Joe Graf Jr. wins first ARCA race in Berlin Raceway photo finish

BERLIN, MI — Joe Graf, Jr. driving the Chad Bryant Racing Big Tine No. 77 Ford made his way past two drivers on the final two green flag laps to score his first career ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards win in the Primera Plastics 200 at Berlin Raceway. Graf edged Zane Smith at the finish by 0.041 seconds, about three feet.

Graf had to work his way past Chandler Smith who himself had recovered from a spin while battling for the third position at lap 141. C. Smith pitted for right side tires and quickly knifed his way through the field to take the lead from Christian Eckes at lap 163. Smith led until lap 200 when he was nudged out of the way coming to what should have been the checkered, but starter Denise Engle instead waved the caution flag setting up a one lap dash to the finish giving Graf the lead.

On the final restart at lap 206, Graf led the field but spun his tires at the green, which allowed Zane Smith and Travis Braden to move around. But heading into turn three, Graf dove to the bottom side of the track getting to the inside of Zane Smith allowing Graf to take the win at the stripe.

“I can’t thank my guys at Chad Bryant Motorsports enough,” Graf said in victory lane. “We were a little off the first half of the race. We made some adjustments and got the Lucky Dog twice and we were there at the end. I believe we should have won a couple of races by now. I spun the tires on the restart but it’s every man for himself on the last lap.”

This is Graf’s first career ARCA win after several close finishes including the closest finish in ARCA history where Zane Smith beat Graf by an even shorter distance than the margin at Berlin.

“This is a pretty crazy weekend, “added Graf. Tomorrow I move into Founders Hall at New York University to begin my freshman year. My guidance counselor has made my transition pretty easy working with me on my racing schedule.”

Graf Jr. will be back in action on Labor Day Monday when the ARCA Series returns to the dirt at the DuQuoin State Fairgrounds for the General Tire Grabber 100.

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