Grant Enfinger claims he’s not a dirt track racer, but he could have fooled everyone today. Enfinger, in the No. 90 Motor Honey-Casite-Allegiant Travel Chevrolet, led 63 of 100 laps en route to Victory Lane in the 61st running of the Southern Illinois 100 presented by Federated Car Care at the DuQuoin State Fairgrounds mile dirt Monday afternoon.
Enfinger out-dueled Justin Boston on the final double-file restart and then held him off over the final 10 laps to secure his first win on dirt and sixth ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards victory of the season.
“I screwed up on that second-to-last restart; I was bound and determined to do to him (Boston) what he did to me,” Enfinger said.
Enfinger was referring to a restart just prior to the final one during which the eventual winner, who was leading at the time, chose the inside front row starting position, giving up the high-side to Boston. However, Boston got the better jump from the outside and beat Enfinger into turn one.
“Justin Boston did his job. These double file restarts are tough. I spun the tires and he beat me in.”
However, Enfinger got a break when the caution flag flew again soon after for a crash in turn three. As the leaders came back to green, Boston was, by choice, now positioned on the inside for the restart. As the green flag was unfurled, Enfinger got a better bite from the outside and beat Boston to the corner.
“If I could do it over again, I would have taken the outside,” Boston said. “But on these short tracks, it’s usually the inside that works the best on the restarts. I beat him (Enfinger) on the first one, but then he beat me.”
Boston, in the No. 25 ZLOOP Toyota, still finished second, about three lengths away. It was his career-best finish on dirt.
“I’m definitely happy with it,” Boston continued. “Every time you come to a dirt track, you never know what you’re going to get, especially the way the tracks are always changing. But my Venturini Motorsports crew made all the right adjustments and did a great job keeping up with the track.”
Five-time Southern Illinois 100 winner Frank Kimmel, in the No. 44 Ansell-Menards Toyota, was within striking distance of Boston and finished a close third.
“We fought some things all day; we had some issues with it shutting off,” Kimmel said. “It happened three times, and I had to switch boxes, but, overall, a really solid day for the Win-Tron team. Mark (Rette/Crew Chief) made a great adjustment right before that last restart and it made the car so it would get up off the turn. Right after that last restart, I think we got it to where we were as good as anyone out there.”
Mason Mitchell, in the No. 98 Musselman’s-Wildlife Foundation of Florida-TTS Ford, finished fourth after leading the first 26 laps from the pole, his fifth Menards Pole presented by Ansell this year. However, with Enfinger parked in Victory Lane, Mitchell lost ground in the championship chase.
“Obviously, we wanted to do a little better,” said Mitchell, who leads Enfinger by 20 points. “But more than anything, we just wanted to survive these two dirt races and get out of there in decent shape, and I think we accomplished that. We only lost five points to Grant, so we’ll just keep digging. I’m really excited about these two intermediate tracks left and Salem with the new paving around three and four.”
Mitchell is headed straight to Kansas Speedway from DuQuoin for the ARCA open test at Kansas Wednesday.
Brennan Poole, in the No. 55 The Identical Movie Toyota, finished fifth ahead of Ken Schrader in sixth. Ryan Unzicker, Tom Hessert, Kyle Weatherman and Austin Wayne Self completed the top-10 finishers, respectively.
Outside of the early muscle Mitchell showed, once Enfinger cleared the former leader, he seemed to be able to pull away at will, and did for most of the race. Outside of the majority of laps led by Enfinger and Mitchell, Schrader led five and Boston led six. Regardless, once Enfinger got up into the lead, he was hard to catch.
“I don’t think we were any better than anyone else getting in or out of the corners, but I do think we were better than most in the center,” Enfinger added. “I really feel like our advantage at most places is through the center; it’s where we work the hardest at tuning the car.
“It took me a few laps to get my rhythm but once I began to figure things out, I started driving it harder and gaining on those guys. Then once I got a little distance, I felt like I could be more consistent. As a whole, we really weren’t conserving much. We didn’t back into this one; I think we earned it.”
Enfinger, by virtue of his victory, also earned the Bill France Four Crown championship for the 2014 season.
“Yah, that’s amazing. I’ve seen that list…there are a lot of my heroes on that list; I couldn’t begin to name them all, but what an honor to be the Bill France Four Crown champion. One more title to go.”
Enfinger will have his next opportunity to go after Mitchell for the 2014 championship at Salem Speedway Saturday night under the lights, September 13. From the Salem short track, the series wraps up its 62nd season at Kentucky Speedway September 19 and Kansas October 3.
– ARCA Racing press release and photo