It seemed that Fairhope’s Grant Enfinger could do no wrong. During his first three outings in the 2014 ARCA Racing Series Championship, he steered his Ford Fusion to the checkered flag.
Like every level of competition, though, perfection is a goal that remains elusive. Just as quickly as the victories came, so did the setbacks. Five straight races without a triumph eventually knocked Enfinger out of first place in the drivers’ point standings.
The drought finally came to an end June 21, when his No. 90 car dominated the field at the Akona 250 at Minnesota’s Elko Speedway. Enfinger led more than 210 of the 250 laps.
“This race showed how much talent Team BCR and Grant hold,” said Howard Bixman, the race team’s manager. “Grant, nor the team, had even been to this track before; and to come out with a dominating win is great. This just brings us one step closer to this championship.”
Enfinger qualified in the outside row, but immediately took the lead.
“I knew we had a great car right from the start,” Enfinger said. “Our car was fast in the first practice, and I knew it would be in contention for a win during the second practice session.
“It’s definitely the best car I’ve ever had. Howard is doing everything right to win this championship.”
Despite the fast start, another obstacle appeared when a car forced Enfinger to spin out in Turn Two. Although it dropped him back to 16th for the restart, Enfinger recaptured the lead after a few laps.
“I thought our day was done with after that incident,” he said. “(Crew chief) Kelly (Kovski) kept trying to calm me down and that really was key.”
After another caution flag on the 155th lap, Enfinger went on to take an 8-second advantage over the runner-up car and almost lapped the entire field.
Through nine races of the ARCA season, Enfinger has four wins, five Top 5 finishes and eight Top 10 results. He has totaled 2,210 points, and recaptured the lead from Mason Mitchell, who is second with 2,175.
Mobile’s Thomas “Moose” Praytor also remains in the running. Despite a 15th-place finish in Elko, Praytor is ninth in the drivers’ standings with 1,555 points.
“We were really disappointed with our effort,” he said. “We thought Elko was a place we could put our DK-LOK Chevy back in the Top 10. We were actually faster here than we were last year, but the competition is getting faster, too.
“Winchester is up next. We had a Top 10 finish there last year, and we’ll keep digging back at the shop and see if we can’t get our DK-LOK Chevy a little better.”
The ARCA circuit was off last weekend. The teams return for the Herr’s Chase The Taste 200 on Sunday, July 6. The Indiana event will be broadcast live on the CBS Sports Network at 1 p.m.
Hometown hero returns to NBA
After many seasons of playing and coaching professional basketball overseas, Mobile’s Antonio Lang has been named to serve as an assistant with new Utah Jazz head coach Quin Snyder.
Lang first gained notice by leading LeFlore High School to a state championship. After graduating as the school’s valedictorian, he signed with college powerhouse Duke. He helped the Blue Devils advance to the Final Four three times, winning back-to-back titles in 1991 and 1992.
The 6-foot-8 Lang was drafted by the Phoenix Suns, with the 29th overall pick of the 1994 NBA Draft. After a six-year career that included stops in Cleveland, Miami, Toronto and Philadelphia, Lang continued to play professional ball in the United States, the Philippines and Japan.
In 2001, Lang began playing for the Mitsubishi Diamond Dolphins. Injuries, though, ended his career in 2006. He remained with the Japanese team as an assistant coach, and in 2010 took over as head coach. Lang guided the team into the playoffs last season.
In a telephone interview with WNSP-FM, Lang said he has known Snyder since his playing days at Duke. A former academic All-American, Snyder was serving as an administrative assistant on the basketball team at that time while earning a law degree and an MBA.
“He has been a mentor and adviser to me,” Lang said of Snyder. Despite their history, Lang said he still had to go through a six-hour interview.
“I’m glad to get back to the States,” Lang told WNSP-FM. “I’m happy to be back on this side of the Earth.”
Mike Callahan has announced he is ending his 13-year run with the Mobile BayBears. He is leaving as the assistant general manager in charge of corporate sales and curator of the Hank Aaron Childhood Home and Museum to join his family’s business, ABC Signs, which produces signs and banners for local, regional and national customers. Callahan is joining his father and brother to run the new apparel printing division.
“I can’t begin to tell you how difficult this decision was to make, but it is the right one for me,” he said. “The memories we have created and those that we have shared, I will cherish always.”
The BayBears had claimed back-to-back Southern League championships, before losing in the 2013 finals. They having already won the first half of this year’s schedule, and host the Pensacola Blue Wahoos this weekend in a five-game series.