AJ Fike had only run six ARCA Racing Series events in 2015 prior to Sunday’s 100-lap showdown on the dirt of the big one-mile oval in Springfield, Illinois. He had only led three laps total. On Sunday he led a more than just three laps, but more importantly he led the one that mattered most and scored one of the biggest wins of his career.
“This is amazing,” an emotional Fike said on the CBS Sports Network broadcast. “I’m still kind of in a daze. I can’t believe we won. This car was amazing.”
Fike hails from nearby Galesburg, Illinois, and has scored one win at the Illinois State Fairgrounds oval in a USAC Silver Crown car. Now he’s a winner in a full-size stock car as well.
While he dominated much of the race, the win certainly didn’t come easy. Fike had to deal with a bunch of late restarts, and a green-white-checkered finish after ARCA legend Frank Kimmel crashed with about three laps to go.
Fike restarted with Josh Williams to his outside, but Williams couldn’t make good on his last chance at the Sunday win. He faded back to fourth as Kyle Weatherman and Kelly Kovski got by.
But it was all Fike up front as it had been most of the day. He rocketed away from Williams and the rest of the field, leaving them all in his mud without looking back to take down the win, his first ever in ARCA competition.
“I didn’t really want those restarts at the end because I had nice a straightaway lead,” said Fike. “But I wasn’t looking in the mirror at the end. My spotter, Andy Hillenburg, told me not to.”
Weatherman gained one spot on the late restart to finish second. Kovski, Williams and Tom Hessert completed the top five.
The ARCA Racing Series will bolt the dirt tires back on when they take to the race track for their next race at the DuQuoin State Fairgrounds on September 7.
-By Rob Blount, Speed51.com Northeast Editor – Twitter: @RobBlount
-Photo Credit: ARCA Racing Series