With five second-place finishes behind him in 2011, Chris Buescher was understandably in a hurry to finish the Southern Illinois 100 presented by Federated Auto Parts in the prime position he had assumed on Lap 45 - and finish, he did.
Buescher, a Roush Fenway Racing developmental driver, led each of the final 60 laps in an event extended from 100 to 104 laps on one of the ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards' two dirt ovals. He held off a rebounding Ty Dillon and a charging Will Vaught on a late restart to take his first win of the season and his third after a pair of victories at Toledo Speedway last year.
"These guys, the Roulo Brothers, did a great job," Buescher said. "To have all the help of Roush Fenway and David Ragan, this thing was awesome. We were on a rail for the most part. This track is not a race I marked on my schedule as one I expected to win, but we still put on a heck of a show, I feel. I hope everyone else thought so, because it was a ball."
Buescher had not raced a stock car on dirt until August 21 at the Illinois State Fairgrounds in Springfield, where he finished eighth, but proved his ability to adapt quickly.
"I haven't raced on (dirt) a whole lot," Buescher said. "My first couple legends races on dirt, I finished 12th the first one and won the next four, so I have a pretty good history but I'm not saying I'm a dirt racer. I sure do enjoy it."
Including the series' last race at Madison International Speedway, Buescher had finished second at Daytona (to Bobby Gerhart), Chicagoland (to Dillon), Pocono (to Tim George Jr.), and Winchester (to Dakoda Armstrong). Despite leading 90 of 200 laps at Madison 10 days ago, Buescher fell to Alex Bowman.
The win was the second for Roulo Brothers Racing at DuQuoin, but the first in just over two decades. The team led by Gary and Russ Roulo won at the southern Illinois oval with driver Bob Strait on September 1, 1991.
Buescher (No. 17 Reliance Tool Ford) had not led before his 60-lap stretch to close the race, but passed Vaught (No. 55 Manpower to Horsepower Chevrolet) in the second turn on Lap 45; he would not relent.
Dillon, the points leader, started his afternoon in the front after driving the No. 41 Hemelgarn/CIPT Chevrolet to the Menards Pole Award presented by Ansell for the seventh time this year, but Springfield, Ill. native Kelly Kovski - normally the crew chief for Allgaier Motorsports - drove to his outside from the second starting position and led the first lap by 0.431 second.
Kovski (No. 39 Central Illinois Security/Schluckebier Farms/Modern Paving Chevrolet) led through an early caution period, but Chad Hackenbracht (No. 58 Tastee Apple Chevrolet) used the outside line on a Lap 5 restart to take the advantage. Dillon followed him around Kovski, and the two broke away.
Hackenbracht led Dillon by 0.592 second after 10 of a scheduled 100 laps, but Dillon halved the gap the next time past the start/finish line. Kovski closed to within a half-second, with Vaught in a distant fourth place more than two seconds behind the lead.
The lead trio extended its advantage over the field, and then began to take aim at one another. Hackenbracht led Dillon at Lap 14 by 0.383 second, but Dillon gained quickly and passed for the Lap 15 lead. Hackenbracht passed back the next time around, just before reaching the start/finish line, but his second lead was just as short-lived as Dillon's first. Kovski grabbed the first spot in the backstretch on Lap 17, moving to a 0.369-second gap on Hackenbracht with Dillon less than a second behind.
Keeping the battle intense, Hackenbracht stole the lead on Lap 18 - a fourth consecutive change - and brought Dillon with him past Kovski. Behind them, Buescher moved to within 1.075 seconds in the fourth position.
Hackenbracht led at Lap 20, followed by Dillon, Kovski, Buescher, Chris Windom (No. 32 Win-Tron Dodge), Vaught, Tom Hessert (No. 52 Federated Auto Parts Chevrolet), Tim George Jr. (No. 31 Applebee's/Potomac Family Dining Group Chevrolet), Will Kimmel (No. 68 Messina Wildlife Management/Menards Ford), and debut driver Darren Hagen (No. 25 Manpower to Horsepower Chevrolet).
Dillon passed a lapped car to the inside between Turns 3 and 4 and weaved past Hackenbracht for the lead at Lap 22, just before the caution flag came out for a blown Hessert motor. Several drivers, including Buescher, Vaught, and Kovski, elected to pit. Buescher led the charge off of pit road, and Dillon continued to lead the race as the field finished the first quarter of the race.
Dillon led Hackenbracht and Windom out of the Lap 28 restart; George and Will Kimmel had moved just behind the lead pack, having not pitted. Hackenbracht tried to use the outside line to pass Dillon, but could not get past. Instead, Windom passed him for second the next time around and set his sights on Dillon.
Dillon's lead extended to more than one second, and fluctuated above and below that mark until Mike Koch spun out of Turn 4 with the leaders completing Lap 36. Dillon and the four other top-five cars all elected to pit, sending Vaught to the Lap 38 lead. Andrew Ranger, making his first dirt start in an ARCA car after winning on the New Jersey Motorsports Park road course in May, drove the No. 53 Van Dyke Baler/Bollegraaf Ford to second. Buescher followed in third, with Kovski and Grant Enfinger (No. 36 Hoosier Tire Midwest/RaceTires.com Dodge) behind him.
Using the last pit stall and a position just before the start/finish line to his advantage, Dillon easily drove out of his pit stop first to take the 12th position. George improved his spot by driving out ahead of Hackenbracht, Windom, and Will Kimmel.
The Lap 41 green flag saw Dillon move around Mark Littleton (No. 5 Mason Sound Chevrolet) as he tried to move back into a contending position. He wasn't the only one advancing his spot, though. Buescher passed Ranger in Turn 3 for second place, and Kovski worked on Ranger with his eye on the third position. Vaught continued to lead by just more than a half-second, but Buescher was coming. He found his way to Vaught's back bumper by the start/finish line to close Lap 44, and made the pass after just two turns on the next lap. Kovski also improved his position, finally taking third from Ranger.
Kovski passed Vaught for second on Lap 47, and the side-by-side battle between those two helped Buescher push his lead to 1.887 seconds at the scheduled halfway point of the race, Lap 50. Behind Buescher were 20 other cars on the lead lap, most notably Vaught, Ranger, Enfinger, Kovski, Frank Kimmel (No. 44 Ansell/Menards Ford), Dillon, Hagen, Will Kimmel, and Springfield dirt winner Chad McCumbee (No. 1 ModSpace Ford) in the top 10.
Buescher moved his lead past two seconds at Lap 51. Behind him several laps later, Enfinger took an exciting ride on the frontstretch, weaving quickly around a lapped car to create three-wide traffic before losing fourth place to Kovski, his usual crew chief. Buescher continued to lead, with Ranger less than one second back and Vaught in third over three seconds behind.
As Dillon moved to sixth and Buescher led Lap 56, Tyler Speer (No. 11 GDE Renovations Ford) spun on the frontstretch to produce the race's fourth caution flag. The race started again with the green flag at Lap 62, with Kovski moving past Vaught for third and Buescher keeping a 0.745-second lead over Ranger. Dillon's charge slowed slightly, as Frank Kimmel worked past him for sixth. Just behind them, Windom passed Will Kimmel for eighth.
Frank Kimmel and Dillon teamed up to pass Enfinger for fifth and sixth on Lap 65, and the trio of Windom, Will Kimmel, and McCumbee followed past. Still, ahead of them, Buescher was proving himself as the class of the field. A caution flag and a Lap 69 restart did little to harm the Texan's advantage, as he advanced his lead again to over one second by Lap 72. Dillon, meanwhile, had passed Kimmel for the fourth spot and again looked to be ready to retake the lead. He moved around Vaught for fourth on Lap 75, and was within 3.03 seconds of Buescher with 25 laps to go.
Though Dillon was moving up, Ranger and Kovski were holding their own in the second and third positions. Kovski passed Ranger for second on Lap 79, but lost some ground to Buescher in the process. With 20 laps to go, Buescher led what seemed to be a four-car runaway for the 16th race of the 19-event ARCA Racing Series season.
Though he trailed by 1.278 seconds at Lap 81, Kovski advanced by more than a second on Buescher one lap later to close the gap. Then, in a move uncharacteristic of his dominating rookie season but not unexpected given his relative inexperience in a stock car on dirt, Dillon spun out of Turn 1 on Lap 83. Amazingly, he kept his car in line and, with no damage, drove away without losing the fourth position. Ahead of him, though, Buescher, Kovski, and Ranger opened up more than seven seconds of space.
Littleton spun on Lap 86 to bring out another caution flag, therefore bunching up the field and putting Dillon back into play after his spin. ARCA Racing Series officials decided to release the green flag to start Lap 91, setting off a single-file restart as is called for with 10 or fewer laps to go in a race.
Buescher got away cleanly, and Kovski kept second. Dillon attacked Ranger for third, and was able to take it in the first green flag lap. Windom followed, sending Ranger to fifth. Dillon moved closer to Kovski at Lap 92, but he maintained his position and Buescher kept his lead again. Dillon finally did pass Kovski at Lap 94, but by then Buescher had moved his lead out to 2.211 seconds. Dillon gained slightly two laps later, but Buescher took back the lost advantage and more on Lap 97 to hold a margin of 2.743 seconds with three laps to go.
His late-race runaway was not to be, though. A multi-car incident just before Buescher drove under the white flag triggered the race's final caution flag and set up a green-white-checkered finish as series officials extended the race distance by four laps. Vaught charged hard around Kovski for third at the green flag - on the outside - but Dillon could not make up the same ground on Buescher. In a role reversal from their ongoing battle atop the overall series standings, Buescher led Dillon and would not let him drive by. He led Lap 103 by 0.742 second and drove a clean final lap to take his first win of 2011 by 0.785 second.
Vaught ended third after his impressive charge on the restart, and Kovski and Ranger filled out the top five. Frank Kimmel, McCumbee, Will Kimmel, George, and Enfinger rounded out the top 10.
The race finished in one hour, 24 minutes, and 41 seconds, at an average speed of 73.679 mph. Seven caution flags slowed the action for 32 laps.
Before the Southern Illinois 200, several racing stars highlighted a UMP Modifieds show on the fairgrounds oval. Ken Schrader edged Tony Stewart atop a 21-car field, with Matt Mevert, Shelby Miles, and Jared Kneemiller filling out the top five. The full results can be seen below, under the ARCA Racing Series boxscore.
The prestigious Bill France Four Crown Award will be decided when the ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards races at Salem Speedway on Saturday, September 17. The 200-lap, 110-mile Kentuckiana Ford Dealers ARCA Fall Classic 200 at one of ARCA's most historic tracks will start at 7:15 p.m., with a 90-minute practice starting at 1:05 and Menards Pole Qualifying presented by Ansell beginning at 4. All drivers in the starting field will participate in an autograph session from 4:45-5:15.
Chad McCumbee of Andy Belmont Racing currently leads the Bill France Four Crown standings by 50 points and needs only a top-10 finish to win the award that recognizes drivers for success on a variety of tracks in ARCA Racing Series competition.
2011 ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards Event #16 DuQuoin State Fairgrounds, DuQuoin Illinois, 9-5-11 Southern Illinois 100 presented by Federated Auto Parts September 5, 2011 / 3:56 PM FINSTRNODRIVER/HOMETOWNLAPS STATUS 1717Chris Buescher/Prosper TX104Running 2141Ty Dillon/Lewisville NC104Running 3355Will Vaught/Crane MO104Running 4239Kelly Kovski/Springfield IL104Running 51053Andrew Ranger/Roxton Pond Quebec104Running 62344Frank Kimmel/Clarksville IN104Running 791Chad McCumbee/Holden Beach NC104Running 81268Will Kimmel/Sellersburg IN104Running 91131Tim George Jr./New York NY104Running 101436Grant Enfinger/Fairhope AL104Running 111782Sean Corr/Goshen NY104Running 12625Darren Hagen/Riverside CA104Running 13532Chris Windom/West Lafayette IN104Running 14458Chad Hackenbracht/New Philadelphia OH104Running 151611Tyler Speer/Woodstock GA104Running 16857Rodney Melvin/Benton IL104Running 172028Ron Cox/Soddy Daisy TN104Running 181971Eddie Pearson/Spartanburg SC104Running 192215Joe Cooksey/Centralia IL104Running 20185Mark Littleton/Arenzville IL103Running 212765Joe Mueller/Brighton IL102Running 223223Levi Youster/Oak Harbor OH100Running 232434Darrell Basham/Henryville IN98Running 243194Mike Koch/Mountain Home AR97Running 252973Dale Shearer/Alhambra IL96Running 261352Tom Hessert/Cherry Hill NJ21Engine 272106Tom O'Leary IV/Cygnet OH16Brakes 281510A.J. Fike/Galesburg IL14Battery 293348James Hylton/Inman SC11Handling 302618Charlie Vest/Ocoee FL10Rear End 313029Rob Jones/Bowie MD9Suspnsn 323426Brad Smith/Shelby Township MI7Handling 332514Richard Harriman/Snohomish WA3Overhtng 342801Austin Rettig/Sikeston MO0Engine MENARDS POLE AWARD PRESENTED BY ANSELL: Ty Dillon 33.678 (106.895 mph) MRGN OF VICT: 0.785 seconds LAP LEADERS: Kovski 1-4, 17 (5); Hackenbracht 5-14, 16, 18-21 (15); Dillon 15, 22-37 (17); Vaught 38-44 (7);
UMP Modified Results: 1. Ken Schrader, 9X, Fenton, Mo.; 2. Tony Stewart, 14, Columbus, Ind.; 3. Matt Mevert, 22, Massachnusetts, Ill.; 4. Shelby Miles, 76, Bloomington, Ind.; 5. Jared Kneemiller, 44, St. Peters, Mo.; 6. Nic Bidinger, 15, Kearney, Mo.; 7. Jesse Snyder, X, Robinson, Ill.; 8. Tim Burdel, 14R, DuQuoin, Ill.; 9. Joe Geisler, 85G, St. Mary, Mo.; 10. Blake Cook, 9C, DuQuoin, Ill., 11. Christopher Winters, 21X, DuQuoin, Ill.; 12. Emmett Groves, 21, Charleston, Mo.; 13. Terry James, 9J, Winfield, Mo.; 14. Charles Baker, 9B, Labelle, Mo.; 15. Dennis Vandermeersch, 47C, Springfield, Ill.; 16. Tommy Scott, 4S, Springfield, Ill.; 17. Rick Weitekamp, 89W, Springfield, Ill.; 18. Steve Adams, 500, Hamboldt, Ill.; 19. Brian Shaw, 1, Robinson, Ill.; 20. Curt Rhodes, 10, Taylorville, Ill.; 21. Jonathan Rowan, 56, Jackson, Tenn.