Austin Theriault wins wreck-marred ARCA race at Daytona
Austin Theriault won Saturday’s Lucas Oil Complete Engine Treatment 200 Driven by General Tire at the Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach, Florida. The race served as the season opener for the 2017 ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards.
Theriault’s win came after the race was red-flagged with five laps to go for a three-car incident that saw Justin Fontaine go on his lid. The race was not restarted due to damage to the SAFER barrier.
Pole-sitter Tom Hessert led the 40-car field way for the first of 80 laps Saturday afternoon with Matt Tifft lined up alongside him.
Hessert remained out front through the first two stints of the race, with the first caution flying on Lap 5 for a three-car incident involving Bryan Dauzat, Derrick Lancaster and Willie Mullins, and then again on Lap 20 for debris.
The second caution brought the field down pit road and led to a drastic shakeup in the race order as 20-year-old rookie Quin Houff stayed out on track. Meanwhile, a sluggish stop saw Hessert drop to 12th in the order for the restart.
Hessert had made his way back up the order by the time the third caution flew shortly after the halfway point for a spin by Dauzat. This would have played into Houff’s hands as he led most of the field into the pits, but he was blocked in by another car while exiting his pit stall and lost a lot of track position.
Meanwhile, Terry Jones and others had elected to stay out on track, having pitted for fuel on Lap 22. Fortunately for those drivers, they were out in front when the big one struck behind them on Lap 50.
A red flag flew for the incident, which collected several cars including Ray Ciccarelli, Mark Thompson, Eric Caudell, David LeBeau, Michael Lira, A.J. Fike, Caesar Bacarella and Gus Dean.
The race was restarted with 25 laps left to go. While Jones led the field around on the low line, Shane Lee began to challenge him for the top spot by working the high side with a push from Hessert.
However, with 15 laps to go the field was slowed again after a multi-car incident on the back straight that involved Houff and Leilani Munter, who had had solid runs going up to that point.
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The field came to the restart again with nine laps left to go with Terry Jones and Austin Theriault restarting side-by-side. Theriault finally emerged in front with eight laps left to go.
With five laps left to go the race was red flagged for the second time for Fontaine’s crash, ultimately ending the race.
Fontaine was moving in the car but the roof had to be cut off for the emergency workers to extract him, and he has since been transferred to a local hospital.
Unofficial Top 10 results:
1. Austin Theriault
2. Terry Jones
3. Shane Lee
4. Dalton Sargeant
5. Tom Hessert
6. Bret Holmes
7. Ricky Sanders
8. Kyle Weatherman
9. Clint King
10. Kaz Grala