TOLEDO, Ohio – With two miles to go in the Allen Crowe 100 at the Illinois State Fairgrounds, it looked like Corey Heim was sitting pretty.
He was in second place, right alongside leader Michael Self as the field was readying for a two-lap dash to the checkered flag. When the green waved, Self took off and Heim stayed right with him through turns one and two and down the backstretch of the one-mile dirt oval.
But turns three and four is where it all went awry for the seventeen-year-old Marietta, Ga., native.
Self pushed him up the track. Just like a paved track where loose rubber accumulates throughout the race, the upper groove of a dirt track is covered in loose dirt from the course of the race. Heim went sliding through 100 miles worth of loose dirt, and as he fought for traction and control he dropped from second to seventh.
The fact he was second with a couple of laps to go belied Heim’s dirt track experience level. The race at Springfield was the first time in Heim’s racing career he had ever been on dirt.
His ninth top-10 finish in 10 career ARCA Menards Series starts was a consolation prize of sorts, but Heim was still disappointed with the result.
“He did what I would have done,” Heim said. “He was down on the inside and he pushed me up the track and used me up. I got up into the loose dirt and gave up a lot of spots. It’s disappointing to go from second to seventh but that’s part of racing for the win.”
Heim won’t have to wait long to reload and try for his first career series victory. When the ARCA Menards Series goes green in the Southern Illinois 100, he’ll also have another chance at scoring a win on dirt as the series makes is second appearance on dirt with a traditional Labor Day weekend stop at the DuQuoin State Fairgrounds. With a stock car history that dates back to the 1950s and ARCA’s history at the one-mile oval dating back to 1983, Heim would like to add his name to a list of winners that includes Jerry Unser, Don White, A.J. Foyt, Rusty Wallace, and Tony Stewart.
It’s a lofty goal for a young man who only has a couple seasons of stock car racing experience under his belt.
“We’re going to DuQuoin to win,” added Heim. “I’m putting pressure on myself to win and finish what we started at Springfield. Paul (Andrews, crew chief) and the entire Chad Bryant Racing team have worked hard to bring me fast, competitive cars no matter what type of track we’re competing at.
“I learned a lot at Springfield and even though DuQuoin will be run at night, I’m hopeful that what I learned a couple weeks can be applied to Saturday night and it will bring Chad Bryant Racing another checkered flag this season.”
For the vast majority of its existence, the Southern Illinois 100 has been run under the often-intense southern Illinois sun. The heat and humidity, mixed with the often dusty track surface as a result, made the DuQuoin race one of the most challenging on drivers and demanding on equipment throughout the entire season.
For the second time in the race’s history it will be run under the lights on the Magic Mile, and for the first time in the event’s history, it will be run on a Saturday night. As the opening race of a two-day race weekend – Sunday’s traditional USAC Silver Crown Series race remains unchanged – track conditions should be vastly different than year’s past. It will be cooler, and the track’s surface will not have any rubber worked into it when the ARCA Menards Series takes to the track.
Those differences will create enough of an unknown that it should level the playing field even more for Heim as he continues to gain dirt track experience.
“I’m really not sure what to expect with the track conditions especially practicing and qualifying during the day and racing at night,” added Heim. “I expect the handling of our race car will change, so I’ll be leaning on Paul (Andrews) to make the right adjustments and I know he’ll expect me to do everything I can to keep ourselves in contention.
“I only have three ARCA Menards Series races left this season and I’d like to win all three of them if I can, but it’s going to take perfect execution and making sure we don’t stumble when the opportunity is there for the taking.”