Tony Stewart dominates DuQuoin ARCA dirt warriors DUQUOIN IL (9-1-03) -- Defending NASCAR Winston Cup champion Tony Stewart can now add the legendary DuQuoin State Fairgrounds mile-dirt to his impressive list of motorsports accomplishments.
Tony Stewart dominates DuQuoin ARCA dirt warriors
DUQUOIN IL (9-1-03) -- Defending NASCAR Winston Cup champion Tony Stewart can now add the legendary DuQuoin State Fairgrounds mile-dirt to his impressive list of motorsports accomplishments. Stewart, a former IRL and USAC open-wheel champion as well, indeed lived up to his reputation as one of America's most versatile drivers with a convincing victory in the Southern Illinois 100 presented by Federated Car Care Monday afternoon.
Stewart, in his own #18 Home Depot Chevrolet, dominated the day from the pole leading the most laps en route to his career-first ARCA RE/MAX Series triumph in his third consecutive attempt on the renowned southern Illinois fairgrounds oval.
"We just had a blast today," said Stewart. "Some people go fishing to relax on their day off; I go racing. I just want to say how much I appreciate the ARCA RE/MAX Series for giving us this opportunity to run these big heavy stock cars on the dirt, especially here at DuQuoin. I think running here is a real feather in their cap; good for them. I was beginning to get a little concerned about our fuel. We've got a Joe Gibbs motor in this Home Depot Chevrolet; it's made for horsepower, not fuel mileage. But it worked out for us today. Just want to thank all the guys who helped with this. I love this place, and I'm really proud of this victory."
Ken Schrader, in the Federated Auto Parts Pontiac, finished second with local favorite and ARCA veteran Joe Cooksey close behind in third. "Tony (Stewart) was on his own page today," said Schrader. "There was no way we were going to catch him. Heck I feel good about finishing second. Joe Cooksey was faster than we were. I did all I could just to keep him behind me. Anyway, we had a great time; there's nothing quite like running the dirt. It doesn't get much better."
Norm Benning, in his own Tobin's RV & Boat Cleaner Chevrolet, finished a career-best fourth in front of four-time series champion and defending race winner Frank Kimmel who steered the Advance Auto Parts-Pork Ford to the finish in fifth despite several trips down pit road in an attempt to cure an overheating engine.
Stewart, fresh from Darlington the day before, set the tone right off with his third consecutive Old Milwaukee Pole Award and immediately jumped out into the lead. It was a lead he would only give up once for a quick stop on pit road for a splash of fuel early on in the 100-mile race. In all, the Rushville, Indiana driver led a whopping 85 of 103 laps on his way to the coveted and storied DuQuoin victory circle.
But while it seemed like a breeze to Stewart, several drivers would feel the wrath of DuQuoin's dust. Although there were no injuries, twelve cautions and one red flag left many scratching their heads while they loaded their torn and twisted race cars into their haulers for the long ride home, or, for many, for the trek north to Chicagoland Speedway for fast-approaching 200-miler on Saturday.
In fact several cautions inside of ten laps remaining prompted ARCA officials to extend the length of the race in order to deliver the ARCA-mandated green-white-checker finish. As the field, after completing 103 laps, came to the green flag to signal the start of the ensuing two-lap dash to the finish, Jim Eubanks and Jerry Nemire crashed hard together entering the first turn. The incident brought out the red flag while officials evaluated the required repairs necessary to fix the inner guardrail. It was then determined that the job could not be completed in a reasonable amount of time, and the race was declared over having already gone past the official 100-lap distance. Stewart then drove to victory lane, climbed out and saluted the huge crowd, which greeted DuQuoin's newest winner with resounding applause and cheer. Then, as the victory lane interviews began, torrential rains came down on the celebration putting the final period on an eventful day for many. Even such, with rain pouring down, Stewart stood tall and answered each and every interview while the people poured down from the grandstands in and around him.
In addition to Stewart's winning payout, he also won the National Pork Board Pole-Win Bonus for winning from the pole. Mark Gibson finished sixth in the Williams Brothers Lumber Chevrolet after getting caught up in a couple of wrecks which forced the Winder, Georgia driver to make several unscheduled pit stops for repairs. As a result, the Gibson Racing crew won the Gladiator GarageWorks of the Race Award for outstanding achievement.
Bill Eversole, in his first DuQuoin appearance, finished a solid seventh in the Think Pink Energy Drink Chevrolet earning the ARCA Highest Finishing Rookie honors along the way. Todd Bowsher, in the GFS Marketplace Ford, finished eighth in front of four-time DuQuoin winner Billy Thomas who survived his share of twists and turns to finish ninth in the JW Miller Land & Timber Chevrolet. Eubanks, in spite of destroying his car, was credited with the tenth finishing position, a career-best for the Dexter, Missouri driver. Eubanks also received the Landrum Spring Hard Luck Award as a consolation for the wreck, which ultimately ended the race. In addition, longtime USAC open-wheel veteran Nemire, making his first RE/MAX Series attempt, finished 11th, the last car on the lead lap. Nemire, who started 31st, also won the Hoosier Tire Hard Charger Award for advancing the most positions.
OLD MILWAUKEE POLE AWARD: Tony Stewart 34.927 (103.072 mph)
MRGN OF VICT: .817 seconds
CAUTIONS: 12 for 57 laps
TIME OF RACE: 1:37:22
AVG SPEED: 63.471 mph
LAP LEADERS: Stewart 1-16, 35-103 (85); Sherman 17-21 (5); Keller 22-34 (13)