DuQuoin, IL, 9-5-99, by Don Radebaugh - Lansing, Michigan's Jeff Finley survived a wild and grueling day on the DuQuoin dirt mile, turned back continual pressure from point leader Bill Baird in the end and won the Southern Illinois 100 Sunday ...
DuQuoin, IL, 9-5-99, by Don Radebaugh - Lansing, Michigan's Jeff Finley survived a wild and grueling day on the DuQuoin dirt mile, turned back continual pressure from point leader Bill Baird in the end and won the Southern Illinois 100 Sunday afternoon at the DuQuoin State Fairgrounds, his career-first ARCA Bondo/Mar-Hyde Series victory in his 55th attempt.
Finley, who started 21st in Ed Rensi's Dura Lube Chevrolet, held of Baird by a length to become the seventh different first-time winner after 17 events on the tour this year. "I knew we'd finally get there," said the extremely hot and tired winner in victory lane. "But I would have never guessed in a million years it would happen here on the dirt. Gotta thank Ed Rensi for the opportunity, Dura Lube, my crew chief Ace Kolar and the whole crew for not giving up on Jeff Finley. They knew that if we kept banging on the door long enough, that sooner or later it was going to open, and today it did. Thank the Lord Baird didn't bang too hard on me in the end. He roughed me up and little there in one and two on the last lap, but he let me gather it up in time and raced me clean to the checkers. This is great. There ain't nothing like dirt-trackin' with these big old tanks on the miles. It's what sets ARCA apart from all the rest. This is an extremely tough series, and don't let anyone ever tell you different. I'll cherish this victory." Baird finished second in his Saturn Machine-Spee Dee Pop Chevy with Tracy Leslie's Zinsser Paint Products Ford directly behind in third. Ed Dixon and veteran Bob Strait finished out the five car train in fourth and fifth.
But while Finley and company were celebrating their hard-fought victory, others were agonizing over their badly twisted and torn race cars, including veteran Mark Gibson, who after colliding with Cavin Councilor on the backstretch went for a fair-ride of his own over the turn three guardrail landing upside down in his JaniKing Ford. Both machines were destroyed however neither driver was injured. Additionally, defending champion Frank Kimmel found trouble at the other end of the famed fairgrounds when his Advance Auto Parts Chevy turned over after colliding with the turn two hay bails. Kimmel's crew pieced his machine back together in time to the get the 17-time ARCA winner back on the speedway surprising only seven laps down. The Jeffersonville, Indiana driver soldiered home in 22nd.
Three-time DuQuoin winner Billy Thomas was a factor all day from his pole starting position, led 52 laps and was running third near the end before ARCA officials pulled his score card for not honoring the black flag for stopping on the speedway under caution. The Phenix City, Alabama dirt-track specialist was credited with the 23rd finishing position eight laps down.
Thomas led the first 10 circuits before the first of seven cautions gave him the opportunity to go down pit road for an ARCA mandated pit stop, one that all teams were required to honor. Eric Smith, who started outside pole, then took over the lead for 8 laps before Gibson charged his way to the top spot and led the next 13 rounds. More cautions would come giving the additional teams the chance to visit their crews on pit road while Thomas got shuffled back into the lead with Finley, Baird, Strait and Leslie in tow. Thomas, with a multi-car stack filling his mirror, held on through lap 73 before Finley and Baird found openings to the inside and passed the former leader. From there, Finley fought off Baird's bumper for the duration to cash in on the $15,770 top prize as well as the Hoosier Tire Midwest Hard Charger award for advancing the most positions.
In all, 15 cars finished on the lead lap with Joe Cooksey in sixth ahead of leading STP-Prestone Rookie contender Ron Cox who recorded his career-best ARCA finish to date in seventh. Curt Piercy, Andy Belmont and Norm Benning finished strong in eighth, ninth and tenth respectively. Daytona ARCA 200 winner Bobby Gerhart came down pit road 11 times to help keep his Kewadin Casinos Chevy cool enough to go the distance and never lost the lead lap eventually finishing 11th.
The ARCA Bondo/Mar-Hyde Series returns to Salem Speedway this Sunday for the 62nd running of the Eddie Gilstrap 200, an event that will also include a pitstop competition on Saturday as well as the first ever appearance of the new ARCA Lincoln Welders Truck Series on the legendary half-mile, high-banked oval.
SERIES POINT LEADERS: BILL BAIRD 4615, FRANK KIMMEL 4010, BOBBY GERHART 3895, JOE COOKSEY 3695, MARK GIBSON 3540, BOB SCHACHT 3380, ANDY BELMONT 3340, CAVIN COUNCILOR 3265, RON COX 3260, NORM BENNING 3200.