DU QUOIN — Moments after ARCA’s General Tire Grabber 100, er, 109, ended, Shane Lee sat on the inside guard rail at Du Quoin’s Magic Mile, staring at the track.
Had the race ended at 100 miles, it’s highly likely the television cameras would have been trailed on Lee. Lee, of Newton, North Carolina, took the lead on the 58th of 100 scheduled laps. Although Sheldon Creed was riding his bumper on the 95th lap, Lee maintained the lead.
Technically, Lee was in first place when mile 100 was completed, but ARCA rules state the winner must cross the finish line under the checkered flag. Lee held off Creed in the first restart, but Austin Theriault passed Lee on the 107th lap restart and held on to the advantage to win the race.
It was the first appearance at Du Quoin for either Lee or Theriault.
In the final restart, Lee had the inside lane and entered the first turn tangled with Creed. That dust up created an opening on the outside that Theriault exploited. He cruised ahead on that first turn and finished 1.3 seconds ahead of Creed.
It was Theriault’s only lead of the race. He drives a Toyota.
“It looked like 78 (Creed) and 22 (Lee) were fighting for the bottom,” Theriault said. “When you’re looking behind you, that’s when you get an opening. That happened to me at Springfield, somebody bashed me on the outside because I was just focused on the bottom. That’s when you get the run on the outside. It’s hit or miss really. We just ended up hitting it this time.”
Lee, who drives a Ford, conceded there was plenty of contact on the restart.
“Before we ever got the green I was already lifted off the ground,” he said. “I couldn’t get the tires back down. By the time we got to the start line, I had lost three spots by then. He hit me again and I drove straight into him. I was going to make sure if I didn’t win he wasn’t going to win.”
Ironically, the race had been devoid of collisions for the first 95 laps.
There were some close calls. On the 72nd lap, Eric Caudell lost control coming out of the fourth turn and spiraled, seemingly in slow motion, down the middle of the backstretch. Remarkably, all the other cars evaded him.
Then, on the fateful 95th lap, Thomas Praytor spun out, but again there were no collisions.
While there were few collisions, traffic was congested at times.
“Lapped cars were tough today,” Theriault said. “Anytime you got off the bottom, you were pretty much almost wrecking. We lost a couple spots like that. It’s almost unbelievable if you think about it.”
That happened to Lee when he appeared to be pulling away with nine laps to go. He went high to pass a car on the first turn. He lost traction momentarily, allowing Creed to get right up on his bumper.
Still Lee maintained his edge until the 95th lap.
On the first restart at about the 102nd lap, Lee held on to the load going through the second turn, but five cars spun into the wall, resulting in another caution. The second time proved to be the charm for Theriault.
“We definitely had the best car, that was the only way they were going to be us today … wreck us,” Lee said. “But, we’ll see what happens the next time.”
Gus Dean finished third, Ryan Unzicker fourth and Lee was fifth. Centralia’s Joe Cooksey was seventh.
Ken Schrader won the preliminary 20-mile modified event. Tony Stewart was second.
Kody Swanson won Sunday night’s USAC event while Shane Cockrum of Benton was second.