Impressive Youngsters Battle Dirt Veterans in DuQuoin ARCA Tussle Midwestern race fans have the privilege of watching the last dirt track race of 2009 for the full bodied stock cars of the ARCA RE/MAX Series on Labor Day at DuQuoin and the ...
Impressive Youngsters Battle Dirt Veterans in DuQuoin ARCA Tussle
Midwestern race fans have the privilege of watching the last dirt track race of 2009 for the full bodied stock cars of the ARCA RE/MAX Series on Labor Day at DuQuoin and the excitement is heightened again by the appearance of NASCAR Sprint Cup driver Ken Schrader and a terrific battle for the ARCA RE/MAX title among a group of impressive ARCA youngsters as they arrive at the DuQuoin State Fair for the 57th annual Federated-Southern Illinois 100. With the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series at the Atlanta Motor Speedway the day before attention turns to who else from the NASCAR community might make an appearance on the 'Magic Mile'.
Schrader is just one of two former winners of the Southern Illinois 100 entered for Labor Day, Ken Schrader spent 27 years trying to win a race on the mile dirt track closest to his Fenton, Missouri home and ended that quest in victory lane on Labor Day 2006. The 54 year old repeated the victory in 2007. The other former winner is a 9 time ARCA RE/MAX national driving champion who dominated both dirt races on the ARCA schedule in 2008. Forty seven year old Frank Kimmel of Clarksville, Indiana started his own race team in 2008 and looked as if he might not run a full season due to sponsorship concerns. He and brother Bill, his crew chief, made a concerted effort to run both dirt miles and the work paid off as Kimmel won the Allen Crowe 100 at Springfield and followed that with a convincing win on the mile at DuQuoin, his fifth. Kimmel can become the all-time lap leader in stock car competition at DuQuoin on Labor Day and is currently third in the RE/MAX title battle in his quest for a tenth crown.
Kimmel was in the hunt for the win at Springfield and led a record 10,000th lap at the Illinois State Fairgrounds. Both Schrader and Kimmel face stiff competition from the ARCA 'kiddie corp', a group of young drivers contending for the RE/MAX crown many of whom have never raced on nor perhaps seen a dirt track.
An 18-year-old rookie from Connecticut sits atop the ARCA point chase, Parker Kligerman has a road racing and midget car background and is a development driver for Roger Penske. He has used 6 wins and 11 top ten's during the season to lead Californian Justin Lofton by 35 markers after Kligerman's surprise win in theAllen Crowe 100 at Springfield in his first ever dirt track start. Lofton set a new track record at the Illinois State Fairgrounds and led 40 circuits before losing the lead with 11 laps to go and Lofton finished second at Springfield. Fourth in the points is another youngster, 19-year-old Joey Coulter of Florida. Fifth is Canadian Steve Arpin, sixth is Craig Goess, seventh is Floridian Bryan Silas (driving for former ARCA champ and USAC driver Andy Hillenburg), eighth is Floridian Patrick Sheltra, ninth is New Jersey's Tom Hessert and tenth is Michigan's Robb Brent. Brent has take the seat vacated by Springfield's Justin Allgaier who moved to the NASCAR Nationwide Series driving for Roger Penske. All are expected to enter the Southern Illinois 100, with the possible exception of Arpin.
Arpin has extensive dirt track experience in dirt track modifieds and late model stock cars and was looking forward to possibly winning at either Springfield or DuQuoin in his first ARCA season. Top finishes have kept him in the top ten in points but with limited sponsorship funding he may not be able to finish the year for owner Eddie Sharp. The other driver in the top ten with extensive dirt experience is Sheltra, who ran with the UMP and World of Outlaw Late Model Series and is considered a dark horse at either of the dirt tracks. Sheltra won his first ARCA race earlier this year and finished second to Kimmel at DuQuoin last year.
The two ARCA dirt track races always bring out a number of Illinois drivers and cars and 2009 is no exception. Centralia's Joe Cooksey won the pole for the Southern Illinois 100 in 2000 and returns to ARCA racing after a one-year absence. Springfield's Kelly Kovski returns for another DuQuoin start as does Galesburg's A.J. Fike who will again pull double duty driving a dirt champ car Sunday night and the stock car on Sunday. Arenzeville native Mark Littleton has competed on the DuQuoin dirt in a UMP Modified and in 2007 made his lone DuQuoin start while missing the show last year. Car owners Brad Hill (West Frankfort) with driver Eddie Pearson and Bill McCreery (Benton) with driver Kyle Chady are also expected to return to the DuQuoin dirt.
Another driver pulling double duty at DuQuoin is Parma, Michigan's Brian Tyler driving for owner Doug Stringer. The 41-year-old Tyler had the opportunity last year to make history by becoming the first man to win the Ted Horn 100 championship dirt car race and the Southern Illinois 100 on the same weekend. The former stock car track record holder won the Ted Horn 100 but experienced engine problems in his Toyota in the Southern Illinois 100.
Other veterans dotting the probable entry list include Ron Cox of Tennessee (second at Springfield), Georgia's Mark Gibson, Michigan's Brad Smith, Indiana's Darrell Basham and South Carolina's James Hylton who will try to extend his record as the oldest driver ever in the Southern Illinois 100.
Forty-one cars graced the beautiful DuQuoin State Fairgrounds last Labor Day with a similar number expected again this year. Practice for the ARCA RE/MAX Series is slated for 9 a.m. with drivers taking aim at Ricky Stenhouse' one year old qualification record of 32.896 (109.436) in Ansell-Menard's Pole qualifying. The 57th Federated Southern Illinois 100 is slated for a flying start at approximately 1 p.m.