As it has since every year since 1983, the ARCA Menards Series returns to the Illinois State Fair on Sunday, August 22 for the Allen Crowe 100 presented by Lucas Oil, the first of two races the series will contest on one-mile dirt tracks in 2021.
The race, which will return to its traditional spot on the closing day of the Illinois State Fair in 2021 after moving to October due to the pandemic last season, will be the fifteenth race of the 20-race championship in the Toledo, Ohio-based stock car tour’s 69th season. After the most recent race, on the road course at Watkins Glen International in New York, Ty Gibbs holds a perilously small two-point advantage over hard-charging Corey Heim in the battle for the series title.
Gibbs, the grandson of Pro Football Hall of Fame head coach and NASCAR Hall of Fame car owner Joe Gibbs, has won seven times in the ARCA Menards Series in 2021, and has also scored three victories in the NASCAR Xfinity Series this year. Gibbs became just the sixth driver in history to win in his Xfinity Series debut when he won on the road course at Daytona International Speedway in February, and he has backed it up with wins at Charlotte Motor Speedway and at Watkins Glen.
His dominant season in the ARCA Menards Series has seen him win at Phoenix Raceway, Kansas Speedway, Toledo Speedway, Charlotte Motor Speedway, Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, Iowa Speedway, and Winchester Speedway. He’s led 989 laps, more than three times the next nearest competitor – Heim – and he’s started from the General Tire Pole in ten of the series’ first 14 races.
But the dirt tracks have not been kind to Gibbs in his tenure in the ARCA Menards Series. He finished 15th in his debut at Springfield in 2019 and improved to tenth in 2020. That could leave the door wide open for Heim, who has finished seventh and eighth in his two previous Springfield appearances. Heim has also made one start at the other one-mile dirt oval on the ARCA Menards Series schedule, finishing third at the Southern Illinois State Fairgrounds in Du Quoin in 2019.
Heim, in his first full season driving for two-time ARCA Menards Series champion Bill Venturini and his family-owned team, narrowed Gibbs’ points advantage with his fifth win of the season in the most recent round at Watkins Glen. Heim’s other wins in 2021 have come at Daytona International Speedway, Talladega Superspeedway, Pocono Raceway, and Elko Speedway.
Both Gibbs and Heim will have to contend with defending race winner Ryan Unzicker, who won in 2020 to give car owner Bill Hendren a signature victory at a track he’d attended as a fan and participant since the 1960s. Unzicker dominated last year, leading 102 of the race’s 103 laps, only losing the lead at the line on a restart to Hailie Deegan. The highly decorated Illinois dirt late model veteran will look to become to first repeat winner at Springfield since ten-time series champion Frank Kimmel went back-to-back in 2007 and 2008.
For complete ticket and event information, please visit TrackEnterprises.com; for updated event information, log on to ARCARacing.com.
-Chales Krall / ARCA PR-