Don't be surprised if Tom Hessert and Patrick Sheltra pull into Toledo Speedway's parking lot at exactly the same time this weekend. They might zip up their fire suits simultaneously, and then start the engines on their stock cars at the identical instant.
The two ARCA Racing Series drivers come into Sunday's Northwest Ohio Ford Dealers 200 locked in a dead heat in their pursuit of the ARCA season championship. Only three races will remain after Sunday's stop at the half-mile oval on Benore Road.
But this is far from a two-man showdown. Craig Goess is only five points behind the leaders in third place, while nine-time ARCA champion Frank Kimmel is in fourth, just 50 points out of the lead.
In recent history, the race for the ARCA points title has had considerable 11th hour drama, with Justin Lofton edging out Parker Kligerman by a mere five points last season, and Ricky Stenhouse, Jr., and Scott Speed engaging in a dogfight through the final event.
Sheltra comes to Toledo Speedway riding considerable momentum with wins in two of the last three races and a fourth-place run in Monday's event on the dirt at the DuQuoin State Fairgrounds in Illinois.
"I'm confident about Toledo this weekend," said Sheltra, who moved into sole possession of the points lead for the first time in his career with his eighth-place finish in the spring ARCA Series race at Toledo Speedway in May.
"Toledo overall has been a pretty decent track for me. I know what I have to do this weekend. We have to stay out of trouble, keep our fenders intact, and be in contention to win the race. With the momentum that the Sheltra Motorsports team has had lately, accomplishing our goals shouldn't be a problem."
Sheltra has a strong history at the local track, with two top-fives and four top-10s in his seven previous starts. He battled Matt Carter to the finish in 2008, losing by the slimmest of margins.
Sheltra plans to race the same car he ran at Toledo Speedway in 2009, when he got tangled up with another driver and spent a fair share of the race putting his Chevy Monte Carlos SS back together. He limped home 29th that day, but the car has been moved from dry dock at the shop in Mooresville, N.C., and converted into a Dodge Charger for the Northwest Ohio Ford Dealers 200.
He said a four-race shootout is shaping up, and he plans to be part of the affair all the way to the season finale at Rockingham on Oct. 9. Sheltra knows he can not win the ARCA championship on Sunday, but a careless decision could certainly hurt his chances.
"We're tied with Tom [Hessert] for the points lead going into Toledo," Sheltra said. "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."
Along with the featured ARCA race, Toledo Speedway is hosting its annual Fan Fest this weekend. There will be ARCA qualifying and the USAC Ford Focus Midget Series race tomorrow with a post-race concert. Sunday's events include an on-track autograph session with the entire field for the ARCA race taking part. Ticket information is available at ARCARacing.com or by calling 419-727-1100.
Contact Matt Markey at:
or 419-724- 6510.
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