With only four races left this season, Ty Gibbs has his largest points lead of the season at 11 points.
This weekend’s Southern Illinois 100 is the second and final ARCA Menards Series race on a dirt track this year. For Gibbs’ championship competitor Corey Heim, the race at the DuQuoin State Fairgrounds feels like a prime opportunity to reduce Gibbs’ lead.
Gibbs has paced the field though, already clinching the most laps led this season along with a series-high nine victories. Additionally, he led every lap en route to winning the series’ most recent race at the Milwaukee Mile.
However, Gibbs has never competed at DuQuoin.
Gibbs’ three ARCA dirt track races have all been at the Illinois State Fairgrounds, with one top five, a second place this year, plus two top 10s.
“I really do enjoy dirt,” Gibbs told Racing News Now post-race at Milwaukee. “I just feel like we were a little bit off last time. I think we found some stuff that’s going to help us. The dirt races are hard, more of a speed race. I want to win every race I enter. But just try to get through and not lose and just try to do the best I can.
“It’s hard,” Gibbs continued. “It’s slick and when it rubbers over, it’s just super dusty. It’s a different type of race. My goal definitely is to win but just finish the best I can.”
In the earlier dirt race at Springfield this year, Heim won after leading a race-high 86 of the 100 laps. He has four top 10s in his four ARCA dirt starts, including a third-place finish in the last ARCA race at DuQuoin in 2019.
“The Venturini [Motorsports] guys have always been good at the dirt stuff the last couple of years,” Heim told Racing News Now. “Of the two we’ve done, we’ve had a lot of speed in the dirt stuff. I went there in 2019 and had a pretty good run, finished third there. Going back there with those guys, it’s going to be really exciting, I’m looking forward to it.”
Other than the race at Berlin Raceway, Gibbs and Heim have combined to win all the ARCA races this year.
Love led three laps in his first ARCA dirt race at Springfield this year and finished third.
P5 today on the dirt at Springfield. Qualified 3rd and got up to second. Made mistakes at the end that cost us a better finish. I’ll clean my part up for the next one 🏁
— jesse love jr (@jesselovejr1) August 22, 2021
Gray will drive the No. 46 for the second time this season, replacing Thad Moffitt who will not compete this weekend.
Gray has made two starts at Springfield, though none at DuQuoin. He has finishes of fourth and third at Springfield. He led 11 laps this year in that dirt race.
Gray has an average finishing position of fifth this year in his ARCA starts. It seemingly feels like it is a matter of when he breaks through for his first victory rather than questioning if he will achieve that.
Breidinger tied her career-best finish of ninth place at the Springfield race and she is aiming to better that finish at DuQuoin in her second dirt start.
“For my next race, another dirt race, a top five would be really cool,” she told Females in Motorsport. “I just achieved a top-10 finish so I feel like that’s the next step.”
In addition to those drivers, two dirt ringers will be in contention for the Southern Illinois 100 win.
Three-time DuQuoin winner Ken Schrader will make his first ARCA start since the 2019 DuQuoin race.
— Seth Eggert (@SethEggert91) August 22, 2021
Piloting the No. 10 Toyota for long-time team owner Andy Hillenburg, Schrader will make his 16th start at DuQuoin. Of his 15 starts to date, he only has one finish outside of the top 10, a 34th-place finish in 2005.
Ryan Unzicker‘s Springfield race this year ended prematurely due to a blown engine, but he is still a dirt track wheelman. He won the 2020 ARCA race at Springfield, and he has made all but one career start on the dirt tracks. At DuQuoin, Unzicker has two top fives, with a best finish of fourth in the 2017 race, and seven top 10s.
Of the drivers currently in the top 10 in ARCA points, only six will be competing at DuQuoin. Thus, for underdogs Brad Smith, Zachary Tinkle, and Ron Vandermeir Jr., this race is an opportunity for them to score their respective first top 10s of this season.
Qualifying will be important in deciding the DuQuoin winner. Parker Kligerman was the last driver to win after starting outside the top 10, in 34th place. More impressively, Chris Buescher was the last victor to win after starting outside the top five; he started seventh in the 2007 race.
The Southern Illinois 100 also will have scheduled breaks at laps 35 and 70.
The 100-lap race at this 1-mile dirt track in DuQuoin, IL will take place this Sunday, September 5 at 9 p.m. ET with TV coverage provided by MAVTV and available on TrackPass on NBC Sports Gold.
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