Hessert III Snags First Pole at Talladega Superspeedway
Tom Hessert III might still be working toward getting his degree from Drexel University, but he passed a big test in his racing career Thursday at Talladega Superspeedway.
Hessert, of Cherry Hills, N.J., captured his first ARCA RE/MAX Series pole in 27 starts on the circuit, turning a fast lap of 186.590 mph in qualifying for Friday’s running of the ARCA RE/MAX Series 250.
“It was absolutely a perfect lap,” said Hessert, who turns 23 next month. “We made some adjustments between practice and qualifying, and the thing really came to life. I knew it was going to be a good lap, but I didn’t know it was going to be that good.
“It’s awesome. It’s definitely the biggest thing I’ve done for my career as far as exposure. It’s huge. Anytime you go to a place like Talladega, it’s special when you can run up front.”
It was also a special moment for car owner Andy Belmont, who was obviously emotional after qualifying.
“It’s my first pole in a long time, and my first ARCA pole,” Belmont said. “I’m just blown away by the whole thing. Being at Talladega, the enormity of it. I can’t see because the tears keep coming.
“I’m blown away for this kid. I’m telling you, this kid is the next Carl Edwards or whoever. We’re fortunate we got him, and we’re not going to be able to keep him long, I can promise you that. This kid has got it.”
One thing Hessert doesn’t have yet, but promises he will get eventually, is a college degree.
“I was going to go back (to school) fulltime last year, and Andy gave me the go-ahead to drive his car. So I put that on pause for a little while,” Hessert said. “That got me in trouble with my mom.
“I have a little more work to do before I graduate. But I’m chipping away at it. I’ll get it done, for sure.”
Hessert will be joined on the front row by Craig Goess, who qualified second with a speed of 186.539. Kelly Bires qualified third at 186.463, followed by Justin Lofton in fourth (186.372) and Mark Thompson fifth (186.333).
Rounding out the top 10 are Alli Owens in sixth (186.296), Bobby Gerhart seventh (186.112), Grant Enfinger eighth (185.111), Bill Baird ninth (185.069) and Chase Mattioli 10th (184.786).
The ARCA RE/MAX Series 250 is scheduled to begin at 4 p.m. Friday. Also on Friday, there will be qualifying for Saturday’s running of the Aaron’s 312 NASCAR Nationwide Series event, as well as NASCAR Sprint Cup practice in preparation for Sunday’s Aaron’s 499.
In 2009, Talladega Superspeedway proudly celebrates forty years of the most competitive racing in NASCAR. While the track has seen changes made to the cars that circle its high-banks, the surface that they race on and the grandstands that thousands of fans fill twice a year, one constant remains; Talladega Superspeedway is authentic NASCAR racing at its finest.
Race fans should make plans now to experience part of Talladega’s history in 2009 during the triple-header, Aaron’s Dream Weekend, April 24-26, featuring the ARCA RE/MAX Series, the NASCAR Nationwide Series and the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. For tickets, visit www.talladegasuperspeedway.com or call 1-877-Go2-DEGA. For our hearing impaired guests, please call TDD 1-866-ISC-TRAK (1-866-472-8725). Tickets also are available in person by visiting the Talladega Superspeedway Ticket Office from 8 a.m. - 4 p.m., Monday- Friday.
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