Brownsburg, IL – Dylan Martin and the Empire Racing Group pulled into Brownburg, IN with an expectation of a great race. Although the finishing position wasn’t what they were hoping for, Dylan and the team had a great race. Dylan didn’t practice at Lucas Oil Raceway before Friday, July 22nd, the day of the race. ARCA had 2 practice session slated for the drivers that afternoon before qualifying. The feels-like temperature was a steamy 105 in the heat of the day. Because LOR is such a flat track with little banking, the officials and fans wouldn’t be able to see the track during race time so the haulers weren’t able to park in the pits. This left the teams without a place to get out of the heat, but that didn’t stop them from giving 100% all day. Grumpy Cheek, crew chief, engineered the car with his knowledge of the racetrack and set the car up to Dylan’s driving style. After the first practice session, Dylan said the car wouldn’t turn in the corners. The crew made some adjustment and he went back out. Dylan said it was better but it would chatter up the track when he got on the throttle. For the second practice session the crew changed the sway bar and bolted on sticker tires to give Dylan the best mock qualifying run possible. At one point in the second practice session, Dylan was on the speed charts in 8th position. Dylan was happy with the car and its set up and he was anxious to see where he could put the car come qualifying time. Dylan would be the 12th car to qualify. When Dylan took the checkered for qualifying he was sitting 2nd on the speed chart. Dylan and the team would have to wait until all 33 cars qualified before they’d know where Dylan would be starting in the Sioux Chief PowerPEX 200 presented by Jive. Dylan found himself starting in 11th position. It was an incredible team effort and starting 11th was a great result from everyone’s hard work.
Fox Sports 1 would go live with race coverage starting at 9pm EDT. This would give Dylan’s family, friends and fans a chance to watch Dylan race in his second ARCA race of the season. After an autograph session with the fans at the track, where Dylan got a chance to meet fans and take photos and afterdriver introductions, the green flag would drop on Dylan’s second ARCA race. The anticipation was palpable both at the track and around the country. Dylan had fans watching from Arkansas, Mississippi, Ohio, West Virginia to Florida. Dylan received good luck wishes from all over the country and each was treasured and appreciated. With their support and well wishes, Dylan was ready to strap in, tighten his belts and put his #48 Blackwater Integration/Empire Racing Group/Grumpys Performances Inc Ford Fusion on the track for 200 laps of door-to-door racing.
The cars lined up on the starting grid and the command to start their engines was given. Dylan was getting ready to run 200 laps at Lucas Oil Raceway. Lap 15 and Dylan is running mid pack while learning the track. Shortly after lap 60 there was a caution and Dylan came in the pits to take right side tires only. Dylan came on the radio and thanked his crew for giving him a fast car. After avoiding a spinning car in turn 2, Dylan was running in 12th position. Under caution Dylan’s crewman, Wesley Gonder, spots a left rear going down and they bring him in to bolt on 4 fresh General Tires. This was earlier than crew chief, Grumpy Cheek wanted, but with the flat tire the pit strategy would have to change. Dylan would be restarting towards the rear and would need to work his way thru lap traffic. By lap 118 Dylan had done just that and was running in 12th again. A car running in front of Dylan lays down oil on the track and the #55 goes spinning into turn 1. Dylan gets in the oil and goes spinning towards the wall in turn 1. Dylan was able to keep the car off the wall and was about to refire when the #2 car also became victim of the fluid and t-bones Dylan in his driver’s door. Another car then hits Dylan head on. Grump Cheek radios to Dylan to make sure his driver is okay. It was a hard impact to Dylan’s driver’s door and head on. After collecting himself, Dylan radioed that he was okay and asked his spotter, Tony Micale, to let him know when he was clear to back up and bring the car to the pits. There were several cars collected in the fluid. The race was red flagged so clean up could be completed and so the medical team could ensure all the drivers were okay. Everyone on the Empire Racing team was hopeful that the car could be repaired and get it back out on the track for the last laps of the race. The team had given Dylan a solid car and everyone wanted to see him finish the race in a deserving position. But the damage was too extensive and the car was done for the night. Dylan would finish in 23rd position. But the team, crew chief and driver all had different thoughts of the night. Dylan had driven a great race. The team had given him a solid car and Grumpy said he was proud of Dylan. The finish was not indicative of the team’s results.
Dylan was very thankful for all the texts messages, tweets and phone calls making sure he was okay after the wreck. With so many watching live on Fox Sports 1, many were concerned for Dylan’s safety. The car and safety equipment did their job and Dylan was able to walk away from a mangled car with no injuries. It was a good night.
Credit: Staci Martin