Springfield, Illinois waited more than 70 years to put one of their own in victory lane at the Illinois State Fairgrounds; and it finally happened compliments of hometown favorite Justin Allgaier who, after a last lap pass, made history winning the thrilling ARCA RE/MAX Series Allen Crowe 100 on the historic fairgrounds mile-dirt oval Sunday afternoon.
Not only was it Allgaier’s career-first RE/MAX Series victory, it was also the first time in 72 years of national championship racing at the central Illinois fairgrounds that a local Springfield resident graced victory lane.
And the impressive crowd, which could be heard over the roar of the engines, went wild when Allgaier, in the family-owned AG Tech-Trashman-Schluckebier Farms Pontiac, raced under Mokena, Illinois veteran Bob Strait on the final lap in turn three to gain the lead en route to the extremely emotional victory lane celebration.
“Wow, I just can’t express what it means to win here at Springfield,” said Allgaier. “We worked real hard on the
the win and spun, but I knew Gerhart had some tough luck today and if I could just finish in the top-five, then it would be a real good points day for us.”
Gibson finished third in the No. 13 Mark Gibson Racing Chevrolet and earned the Hurst Fastest Lap of the Race Award on lap five with a time of 34.539 seconds.
“Yeah, we had a real good car,” said Strait. “While I’m disappointed I didn’t bring home the win, I got to thank Lumberyard Suppliers and all the fans who showed up today to support me. The fans at Springfield are always great.”
Strait expertly kept defending race winner Kimmel at bay most of the day as the top four machines raced nose-to-tail and side-by-side from start to finish. Kimmel, who was tied with Bobby Gerhart for first place in championship points coming into Springfield, made significant ground in the chase after Gerhart fell out early with engine trouble.
“This was a good day for the Pork Racing team and a lot of fun for me,” said Kimmel, who also only pitted once. “I’m happy for Justin because this is a really big win for him with Springfield being his hometown. It was also a lot of fun to race with Bob Strait again; he’s always a lot of fun on these dirt tracks and real competitive. The Pork Ford was really good, but there with about ten laps to go, the car got pretty tight and it was harder to turn down into the corner. But once I knew that I couldn’t get the win, Bill (Kimmel) reminded me that we needed to focus on the big picture. We gave up a lot of points at Michigan when I went for
Justin Allgaier (#16) leads around the Springfield dirt oval on Sunday. (ARCA Photo)
“I’ve been waiting all year for these two dirt races,” said Gibson. “This is the car I built for DuQuoin last year knowing I’d be stepping out of the seat full time in ’06 except for Springfield and DuQuoin. To come back here and run third to Justin and Frank is just great. Congratulations to Justin, he really deserved it.”
Damon Lusk, after breaking the one-lap track record in Pork Pole Award Qualifying earlier in the day with a time of 33.402 seconds (107.778 mph), led the first 14 laps before Kimmel took control. But Kimmel forfeited his lead when he elected to pit for service on lap 22 handing the lead to Doug Keller, who led the next four circuits.
race car all day to get it adjusted and there at the end we finally got it and I made my way back through the field. We had a lot of family and friends in the stands and in the pits, which makes this win that much sweeter. This is what we needed this season. We’ve worked so hard and had so much bad luck that to get this win in our hometown is just everything. I have to thank my entire team, my family and especially my dad for all his help and support.”
Allgaier, whose engine had an audible miss all day, made five pit stops during the 100-lap, 100-mile race for tires and adjustments and fought his way back to the front continually to contend for the victory.
Series veteran Strait, who pitted just once for fuel only, led 42 laps in Bill Hendren’s Lumberyard Suppliers Ford and was poised for what would have been a career-first Springfield victory before Allgaier made his move. Veterans’ Frank Kimmel and Mark Gibson followed Allgaier to the checkers in second and third respectively after Strait got loose coming off the final corner trying to chase down Allgaier. Strait settled for fourth with Centralia, Illinois driver Joe Cooksey trailing in fifth.
Allgaier celebrates his first ARCA win. (James MacDonald photo)
It was a tough day on some drivers, like young Ryan Foster. (MacDonald photo)
Then Galesburg, Illinois driver AJ Fike, who had already pitted, asserted himself up front and led 31 laps before Strait steered his way into the top-spot on lap 58. Fike was running second directly behind Strait with less than 10 laps to go when his car came to a stop in turn four under yellow and out of gas. The costly error relegated Fike to the 18th finishing position.
Keller finished sixth ahead of Norm Benning, who from the 20th position, finished a season-best seventh earning the Hoosier Hard Charger honors. Lusk, Billy Venturini and Mike Harmon rounded out the top-10 respectively.
In addition to his win, Allgaier was the highest-finishing rookie. His crew chief, Larry Moore, earned the SK Hand Tool Crew Chief of the Race honors. Allgaier’s victory made him the 14th different ARCA RE/MAX Series winner in 16 events this season. He is also the 9th first-time series winner in 2006.
Through it all, 18 drivers finished on the lead lap during one of the most competitive stock car events ever held at Springfield.
The ARCA RE/MAX Series heads next to the Milwaukee Mile in West Allis, Wisconsin for the Governor’s Cup 200 Sunday afternoon, August 27th.