Dirt Racers Prevail at Springfield, A.J. Fike Wins Allen Crowe 100by Kyle Pokrefky August 24, 2015 0 comments
SPRINGFIELD, Ill. — It was a great day to be a dirt driver from Illinois as two placed on the podium of the Allen Crowe 100 at the Illinois State Fairgrounds on Sunday with A.J. Fike standing tall on the top step.
Fike, 34, claimed his maiden ARCA Racing Series win with a strong performance in his No. 27 RFMS Racing Ford, leading 60 of 104 laps after coming from the back from a 25th-place starting position.
For the Galesburg, Ill. native ( who also won the weekend’s accompanying Silver Crown event), the ARCA win completes quite the special weekend. With both his Silver Crown and ARCA wins, Fike has become the sixth driver to win in both a stock car and in a sprint car at the Springfield mile with other drivers on the list including A.J. Foyt and Al Unser Sr.
“It’s real special,” Fike said. “I consider Springfield to be my home track. I’m from Galesburg, Ill. and that’s about an hour and fifteen minutes away.
“As a kid coming here with my dad and brother watching the Silver Crown races growing up watching races here and winning the Silver Crown race and now winning the ARCA race – any time you win at the Springfield mile, it’s special. To win in both series, I’m standing on cloud nine right now.”
Having to charge his way through the field from way in the back thanks to qualifying being rained out, Fike took several laps to feel out his car as limited practice time left the ARCA garage with many questions as to how the clay oval was to handle for the day.
Once he felt comfortable behind the wheel of the No. 27 Ford, Fike got to work, slicing and dicing his way through the field either under green-flag conditions or with his pit strategy while under yellow.
“I had a little bit of help with cars going to the back at the start of the race,” Fike said. “I took my time at the beginning to feel out the car. After the rain, it was hard to tell what the track was going to do. I could tell from the green that the track did what we thought it would do. The car got better as the day went on. We had made a good pit strategy there. We changed four tires and after the restart, we got the lead and we held onto it until the end.”
Coming home in third was another hometown favorite, Kelly Kovski – who earned his best career Springfield finish in his 11th start at his home track.
Finishing sixth in last year’s race in what was nearly a mirror image of this year’s race with qualifying being rained out and forcing Kovski to the rear of the field, the Springfield native said he was pleased with today’s run and believes he’s on the way to breaking through at the track next year.
“We had a great run,” Kovski said. “I wish we could have started towards the front – although everybody’s going to say that. We had to come through twice, and we basically started from the back twice. We didn’t really hurt our car getting back there – you put yourself in harms way when you do that.
“We’ll learn from it. We have a fast car, there’s no doubt about that, we’ve just got to hit it just right. We’ve got to keep coming back and keep making those right decisions and we’ve gotten better each year. I couldn’t be happier.”
Slotting into second in the finishing order between the two Illinoisans was 18-year-old Kyle Weatherman, who claimed his eighth top-five of the year in his 11th start.
Weatherman, in contrast to Fike and Kovski, entered Springfield with little dirt track experience. However, using pointers given to him by his Roush Fenway Racing development stablemate, Chris Buescher, Weatherman handled Springfield like a pro – finishing second in his track debut with 18 laps led.
The runner-up finish for the driver of the No. 22 Crosley Brands Dodge was also notable for having locked up the Bill France Four Crown title for Cunningham Motorsports.
“That was a lot of fun,” Weatherman said. “I honestly think we could have had that if the No. 16 [Kovski] wouldn’t have gotten us there, but it was racing. Congratulations to A.J., that was a good run for him. I honestly think we had one of the cars to beat. We just had a lot of track position lost on pit road there.
“Still all-in-all a good day – we won the Four Crown, gained a little points in the owners points and we finished second-place today. It was a lot of fun.”
Josh Williams, Tom Hessert and Austin Wayne Self – the respective fourth, fifth and tenth-place finishers – were able to gain ground on Grant Enfinger in the championship standings after an electrical connection in Enfinger’s No. 23 GMS Racing Chevrolet came loose early – sending the championship leader multiple laps off of the lead.
Unofficially, after his 20th-place finish, Enfinger will take a 150-point lead over Williams into Labor Day’s Southern Illinois 100 at the DuQuoin State Fairgrounds – the second and final dirt race for the 2015 ARCA Racing Series season.
Credited with finishing sixth-through-ninth at Springfield were Hunter Baize, David Levine, Ryan Unzicker and James Swanson.
Top-10 Finishers in the Allen Crowe 100
- 27 – A.J. Fike – Ford – RFMS Racing
- 22 – Kyle Weatherman – Dodge – Cunningham Motorsports
- 16 – Kelly Kovski – Chevrolet – Allgaier Motorsports
- 6 – Josh Williams – Chevrolet – Josh Williams Motorsports
- 77 – Tom Hessert – Dodge – Cunningham Motorsports
- 52 – Hunter Baize – Chevrolet – Ken Schrader Racing
- 59 – David Levine – Ford – Lira Motorsports
- 24 – Ryan Unzicker – Chevrolet – Hendren Motorsports
- 48 – James Swanson – Dodge – Hylton Motorsports
- 98 – Austin Wayne Self – Chevrolet – Mason Mitchell Motorsports
Unofficial Drivers Standings after Round 16 of 20
- 23 – Grant Enfinger – GMS Racing – 3940 | Leader
- 6 – Josh Williams – Josh Williams Motorsports – 3790 | -150
- 98 – Austin Wayne Self – Mason Mitchell Motorsports – 3760 | -180
- 77 – Tom Hessert – Cunningham Motorsports – 3745 | -195
- 59 – David Levine – Lira Motorsports – 3535 | -405
- 2 – Sarah Cornett-Ching – Hixson Motorsports – 3270 | -670
- 42 – Bo LeMastus – Crosley Sports Group – 3220 | -720
- 9 – Thomas Praytor – Max Force Racing – 3065 | -875
- 48 – James Swanson – Hylton Motorsports – 2975 | -965
- 22 – Kyle Weatherman – Cunningham Motorsports – 2480 | -1460
Photo Credit: ARCAracing.com