his rookie rivals have impacted his racing throughout the season.
“I’ve been in Jeremy Miller’s shadows for the few years that we’ve raced together,” said Swan. “Dennis Prunty has been racing super lates for a while, and even won a championship! I didn’t know enough about Bobby Kendall or Nick Barstadt, but they were equally competitive. I’ve always raced, and not worried about the points, because when you try and make things happen, that’s usually when accidents or mistakes happen.”
Prunty is hoping his luck can change and he can make a run at closing the gap between he and Swan.
“If I have some good luck towards the end of the season, maybe I can be right in there,” said Prunty. “As far as the other competitors, we really thought Jeremy Miller would have had it wrapped up from day one, but he’s had some bad luck and hasn’t been up in there that much. James Swan is 20 points ahead of me and he’s done a lot of traveling in the past and I think he’ll be pretty good here these last few races.”
James Swan is so impressed with how things have gone with the Midwest Tour, that he has already made plans regardless of how the rookie battle works out.
“I’ve been asked by a friend if I thought I had a chance of winning a Midwest Tour race, and I said maybe I could get lucky and luck into one,” said Swan. “I’ve also said that there are probably ten drivers that I may never beat, but my team and I never give up! I also believe that we are getting better by understanding the cars, and procedures, and even making friends as a bonus. We are all so proud to be a part of this series, that we will be back again next year, no matter what the outcome is this year.”
Jeremy Miller knows he has his work cut out for him if he wants to gain ground on Swan and Prunty, but that has not slowed his determination or effort to make a late charge at the title.
“There are a lot of race tracks I’ve never been to with a super late model and there’s so many different things that you do to those cars than you do to a limited late that I am used to running,” said Miller. “The competition is tough. I’ll gain some points here, have a bad run and fall out of a race and they gain points on us. It’s kind of one of those things if you gain ten, then you lose ten the next week. If you have one good run where you qualify good, run in the top five, you gain a ton of points if your competitors don’t have a good day. By no means are we out of the deal yet. It’s just going to be a tall order to take. We definitely have to get our program better before we start worrying about anybody else.”
There are three races remaining to see just what that outcome will be. The race within a race will be a battle to the finish between drivers who by this time are no longer rookies, yet yearn to wear the crown as Rookie Of The Year.
Be sure to follow the ARCA Midwest Tour on Facebook (midwesttour) and Twitter (@midwesttour).
To learn more about the Automobile Racing Club of America Midwest Tour, log on to arcamidwesttour.com. For questions call the ARCA Midwest Tour office at (262) 729-4111 or Tim Olson at (612) 327-5831 or Steve Einhaus (630) 212-6022 at or e-mail Tim Olson at email@example.com Steve Einhaus at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Automobile Racing Club of America (ARCA) is among the leading auto racing sanctioning bodies in the country. Founded in 1953 by John and Mildred Marcum, the organization administers more than 100 events each year in multiple racing series, including the ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards, the ARCA/CRA Super Series, the ARCA Truck Series and the ARCA Midwest Tour, plus weekly racing at Toledo and Flat Rock Speedways.