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Ty Dillon & Others Score in Lucas Oil Raceway Triple Header
Author: Mark W. Theisen
Image Courtesy of Indy Star
Image Courtesy of Indy Star
July 30th 2011 - By:  Mark W. Theisen

     CLERMONT, INDIANA July 28, 2011:    The annual Kroger Speed Fest at Lucas Oil Raceway Park opened tonight with it’s first ever Triple-Header program featuring the stock cars from the Automobile Racing Club of America and the Silver Crown and Midget cars from the United States Auto Club with each series running a feature race for there cars.
     New to the Speed Fest this year was the ARCA race and the traveling series from Ohio did not disappoint with a star studded field of veterans and promising rookies encompassing the 46 cars that competed for the 35 starting berths in the starting field and it was Ty Dillon driving for his grandfather, Richard Childress in a car co-owned by Ron Hemelgarn, a veteran Indy Car owner, capturing the pole for the 200 lap race the first time since 1985 that the series had raced at the tight 5/8 mile track.
     Kyle Larsen of Elk Grove, California won the pole for the USAC midget 30 lap race while Tracy Hines took the pole for the 100 lap Silver Crown.
     Dillon, the current series point leader with 5 wins under his belt, was making his first ever start at Lucas Oil Raceway but he certainly did not look like a rookie as he took off from fellow front row starting driver Ryan Blaney, son of veteran open wheel and stock car driver Dave and paced the early laps of the race while being pursued by James Buescher, Chad McCumbee and Casey Roderick.
     As the first set of tires wore on Dillon’s car he was overhauled by both Blaney and Buescher on the 31st lap and was in third when the first caution flag of the race was waived on lap on lap 34 as Benny Chastain spun in turn one.
     The top four cars did not elect to pit at this point in the race but several did behind them setting up a strategy that they hoped would work to their advantage later in the race but that quickly went out the window when the cautions began to flow on a regular basis soon after.
     Lap 60 saw Chastain spin again this time collecting Kenzie Ruston in the process.  This time Dillon with the handling on his car quickly leaving him and Buescher elected to pit leaving only Blaney as the only car on the track not to have made a pit stop.
     The green flag came out on lap 66 with McCumbee, Grant Enfinger, Tom Hessart and Chad Hackenbracht following Blaney with the freshly shod cars of Buescher and Dillon ready to make their march to the front.  Buescher, making his first start at Lucas Oil Raceway to gain experience on the track for his NASCAR races tomorrow and Saturday at the track beat Dillon out of the pits following their stops.
     With cautions following on lap 69 and lap 79 both Buescher and Dillon had their march toward the front made easier and on the restart lap 84 the pair was poised to make their move.
     On the 99th lap Buescher made the move low entering the third turn and sped past Blaney’s machine as the caution flew for the 5 time as Brett Hudson spun in the fourth turn.
     This time Blaney was summoned to his pits and returned to the fray in 9th place as the race resumed on lap 104.
      With fresher tires than those in front on him Blaney was able to pass cars as Buescher and Dillon waged their own battle for the lead in front of him.
      Lap 116 saw the field bunched again for the 6th caution but on the restart Hackenbracht ran into Tim George, lifting his wheels off the track.  Jared Marks struck George and Joey Coulter spun to avoid the other errant cars as the red flag came out to all the damaged cars from the front stretch.
    The red flag lasted over nine minutes and position Buescher, Dillon and Blaney next to each other on the restart and Dillon wasted little time in letting Buescher know he was right behind him.  The three battled for the next three laps before Dillon and Blaney backed off somewhat to allow their tires to cool for their next assault on the leader.
     Milka Duno spun for the race’s 8th caution on lap 148 which sent the front running cars into the pits for their final fuel, tire and chassis adjustment of the race and after the stops it was Dakoda Armstrong, Hessert, Josh Williams and Ryan Glenski in the top four spots having made their stops just prior to the red flag.
     Buescher, Dillon, McCumbee and Blaney were right behind on the restart but it was Armstrong who put on the show for the next 15 laps holding the faster cars behind him as he held tight to the preferred, top groove on the track but as his tires began to wear it was clear that he would have a tough time holding on to the lead.
    On lap 165 Dillon made his move as Armstrong slid high on the track with Buescher right behind him opening up the low groove and he sped to the lead he would not relinquish the rest of the race although he would have to endure a green-white-checkered flag finish after a caution on lap 196 wiped out his nearly two second lead and allowed Blaney, who passed Buescher for second on lap 18 to make one last shot at a victory.
     Dillon was up to the test as the top five positions did not change as a result of the late race caution and “over-time” with Dillon edging Blaney with Buescher and Armstrong right behind.  Hessert rounded out the top five.
     Dillon credited the history that his Richard Childress Racing team has at Lucas Oil Raceway Park with his win tonight.  “They gave me a fast car right off the truck,” said Dillon, fast becoming racings newest young superstar.  “They knew the set up that would be best and it was up to me to make it go.  It is great to get a win in Indy with all the tradition here and in the state, it is way cool.”
      When asked as to how he has been so successful since coming into ARCA and winning at tracks he has never raced on before, Dillon said.  “It is a combination of my team and the simulator games that are available now.  In some cases I have logged thousands of laps on the games before getting to the track.  Those games are so realistic that they give each and every nuance of the track and I can get familiar with them.  In the case of Lucas Oil Raceway which is not on the simulator, I have to fall back on my team and their experience.  It is a dynamic combination.”
     Dillon continued that it all has become a game of patience.  “I am eager to learn and know that I have the best of people and equipment behind me so it is all up to me to be patient and learn and use all that to help me win.”
     Blaney said his biggest downfall tonight was his inexperience in long races especially on hot nights.  “I am gassed,” said a very tired looking Blaney.  “I thought I took enough fluid all day long to prepare for this but I guess not.  I really felt that I had as good a car a Ty (Dillon) but I just could not deal with the heat at the end.  To finish second in my second ARCA start on such a hot night is still great but I just have to work on endurance.”
     Blaney, also making his first stock car start at Lucas Oil Raceway, was also competing in his first race of 200 laps or more as it resulted.  “It will be a learning experience for sure,” said Blaney as his father handed him more water and a cold towel. “It was fun to be competitive tonight but disappointing in that I became dehydrated at the end.”
     For Buescher it was “mission accomplished” after finishing third in his first effort at the track as well.  “Our team is building and learning,” said Buescher, who competes in NASCAR’s Camping World Truck Series and the Nationwide Stock Car series this year and will race at Lucas Oil Raceway each of the following two nights.  
     “I never raced here so when ARCA announced its race here we chose to build a car and compete just to gain experience with the track and to come in and then finish 3rd is just a delight.  I learned a lot tonight and already have given my truck crew some set up suggestions for tomorrow night.”
    ARCA’s next race is at Pocono next weekend but will be at Madison International Speedway in Oregon, Wisconsin on August 26th.
     Darren Hagen paced the first 5 laps of the USAC midget feature before being passed by Bryan Clauson on lap 6 but it was Larson who came roaring by Clauson on lap 7 to take the lead that he would not surrender the rest of the distance in a race that went flag to flag.  Hagen finished second followed by Tracy Hines, Adam Kramer and Kody Swanson.
     It was Swanson, recovered from injuries sustained earlier this year in a midget race coming back to pas Levi Jones on lap 19 to win the 100 lap J.D. Byrider USAC Silver Crown race that concluded the triple-header evening tonight.
     Tracy Hines, Tanner Swanson, Jones and Bobby Santros III rounded out the top five as Tanner Swanson emerged from the night now tied with Jerry Coons Jr. for the series point lead.
     ARCA is poised to return in stronger fashion next year at Lucas Oil Raceway as NASCAR has elected to move’s its Nationwide to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway next year while the track has elected not top bring back the Camping World series on the here own so next year’s Kroger Speed Fest will take on a totally new look with ARCA and USAC leading and who knows what else may be added.