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Justin Boston knew a win was within his reach. Yet to earn that win, Boston had to phase out the distractions around him.
There was an up-and-coming driver immediately behind him, who threatened to take his lead. There were big-name drivers who had issues with tire wear on long runs.
And there was the potential threat of an ill-timed caution.
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Boston found a way to tune out the distractions Sunday at the Menards 200 at Toledo Speedway. He continued driving, and the 24-year-old held off a charge by Mason Mitchell in the final 10 laps to earn his first ARCA Racing Series win.
“I was a little worried about us getting some fender damage in the pits, honestly,” said Boston, who finished ahead of Mitchell and Matt Tifft. “It didn’t seem like it affected us so after we ran a couple laps, it kind of escaped my mind.”
Boston was one of five drivers to lead the race, and stayed among the top five drivers through the course of the race, which had only four caution flags. Boston took the lead on the 181st lap but a fifth caution in those late laps could have reshuffled the entire lineup.
“I saw Frank [Kimmel] and it looked like he had something happen to his race car,” Boston, a Baltimore native, said. “I was worried about the cautions, and I knew that if we had another caution come out, we were going to have our work cut out for us. Fortunately, it didn’t.”
Boston took his first lead on an inside move at the second turn of the 77th lap, until Thomas Praytor hit the wall at Turn 3 on the 102nd lap to bring out the race’s third caution.
Kyle Benjamin’s lead off the restart was short as Grant Enfinger overtook the 16-year-old on lap 115, between the third and fourth turns on the half-mile oval.
Enfinger’s lead bridged the final caution of the race; he led for 67 laps until Boston made his move with less than 25 left. Boston and Enfinger drove side-by-side and traded the lead on four consecutive laps before Boston took over the lead with 19 left in the race.
“I was just focused on getting back by Grant and doing all I could to get by him,” Boston said.
“We were pretty equal, so I was doing all I could to get back by him.”
Tire issues ultimately forced Enfinger to pit late in the race, which gave Mitchell a final chance to take the lead from Boston. Boston didn’t let up, even with Mitchell on his back bumper with a handful of laps remaining.
“We had some opportunities there, with six to go,” said Mitchell, who won the Menards 200 pole on Saturday.
“I made too big of a mistake getting through there, lost a nose and that was the end of our day.”
Boston didn’t allow one final distraction to faze him.
“I knew Mason was good and he got held back a few spots in the pits,” Boston said.
“I wasn’t sure if he was going to make it back up there or not. It looked like he was right on our tail there. I didn’t see too much of him. I was just worried about getting the checkers.”
RACING BLOODLINES: Justin Allison, the grandson of International Motorsports Hall of Fame driver Donnie Allison and nephew of Daytona 500 winner Bobby Allison, finished 10th in the Menards 200, his short-track debut in the ARCA Racing Series.
Allison made his ARCA debut last season and finished 19th in the International Motorsports Hall of Fame 200 May 3 at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway and ran 12 laps before he was involved in an accident Feb. 22 in the Lucas Oil 200 at Daytona International Speedway.
PREVIOUS WINNER: Ken Schrader, a former NASCAR Sprint Cup driver and last year’s Menards 200 winner, finished fourth on Sunday. Schrader, 58, owns Ken Schrader Racing, I-55 Raceway in Pevely, Mo., and is a co-owner of Macon (Ill.) Speedway.
In addition to overseeing his race team, Schrader plans to drive in 10 ARCA races this season, in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race July 23 at Eldora Speedway in Rossburg, Ohio, in a handful of NASCAR K&N Series races and in at least 65 dirt-track races this year.
Schrader also won the Menards 200 in 2004 and 2005.