Sheltra Tied With Hessert For Championship Title With Four Races Remaining
DU QUOIN, September 7, 2010: ARCA Racing Series (ARS) presented by RE/MAX and Menards (ARS) driver Patrick Sheltra didn’t complete the Illinois sweep on Monday afternoon at the Du Quoin (Ill.) State Fairgrounds, but the Indiantown, Florida native did leave the one-mile clay oval back atop of the championship standings after a fourth place finish in the Southern Illinois 100 presented by Federated Car Care.
Sheltra, 24 entered the final dirt race of the season on the heels of two consecutive victories at the Illinois State Fairgrounds (Springfield) and Chicagoland Speedway respectively. Armed with the same No. 60 Performance Vehicle Works (PVW) Dodge Charger that the ARCA pro notched his second career win last month on the dirt, the avid hunter had high hopes to do it all over again.
The quick one day show began with practice beginning at 9:00 a.m. Sheltra waited on a handful of other ARCA competitors to take to the “Magic Mile” before Sheltra., himself maneuvered his Jon Wolfe-led Chrysler nameplate onto the racetrack.
Sheltra’s first two laps on the track were respectable. However his third lap became then the quickest time around the Du Quoin State Fairgrounds. During the one-hour practice, Sheltra and his Sheltra Motorsports team worked on freeing up his machine from the center off the turns. Several changes to the car showed a significant increase in time and speed but a cluttered racetrack inside the final minutes of practice would not allow the team to improve on their fastest time from earlier in the session leaving the Mooresville, North Carolina-based operation with ninth overall on the rundown.
The team would be the 23rd of 35 race cars on property to take time during Menards Pole by Ansell qualifying. An electrical hiccup though in time trials would force the No. 60 PVW Dodge Charger to start the 16th race of the season from the 16th position. The team quickly went to work following qualifications and upon further evaluation and inspection believed they had diagnosed the mishap. With permission granted from series officials, the team received a new set of ignition boxes.
“I was baffled as anyone about qualifying,” said a dejected Sheltra in the garage. The car would just not go. It was so strange. The car hesitated for a short time before it finally came up to speed late in our qualifying run. It’s disappointing, but we’ll at least make the race exciting coming from the middle of the field.”
With the problem believed to be corrected; the team would not have a lot of time to worry about the situation as pre-race ceremonies began shortly after the completion of the swap.
At the start of the race, Sheltra wasted no time slicing and dicing his way through the field and when the first caution waived on lap eight, Sheltra had climbed his Sheltra Motorsports car into the eighth position.
Reporting to Wolfe that everything was a-okay behind the wheel, the former dirt late model star was ready for racing to resume. On the restart, Sheltra quickly made work of his competition and have moved into the sixth position before the caution flag flew again on lap 18. Some of the leaders elected to bring their automobiles down pit road but Wolfe elected to keep his driver out on the racetrack, putting the Floridian third on the restart.
Maintaining a spot on the podium, Sheltra would make his mandatory trip to pit road just eight laps later on lap 30 for four tires and fuel. He would restart the Labor Day tradition event from the 15th spot.
Performing like he had been shot out of cannon, Sheltra flex his dirt track experience to slip and slide through the field and worked his way into the fifth position on lap 37.
By halfway, the Cornelius, North Carolina resident negotiated his No. 60 Performance Vehicle Works (PVW) Dodge Charger back into the fourth position where he remained for much of the third quarter of the event until third place runner A.J. Fike lost an engine on lap 80. Plagued also by numerous cautions, Sheltra was unable to receive the long-run his team was looking for in an effort to move towards the lead.
While hustling a tight handling racecar, Sheltra was forced to deal with the stalking predators of the No. 16 (Joey Coulter) and the No. 25 (Mikey Kile) just after a late race restart. Coulter made a bold move underneath Sheltra on the straightway which ultimately also allowed Kile to overtake Sheltra for the fourth position. Coulter though would spin a few seconds later allowing the No. 60 to sneak through the spinning Chevrolet on the low-side and re-assume the fourth position.
Despite a gallant effort by Sheltra to maneuver back into the top-three, he would run out of time and take the checkered flag in the fourth position, awarding the Sheltra Motorsports organization with their ninth top-five finish of the season.
“The cautions hurt us today,” admitted, Sheltra who reassumed the point’s lead with his 13th top-10 finish in 16 races in 2010. “We had a really good car and I have to thank everyone on the Sheltra Motorsports team, Timmy (McKichan) and PVW for their hard work. It wasn’t an easy week by any means to get this car ready from Springfield, but I’ll preach to anyone that our guys are some of the best in the business and we showed that today. Our car really came to life in the long runs – but unfortunately, we just never could get a long enough run again during the second half of the race.”
Sheltra continued, “We had a good point’s day too. We’re tied with Tom (Hessert) for the points lead going into Toledo next Sunday, but we’re not going to lose sight of everything that we’ve been working hard for all year long and that is to be the last man standing when it comes to the championship crown at Rockingham.”
With his second top-five and third-top 10 finish in four starts at the Du Quoin State Fairgrounds, Sheltra unofficially advances from third to first in the championship standings tied with Tom Hessert for the top spot. If the season had concluded on Monday, Sheltra would have been crowned the 2010 ARCA champion by notching two victories this year compared to Hessert’s one. Craig Goess, the championship leader entering Du Quoin slipped to third just five markers behind Hessert and Sheltra. Nine-time champion Frank Kimmel slipped two spots in the standings from second to fourth, 50 points in the arrears.