Well, Tony Stewart finally got one. No, it wasn't the Brickyard brick, or a Daytona or Southern 500 trophy, nor his face on the Borg-Warner trophy. Stewart took a page out of the playbook of his boyhood hero A.J. Foyt Sunday, winning the ...
Well, Tony Stewart finally got one. No, it wasn't the Brickyard brick, or a Daytona or Southern 500 trophy, nor his face on the Borg-Warner trophy. Stewart took a page out of the playbook of his boyhood hero A.J. Foyt Sunday, winning the Federated-Southern Illinois 100 for the ARCA RE/MAX series on Labor Day at DuQuoin. While Foyt may be known for his four Indy 500 triumphs, America's greatest racing driver made his name and captured the hearts of fans nationwide on the nation's fairground mile dirt tracks. Foyt won from coast to coast, taking victories at Sacramento, Springfield, the Indiana State Fairgrounds, and of course, DuQuoin. "SuperTex" won twenty-six times alone on mile dirt tracks in championship machinery, and posted another seven wins in stock cars, and three in sprint cars. Tony joked earlier that A.J. had never won the Winston Cup title, to which Foyt replied, "check the record books". Now Tony has one of the coveted and rare one mile dirt track triumphs, something that fellow USAC Silver Crown champions turned NASCAR shoes Mike Bliss and Ryan Newman were never able to obtain.
Stewart really likes DuQuoin, as evidenced by the fact that he has continued to race at the "Magic Mile" after moving on to other series. While in the IRL, Stewart ran a Silver Crown car for George Snider at DuQuoin, and wile in NASCAR, he has returned to DuQuoin the past three seasons, each time with a different car owner. In 2001, he drove for Larry Clement, in 2002 for Andy Petree, and this year owned the Home Depot Chevrolet that took him to victory, reported to be an ex-Frank Kimmel mount with a Joe Gibbs engine under the hood.
For the record books, Foyt and Jimmy Bryan are the only two drivers to post wins in championship and stock cars at DuQuoin, with Al Unser, Foyt, Rodger Ward, Len Sutton and Roger McCluskey turning the trick at Springfield. Foyt is the only driver ever to post a win in a champ car and stock car at the Indiana State Fairgrounds. Jerry Unser, Marshall Teague and Joe Leonard are men who drove both championship and stock cars, and posted stock car wins on the mile dirt tracks. Stewart, who spent several seasons in the USAC Silver Crown and IRL cars, joins some pretty select company with his mile dirt track win in the ARCA series.
Track Enterprises CEO Bob Sargent and his wonderful staff worked overtime to prepare the surface, as it was a quagmire Sunday, postponing the Horn Memorial for the USAC cars until Saturday night. For a while, it looked like a good bet that the Federated 100 would be run this coming Sunday, as the ARCA contingent is at Chicagoland on Sunday. Skies were dark and grey, but the crew had the track ready to go less than ten minutes after the scheduled start of practice Sunday morning! Unable to get the required calcium on the surface to ensure a dust free afternoon, the track got slick and dusty after the sun came out briefly around noon. Then, as Stewart was being interviewed in victory lane, the skies busted loose and let loose a downpour, postponing the modified feature race until this Saturday.
As a result of the heavy track, the drivers who had dirt track experience really stood out Monday morning. Schrader began the session by giving those in attendance a thrill with a rim-riding exhibition that was reminiscent of an A.J. Foyt championship dirt car ehxhibition. In fact, it looked like Kenny had forgotten what type of machine he was in, pitching the 3400 pound ARCA car completely sideways, and performing the true (and lost) art of backing a car in on the dirt. And, just when it looked like he had a monopoly on the upper groove, Stewart and UMP late model standout Terry English joined the fray. Had the rains come, practice may have been worth the price of admission alone!
Stewart's car looked like a rocket ship off the corners, Tony using his dirt track abilities to the maximum during the day. One had to be sure that the smiles under the helmets of Stewart and Schrader were at least a mile wide.
Schrader, while having a good day, still has yet to post a win in any car at DuQuoin, the mile dirt track closest to his native Fenton, Missouri. A lot of Schrader fans were in attendance, as well as 300 delighted employees of Federated Auto Parts, his ARCA sponsor. Ken spent a lot of time with the Federated folks Monday, signing autographs and delighting them with his outgoing personality.
Fans who might be worried that the change in the NASCAR schedule from Darlington to California over Labor Day weekend might end the appearances of Schrader and Stewart need not worry, both drivers indicated they would return next year.
Centralia, Illinois' Joe Cooksey had a wonderful day, qualifying in the seventh slot in his own Chevy, and then running a strong third, challenging Schrader for second. Cooksey brings a large fan following from his nearby Centralia home, and always finds the unds to run the two Illinois dirt events.
Several other drivers had very good runs Monday. Norm Benning came from 11th to 4th, while Todd Bowsher came from 21st to 8th. It was the second top 5 on the dirt for Benning, who came from 33rd to 5th at Springfield.
Several drivers had bad luck Monday, including ARCA point leader Frank Kimmel. Kimmel beat Stewart out of the pits on an early stop and looked like the driver to beat, but Stewart pulled some incredible moves in traffic (including a couple of breath taking 3 wide moves) to hunt him down. Stewart then caught him, and lost him in the traffic. Contact between the two on a restart caused Kimmel to scrape the concrete, but it was overheating that finally stopped his consecutive dirt track win streak at five, and six of the last seven ARCA dirt events. Kimmel recovered for a 5th place finish.
Mark Gibson endured two taps of the concrete to finish 6th, while Billy Thomas brought a damaged car home 9th. Benton, Kentucky's Terry English, a rookie who is the defending UMP late model national champion, qualified an outstanding second, and ran in the top ten until a broken transmission caused the car to spin, and he was pushed behind the wall on lap 83.
A late race wreck caused the race to exceed the 100-mile distance, as ARCA rules specify a green-white-checker finish. Coming down for a restart on lap 103 due to a lap 97 wreck between Perry Tripp and Billy Venturini, Dexter, Missouri's JIm Eubanks got together right in front of the grandstand with USAC open wheel veteran Jerry Nemire, in his first ever stock car race behind the wheel of James Hylton's 48. Both hit the inner rail with such force that it demolished both cars and the rail. Eubanks got out immediately, Nemire required assistance but appeared to be all right, the rail was gone. With safety, time and weather an issue, officials threw the checker just before the rain fell.
Tripp was coming back after a seven year absence, and ran very well all day. Nemire ran in and out of the tope ten, and even with the accident. Eubanks posted a top ten finish.
Mechanical woes sidelined Mokena's Bob Strait, Shelby Howard and Jason Jarrett. Car trouble also cost young Ryan Unzicker a top ten, the El Paso, Illinois rookie had a fine sixth at Springfield.
St. Joseph, Missouri's Doug Keller, second at Springfield, seemed to have mechanical problems at the very start. The car did not look as strong as it had as Springfield, but despite the problems, he qualified third, and led after pit stops. Keller hit the front chute inner rail near the end of the race causing quite a bit of damage to his car. Miraculously, he lost only one lap and was running at the end.
Stewart's pole was his third consecutive, one less than record holder Bobby Jacks, and joining Don White who also won three consecutive Southern Illinois 100 pole positions. The 85 laps he led are the most by a winning driver for 100 miles at DuQuoin since Dean Roper led 88 in the spring of 1983.
Stewart's win makes him the second NASCAR Winston Cup champion to post a stock car win on the "Magic Mile", the other was a curly haired Rusty Wallace, who beat A.J. Foyt to the checkered flag in a thriller in 1979. Tony's win was the 28th for a General Motors product at DuQuoin, and the thirty-third pole for a GM made car. The victory was the 8th for the Monte Carlo, and the ninth pole for that model.
Auto racing, including ARCA racing pumps a lot of people and money into the DuQuoin State Fair, a fact not lost on the fair nor the local media. Monday's event was the focus of extended coverage by southern Illinois only TV station, WSIL TV out of Carbondale. Missing, however, appeared to be radio coverage of the event. WDQN radio had covered DuQuoin State Fair events for years, but without announcement the station's FM side was sold to local christian programming, and all sports event broadcasts immediately cancelled, including the MRN NASCAR broadcasts.
The ARCA RE/MAX series now moves to Chicagoland Speedway Saturday afternoon, while DuQuoin runs the rescheduled Horn Memorial under the lights Saturday night.