ARCA dirt track stars ready to shake the Illinois clay The ARCA Bondo/Mar-Hyde Series, arguably the most versatile stock car division on earth, will again return to its roots Sunday, August 22 when the 17th annual Par-A-Dice 100 rolls off on...
ARCA dirt track stars ready to shake the Illinois clay
The ARCA Bondo/Mar-Hyde Series, arguably the most versatile stock car division on earth, will again return to its roots Sunday, August 22 when the 17th annual Par-A-Dice 100 rolls off on the mile dirt fairgrounds oval in Springfield, Illinois, and again on September 5th when the ARCA dirt track warriors take to the clay in DuQuoin, Illinois for the Southern Illinois 100. Drivers from 13 states are currently entered. The Springfield event will carry title sponsorship for the first time from Par-A-Dice Hotel Casino in E. Peoria, Illinois.
Of the drivers entered so far, only Dean Roper, Billy Thomas, Bob Strait, and Bob Schacht are previous winners at either Springfield or DuQuoin. Roper, who has nine ARCA Bondo/Mar-Hyde Series victories on dirt, more than any other active driver, at 60 years old, wants to become the oldest driver in history to win an ARCA race. Currently Iggy Katona, after his 1974 Daytona ARCA victory at 56, holds that distinction. Thomas has notched four ARCA wins on dirt, three at DuQuoin and one at Springfield whereas Strait and Schacht have one victory each on dirt, both at DuQuoin. Defending champion Frank Kimmel and Ed Dixon are the only other active ARCA drivers to have won an ARCA race on dirt; Kimmel at West Virginia Motor Speedway in 1997 and Dixon at I-80 Speedway in 1995.
Strait, after a two year-plus stint in Jack Bowsher’s Ford, makes his return to the series at Springfield where the 14-time ARCA winner will drive for ARCA dirt veteran Ken Rowley in the Hendren Racing Chevrolet. NASCAR Busch Series veteran and 1988 ARCA Bondo/Mar-Hyde Series champion Tracy Leslie has since taken over the driving duties in Bowsher’s Zinsser Paints Ford after Strait and Bowsher mutually parted ways earlier this season.
Strait is one of nine Illinois drivers entered from a list that includes local Springfield favorite Rich Hayes, Mark Voigt, Mike Lorz, James Tuggle making his career-first ARCA start, Todd Coon, Curt Piercy, Joe Cooksey and two-time ARCA winner Eric Smith who is coming off a strong run recently at Kil-Kare where the Bloomington driver finished 2nd behind first-time winner Robbie Pyle. Both Piercy and Cooksey are rolling into Springfield with extra momentum having posted their career-best ARCA finishes this season. For Piercy, it came at Berlin where the Normal, Illinois driver finished fourth, and for Cooksey, it was his second place finish behind current point leader Bill Baird at Flat Rock that notched the Centralia, Illinois driver his best finish to date. As a result, Cooksey, who drives the Maurtco Powder Coating Chevrolet, recently moved into fourth in points ahead of Winder, Georgia veteran Mark Gibson and behind leaders Baird, Kimmel and ’99 Daytona ARCA 200 winner Bobby Gerhart respectively.
Also making his return to the series is Washington, Missouri driver Dixon who has entered a Ken Schrader-owned #99 Oakwood Homes Chevy for both Springfield and DuQuoin. Dixon, a former UMP Late Model national champion, and current point leader in that division, finished fourth in ARCA Bondo/Mar-Hyde Series points in 1996 sat on the pole in the ARCA race at Springfield in ’96 dominating the event until mechanical troubles halted his charge with less than 4 laps remaining. That same year Dixon was leading the event at DuQuoin however contact with Mike Wallace sent him into the turn four wall ending his day with four laps remaining.
Making their first ARCA starts on dirt will be St. Joseph, Missouri driver Doug Keller and Decatur, Illinois driver Tuggle. Keller has 3 previous ARCA attempts recording a career-best finish of 12th at Michigan Speedway back in June of this year.