ROCKINGHAM, N.C. — Ty Dillon bagged his second-straight ARCA Racing Series triumph Saturday during the American 200 at Rockingham Speedway while Patrick Sheltra claimed his first ARCA Racing Series championship.
Dillon came on strong late in the 200-lap event, driving by Sheltra on the bottom of turns one and two during a restart on lap 159 to take the lead for the first time. He promptly pulled away from the field, besting polesitter Kevin Swindell for his second ARCA victory in three starts.
“We knew we had a fast car” Dillon said. “The guys had an awesome pit stop and got me out second. I hadn’t been using all of the tires that I could have used all race. I knew I had a little left in the tank and after that restart I got a good run into (turn) one and was able to get in the gas a little earlier than Patrick and drove off from there.”
Sheltra entered the race with a five-point edge over Craig Goess in the series standings with Tom Hessert only 20 points back, but was able to lead the most laps to earn 10 bonus points towards the championship.
After being passed by Dillon during the restart Sheltra slipped as far back as fifth before finishing fourth. That was enough for him to claim the ARCA championship by 20 points over Goess, who finished fifth.
“The guys worked their tails off night and day with late hours and everything else just to prepare these cars,” said Sheltra, who became the first driver-owner to win the ARCA championship since Benny Parsons accomplished the feat in 1969. “To win the championship here (at Rockingham) is amazing.”
Swindell jumped into the lead at the start and pulled away from Steve Arpin and Sheltra. A caution flag for a spin involving Chad Hackenbracht allowed the leaders to come down pit road, with Arpin emerging with the lead.
Arpin’s lead didn’t last long as Sheltra and Justin Marks quickly blew by him. Sheltra led briefly before giving up the lead to Marks, who promptly drove away from the field.
Tony Palumbo’s spin on lap 75 allowed second-place Sheltra to close the gap on Marks and he took full advantage, taking the lead on lap 88. Once in front Sheltra put his No. 60 Toyota in cruise control, leading until the lapped car of Tim George, Jr. spun in turn two as he was attempting to pass Sheltra.
The field returned to pit road with Sheltra retaining the lead while Ty Dillon jumped to second after a fast pit stop. Dillon made his move immediately after the restart on lap 159, taking the lead in turn two to score the victory.
Chad Finley came from the rear of the field to finish third ahead of Sheltra and Goess.
“I saved a lot on initial restarts trying not to spin the tires,” Dillon said. “I was just trying to save as much as I could. There at the end I knew it was going to be the smallest run of the day and I could use up a little more than I had. When I did the car really showed how fast it was when it got out front.”
For Sheltra, in his fourth full season in ARCA competition, the championship was particularly sweet after recovering from two-straight finishes of 21st or worse at Iowa Speedway and Mansfield Motorsports Park in July to stay in the championship hunt.
“It started out good (the season) and then we had the bad streak,” Sheltra said. “The guys pulled together and they never gave up. That was what we stressed all year. Never give up. That right there just shows how strong this team is.”