Ty Dillon has a flair for the dramatic, and put that quality to good use Friday at Michigan International Speedway, passing Max Gresham just after a Lap 100 restart and holding off Gresham's late challenge to win the RainEater Wiper Blades 200.
The win was Dillon's fourth of 2011 and his sixth in 11 career starts in the ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards, continuing a dominant streak.
Gresham had taken the lead at Lap 96 when Cale Gale (No. 33 Rheem Chevrolet) blew a tire in Turn 2 to fall out of contention in a race he seemed destined to win after leading 64 laps. Gale, driving for Kevin Harvick, Inc., had increased his lead to nearly five seconds only laps before losing his right front tire and smacking the outside retaining wall.
Gresham (No. 25 Venturini Motorsports/Live Oak Plantation Toyota) led the field to the green flag on Lap 100, but Dillon (No. 41 SKF Chevrolet) passed him on the inside and held off Gresham's inside dash to the checkered flag nearly two miles later to give Richard Childress Racing a fifth win in eight ARCA Racing Series events this season.
"It's awesome to win at Michigan for Chevy," said Dillon. "The car was a rocket ship all day. Clean air meant so much, and from that very first restart, I thought we were going to be able to get out front and lead some laps, but Cale was really strong all day. I hate that his race ended that way, but that's the second time I've happened to be second or third when the leader blows a tire. I've just learned to stay patient in these races and not get down on myself and keep fighting. You never know what can happen."
Dillon won at Chicagoland Speedway 13 days ago when Chad Hackenbracht (No. 58 Tastee Apple Chevrolet) blew a tire and lost a nine-second lead over the field. Dillon's last-lap victory was not his first, either; he passed Frank Kimmel (No. 44 Ansell/Menards Ford) just before the start/finish line to win at Talladega Superspeedway in April.
Gale, who had won the Menards Pole Award presented by Ansell earlier in the day by charging to an ARCA track qualifying record at 189.623 mph, built a lead of 6.809 seconds through the first 30 laps, including two caution periods, losing the top spot only when Dillon beat him off of pit road on Lap 32. Though Dillon had previously lost ground to Gale nearly every lap, clean air at the front of the field helped him to increase his advantage on Gale to well over a second after a restart on Lap 37.
Hal Martin (No. 55 NOLA Motorsports Park/U.S. Forensic Toyota) blew a tire on Lap 41, bringing out the race's third caution. Dillon held the lead after the Lap 47 restart, but pitted when Tom Hessert crashed on Lap 52 and collected Maryeve Dufault. Dillon only took fuel, giving Gale the lead and Gresham - who had consistently run in the top five - the second position. Kimmel followed in third, with Hackenbracht and Tim George Jr. (No. 31 Potomac Family Dining Group/Applebee's Chevrolet) behind him. Dillon came out eighth on the Lap 57 restart and moved up two positions within a lap.
Gale bolted away and created some space between himself and Gresham, and Dillon worked his way into fourth place by Lap 62. With team owner and NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Kevin Harvick on his radio instructing him to drive the high line, Gale held his advantage on Gresham as Hackenbracht led Dillon and George in a battle for third.
Another caution flag flew several laps later, as Clay Rogers and Robb Brent collided on Lap 66. Bryan Silas assumed the race lead by not pitting, with Joey Coulter, Josh Richards, and Bobby Gerhart behind him. Hackenbracht beat Gale and Dillon out of the pits for the fifth position.
Coulter attacked to the outside of Silas, but Silas maintained the lead and held it for six laps until another crash on Lap 73, involving Rick Clifton and Benny Chastain. It was then that Coulter took the lead, and he held it through a Lap 77 restart - but only until a furious charge came from Gale, who had already improved to fifth during the caution period and then maneuvered into the lead by the completion of the first green flag lap.
Hackenbracht, Coulter, and Dillon fought for second behind Gale, allowing him to stretch his lead to more than three seconds by Lap 81. George, who had run fifth, passed Coulter for fourth on Lap 82, and Dillon passed Hackenbracht for second two laps later. With 15 laps to go, Dillon trailed Gale by 3.41 seconds.
Gresham had been 10th upon the Lap 77 restart, but was making a move of his own. Consistently charted as the fastest car on the track by at least one or two miles per hour, Gresham cruised into third place by Lap 87 when George got caught behind a lapped car while trying to pass Hackenbracht for the position. George eventually made his pass for fourth place on Lap 91, and by then, Gale had extended his lead on Dillon to 4.885 seconds. Dillon would quickly lose second, though, as Gresham beat him in the fourth turn on Lap 92 to come out 4.5 seconds behind Gale with eight laps to go.
Gale's tire blew on Lap 96, though, and Gresham took the lead and looked primed for his second win in seven ARCA starts with the fastest car on the track. Dillon's crafty move on Lap 100, though, spelled out the finish, sending him to a 0.118-second win over Gresham and delivering Richard Childress Racing to Victory Lane yet again.
George finished third - his fourth top-five in five starts - and Hackenbracht earned another career high, his fourth in five races, by finishing fourth. Chris Buescher (No. 17 Reliance Tool/David Ragan Fan Club Ford), who had run in the top three early but fell out of the top 10 with a flat right front tire, steadily improved throughout the race and finished fifth.
Silas (No. 6 Weaver Media Toyota) finished sixth, an improvement of 15 spots from the start of the race. Coulter (No. 16 Rip It Energy Fuel Chevrolet) ended the race seventh, Chad McCumbee (No. 1 ModSpace Ford) was eighth, Kimmel finished ninth, and Richards (No. 15 Detroit Salt Company/P&H Mining Equipment Toyota) rounded out the top 10.
In addition to Gale's lap-leading haul, Dillon led 22 laps, Silas led six, and Coulter and Gresham each led four. The race was slowed by seven cautions for 39 laps, and ended with an average speed of 117.359 mph after one hour, 42 minutes, and 15 seconds.
The ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards returns to action Saturday, June 25 in the Winchester ARCA 200 presented by Federated Auto Parts at Winchester Speedway in Indiana. The event is scheduled as the ninth of 19 on the 2011 ARCA Racing Series schedule; the ARCA Truck Series will join the ARCA Racing Series at the track.
ARCA Racing Series practice begins at 1:45 p.m., and will last for 90 minutes. Menards Pole Qualifying presented by Ansell begins at 4:45 p.m., and the 200-lap, 100-mile race will take place at 8 p.m. ARCARacing.com will feature live timing and scoring coverage of all events.