Richard Childress Racing's rookie driver Ty Dillon and the No. 41 Bass Pro Shops/Hemelgarn Enterprises Chevrolet team claimed the 2011 ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards Championship at the drop of the green flag in Sunday afternoon's 200-lap season finale race at Toledo Speedway.
The start of the Federated Car Care 200 was pushed back by two and a half hours due to rain. When track officials displayed the green flag just after 4:30 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time on Sunday, they also displayed the yellow flag, indicating to the starting field to maintain a cautious pace as the track was still wet. Green-flag only racing commenced on lap 42 and Dillon drove to the inside of the race leader to take the point position. He remained in the lead until lap 63, when the inside line was slowed by a lapped car, allowing several competitors to slip by on the outside. The High Point University freshman attempted to regain the race lead on lap 196 of 200, but the race leader got loose in the middle of turns one and two and spun in the process, prompting ARCA officials to display the yellow flag. The caution extended the race past its advertised distance and set the stage for a two-lap shootout to the checkered flag. Dillon restarted the race second on lap 199 but was unable to gain any additional positions, finishing second in the No. 41 Bass Pro Shops/Hemelgarn Enterprises Chevrolet. The young driver is the first rookie to win the ARCA championship since 1995.
"I am so proud of the entire team and how hard everyone worked this season to claim this championship," said Dillon. "Over the course of the season, we've become a family and we're all sharing in this moment right now. I can't thank my family and grandfather enough for this unbelievable opportunity. It is such an honor to bring home a championship for RCR. This is a moment I will never forget."
Dillon and Co. stormed into their rookie season earning seven wins, seven poles, 13 top-five and 16 top-10 finishes in 19 starts. The Lexington, N.C., native claimed his first Menards Pole Award presented by Ansell at the season opener at Daytona International Speedway and in the following race, made his first trip of the season to Victory Lane at Talladega Superspeedway.
"It's been a great season. I'm really proud of Ty and all of these guys," said Scott Naset, crew chief on the No. 41 team. "As a rookie driver, crew chief and team, we came together and worked really hard to accomplish everything that we have this season."
Richard Childress Racing has won 12 NASCAR championships but Dillon's accomplishment marks the first non-NASCAR championship for the Welcome, N.C.-based organization. The last championship RCR earned was the 2008 NASCAR Nationwide Series with driver Clint Bowyer.
"It's just unbelievable," said Richard Childress, president and CEO of Richard Childress Racing. "I'm so happy for him and this whole racing team. To win the championship is just huge."
At 19 years old, Dillon is the 29th champion and the youngest champion in the history of the ARCA Racing Series. The RCR driver joins a long list of competitors who have earned the title of ARCA Champion since the series' inception in 1953, including Frank Kimmel, Benny Parsons and Iggy Katona, to name a few.
The 2011 ARCA Racing Series Championship Awards Banquet is scheduled for December 10 in Covington, Ky.