Dakoda Armstrong weaved his way through heavy traffic late in the Kentuckiana Ford Dealers ARCA Fall Classic 200 at Salem Speedway, holding off Joey Coulter all the way through the final laps to secure his second victory in ARCA Racing Series presented by RE/MAX and Menards competition. Armstrong, a native of Indianapolis suburb New Castle, became the third driver with multiple wins in 2010, and the first to win in his home state this season.
The 19-year-old Armstrong (No. 22 Ferrellgas/Syngenta Seeds Dodge) finished 0.831 second ahead of Coulter (No. 16 Rip It Energy Fuel/Darrell Gwynn Foundation/Tempest Cycles Chevrolet) to match his result at Talladega Superspeedway in April.
"We needed the win. We had that good win at Talladega, but had a little bad spree here and we were looking for some good luck. We needed to boost our morale a little bit, and I think this probably boosted our teammate's morale, now that he's leading the points," Armstrong said.
Indeed, Tom Hessert (No. 77 Cherry Hill Classic Cars Dodge), Armstrong's Cunningham Motorsports teammate, finished third to take the ARCA Racing Series points lead by 10 over Patrick Sheltra (No. 60 PatrickSheltra.com/Ferguson Pipe Dodge), who finished sixth. Two races remain on the series schedule.
"We had to settle for third, but it was good enough to take the points lead," Hessert said. "Anything can happen with two races to go, but it's good to be on top.
Craig Goess (No. 81 Greenville Toyota of N.C. Toyota), who entered the race first in points after winning the Menards Pole Award presented by Ansell, fell to third in the standings after finishing 13th. Goess led the first 34 laps but suffered a broken throttle cable and initially fell 12 laps off the pace. He trails Hessert's lead by 30 points.
Hessert would lead the next 74 laps. He built a lead of over five seconds before the race's first caution came at Lap 52, when Todd Bowsher crashed in Turn 2. Sheltra and Justin Marks (No. 32 Construct Corps Dodge) pursued Hessert after the ensuing green flag, but Hessert pulled away and led by 4.807 seconds after 100 laps, the race's halfway point.
Hessert's race lead was not to be, as Jerick Johnson struck the Turn 2 wall on Lap 106 to bring out the race's second caution period. Armstrong, who had started seventh and fallen back as low as 10th, had improved to second with passes of fourth-place Frank Kimmel on Lap 99, Marks on Lap 101, and Sheltra on Lap 105. Just over four seconds behind his teammate, Armstrong was ready to lead.
Marks led off of pit road, but Armstrong stole the advantage right away when the green flag flew on Lap 113. Armstrong opened a lead of more than two seconds on Hessert by Lap 117. Coulter then battled Hessert side-by-side for the second position, and passed him on Lap 122. By the conclusion of that lap, Armstrong had opened a lead of 3.465 seconds.
Following the race's final caution less than five laps later, Coulter moved a wheel inside of Armstrong on Lap 134 to edge within one tenth of a second, and the two drivers and Hessert created a three-car breakway, with Sheltra leading a pack of eight cars from fourth place.
Coulter continued to pursue Armstrong down the stretch, and Armstrong was only truly threatened with 10 laps to go when approaching the cars of Sheltra and Marks, then in fifth and sixth place and on the tail end of the lead lap. Armstrong made the race's decisive move in the second turn of Lap 196, when he passed Sheltra and left Coulter behind. By the time Coulter could get by Sheltra, Armstrong had extended his lead from 0.152 second to 0.926 second in a single lap.
"I knew those guys weren't going to move out of the way, and it was going to be hard to keep Coulter behind me if I couldn't get around them. I just put enough space on him so he couldn't get me in the final laps," Armstrong said. "It was a great race, and I can't say enough about these Cunningham guys."
Armstrong said that Coulter pursued him fiercely, but fairly, in the final laps.
"It was a great race. Coulter was putting it on me the whole time. He had a really quick car. I was a little better, I think, in (Turns) 1 and 2, just enough to stay in front of him," Armstrong said.
Coulter's second-place finish was his fourth of the season, and was reminiscent of another short track runner-up finish, at Toledo in May, when he threatened Chris Buescher in a chase to the checkered flag.
"We had a great race and just ran out of forward bite there at the end," said Coulter. "We got in a couple sideways situations that really made that right rear tire bad. It wasn't there for me at the end of the race. That was a lot of fun, a lot of good, clean racing. I wish it was me over there (in Victory Lane) and (Armstrong) over here, but it was fun to race that hard with somebody and not get anything torn up."
Mikey Kile (No. 25 Venturini Motorsports Toyota) was fourth as the last driver on the lead lap, and Marks (No. 32 Construct Corps Dodge) drove to a fifth-place finish after completing 199 laps.
Sheltra, Bryan Silas, Chad McCumbee, Kimmel, and Robb Brent comprised the remainder of the top 10. Three caution periods slowed the race for a total of 19 laps. The race finished in one hour and 16 minutes, at an average speed of 87.630 mph, a new race record. The previous record at Salem Speedway was held by race winner Les Snow in 1968 (87.630 mph).
The ARCA Racing Series presented by RE/MAX and Menards visits Kansas Speedway on Thursday, September 30 for the 19th of 20 races this season. The 100-lap, 150-mile Kansas Lottery 150 airs live on SPEED at 4 p.m. Central (5 p.m. Eastern), with live timing and scoring and live audio coverage presented by ARCA Nation and the ARCA Racing Network at ARCARacing.com.
The ARCA Racing Series presented by RE/MAX and Menards features 20 events at 17 tracks on its 2010 schedule. The series has crowned an ARCA national champion each year since its inaugural season in 1953, and has toured over 200 racetracks in 28 states since its inception. The series tests the abilities of drivers and race teams over the most diverse schedule of stock car racing events in the world, annually visiting tracks ranging from 0.4 mile to 2.66 miles in length, on both paved and dirt surfaces as well as left- and right-turn street and road courses.
Founded by John Marcum in 1953 in Toledo, Ohio, the Automobile Racing Club of America (ARCA) is recognized among the leading sanctioning bodies in the country. Closing in on completing its sixth decade after hundreds of thousands of miles of racing, ARCA administers over 100 race events each season in two professional touring series and local weekly events.