All Mason Mitchell had to do Friday night at Kansas Speedway was start his engine and take his foot off the brake.
By rolling across the start/finish line, Mitchell secured the ARCA Racing Series championship in his second season on the circuit.
“Unbelievable year,” said Mitchell, 20, who graduated from Valley High in West Des Moines, Iowa, in 2012. “I can’t put into words really all the hard work that my guys have put in to get me here.”
Mitchell, who entered the ARCA 98.9 with a 200-point lead and started on the pole when morning qualifying was rained out, gambled in the offseason and formed his own team for the 2014 season.
“It was a gutsy call and a lot of people said we couldn’t do it, but we ended up getting it done and I want to thank everybody on this team,” Mitchell said. “I can’t take all the credit.”
Mitchell, who finished fifth, won only one race this season, but he collected 18 top-10 finishes and 11 top-fives.
He is the third-youngest champion in ARCA’s 62-year history. Only Chris Buescher (2012) and Ty Dillon (2011), who both won titles at age 19, were younger. Both now drive in the NASCAR Nationwide Series.
“Right now, technically, I don’t have anything lined up next year,” Mitchell said. “If you want to compare it to other sports, it’s free-agent status. I’m looking to get an opportunity and all I really need is one shot at it.”
Spencer Gallagher also earned some bragging rights by winning the race, which served as the 20-race ARCA finale.
Gallagher, who started 32nd, survived four cautions for 42 laps and checked out on the field during the final two-lap restart for his first career win. He led the final 52 laps.
“It’s been a long road for us and it’s taken us a while, but we finally (got a victory) under our belts and I couldn’t be happier,” said Gallagher, who celebrated with a “grass angel” on the infield sod.
Josh Williams outdueled Ross Kenseth for second place. Kenseth is the son of NASCAR Sprint Cup driver Matt Kenseth.
Matt Tifft, an ARCA rookie, appeared to be on the way to his first career victory when his right front tire blew coming out of turn four on lap 44.
Tifft, who led nine laps in his first 11 career ARCA races, had led 20 consecutive laps and owned a roughly 10-second lead before careening into the wall on the front stretch, bringing out the race’s first yellow flag.
The second caution came out after one green-flag lap when Galen Hassler of Columbia was smacked from behind by two cars.
He was helped from his car to a waiting ambulance and was transported to a local hospital for further evaluation. No other information was immediately available.
No sooner had the green flag dropped again when a six-car wreck brought out a third consecutive caution after Austin Wayne Self got loose in turn three.
Series runner-up Grant Enfinger hit the wall on lap 91, bringing out the final caution.