JOLIET, Ill. — Story by Race Chaser Online Associate Editor Kyle Magda — ARCA photo —
The ARCA Racing Series will make its 15th trip to the 1.5 mile Chicagoland Speedway on Father’s Day Weekend. For the last four years, ARCA has run in conjunction with the NASCAR XFINITY Series, and before that with the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series.
Since the track just south of Chicago opened in 2001, no single ARCA winner has been able to repeat there. Ed Berrier took the checkered flag in the inaugural 200-mile race in 2001, driving for the late Cavin Councilor. Berrier was a NASCAR Busch (now XFINITY) Series winner in 1998 at Hickory Motor Speedway. The Chicagoland victory was also the lone ARCA Series win for the North Carolina driver.
First-time winners are nothing new at the Illinois track, as six drivers have picked up their first-career series win at Chicagoland. Former Hendrick Motorsports development driver Kyle Krisiloff survived a crash-fest for his only ARCA win in 2004 there. The first-time winner streak continued into 2005, with Dawayne Bryan scoring a victory in his No. 65 Dodge.
For as many new faces who have visited the Chicagoland Speedway, a race has also served as a gateway to a championship for several drivers. Frank Kimmel was the first to do so in 2003, en route to his fifth [and fourth consecutive] ARCA title.
Current ARCA Series driver Grant Enfinger came up close in the 2009 Ansell Protective Gloves 150, as he had a good long-run car in his family-owned No. 83 Ford. A late restart bunched up the field and turned out to be a bad break for 19-year-old Parker Kligerman, who was battling Justin Lofton for the win and ARCA crown. Kligerman ran out of gas while running second, coming to the final restart and wound up finishing 17th. Had the fuel lived in the No. 77 Dodge, the Westport, Conn. driver may have been hoisting the trophy at season’s end. Instead, Kligerman missed out on the championship by five points to Lofton, who won that Chicago race as well.
Patrick Sheltra put on a dominant Chicagoland performance in 2010, leading 85 of the 100 laps on the night. The next year, Chad Hackenbracht appeared to be running away with the race and, at one point, had an eight-second lead on second-place Ty Dillon. The No. 58 team was fastest in practice and Hackenbracht’s first-career win was in sight. On lap 84, the right-front tire failed and ended any chance of victory for Hackenbracht. Dillon inherited the lead and took the win, after graduating from high school a day earlier. He would go on to win the 2011 title over Chris Buescher. From 2009 to 2011, the series champion won at Chicagoland.
Chicagoland is a home game for Venturini Motorsports, with the family originally being from the state of Illinois. The Venturinis had a reason to smile in 2008 when Scott Lagasse Jr. stepped into their flagship No. 25 car and drove home to victory for the team’s first win there. He edged out current NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Ricky Stenhouse Jr. for his second career win.
From 2012 on, a fresh, new face arrived at the checkered flag first in the Windy City. Renowned dirt-track driver Kevin Swindell led flag-to-flag to capture his first career win in a special Venturini Motorsports 30th anniversary car. Lagasse’s win in 2008 was special, but the Venturinis picked up a 1-2 finish, with current NXS driver Brennan Poole bringing home the No. 25 second after starting in the rear of the field. Alongside the exception of Mark Thompson suspension issue, the four other Venturini cars ran inside the top-five for most of the race. Seventh-place finisher Nelson Canache ran as high as second before fading late and Ryan Reed picked up his best-career series finish to date with a fifth in his No. 15 Ford.
A Ford was only parked once in Chicagoland’s victory lane in 2003 with Kimmel, but that all changed 10 years later. Corey LaJoie made his second series start in the No. 17 Ford for the Roulo Brothers and battled with Ryan Blaney all race long. Blaney ran the race to gain track time prior to the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race held there in September. Blaney’s team decided to stretch the fuel in the No. 22, but the gamble didn’t pay off, as the fuel tank ran dry with six laps to go.
Two drivers were still out on track to try to out-fox the rest of the field. Justin Boston and Josh Williams didn’t win a single race up to that point, as either driver was on the brink of victory lane. The No. 25 of Boston ran out of fuel while coming to the white flag, while Williams was still on the track. In the process, LaJoie got around Williams for second, which happened to be the pass for the win. LaJoie celebrated the victory with his father, Randy, in winner’s circle.
The blue-oval guys weren’t done just yet with winning at Chicagoland. In 2014, Spencer Gallagher led a chunk of laps before being passed by Boston on a restart with just under 30 laps to go. Boston appeared to be on redemption, but had a hard-charging Matt Tifft coming in the closing laps. The race’s final caution came out and Mason Mitchell drove like a man possessed in the final laps.
Mitchell ran the high line in his No. 98 Ford and stormed to the outside of Boston for the lead. After finishing second four times prior in the 2014 season, the Des Moines, Iowa driver finally sealed the deal for his first series win. It was the only win on the season, but it was all that was needed to propel Mitchell to the 2014 championship, in his first season as a driver/owner.
There are some names in this Saturday’s SCOTT 150 that are capable of getting their first career-series win. Daniel Suarez, Josh Williams, Matt Tifft and Cody Coughlin are only a few drivers who can add their name to the list of the 14 ARCA winners at Chicagoland Speedway.
Who will it be? Find out Saturday evening at 7 p.m. Eastern time on FOX Sports 2.