At 15 years old, Brent Crews on Sunday could potentially earn one of the richest paychecks in recent ARCA Menards Series history.
Should Crews win the Southern Illinois 100 at the DuQuoin State Fairgrounds, the driver from Oklahoma City would claim the $20,000 bonus associated with the Performance Seed Dirt Double. The bonus is awarded to any driver who sweeps both dirt races on the ARCA Menards Series schedule. Crews, of course, won the Dutch Boy 100 at the Illinois State Fairgrounds on Aug. 20.
Combining the bonus with the normal $14,500 race-winning paycheck for DuQuoin means there is a total of $34,500 on the line for Crews. Although he’s not sure what to do with such a potential payout, Crews does not have any doubts in his ability to earn his second consecutive ARCA Menards Series dirt victory.
“I just care about race wins right now,” Crews said. “I want to work my way up the ladder and worry about money in the future. I’m really too young for that, honestly, but $34,500 would certainly not hurt for sure.”
Crews finds himself in this position after a dominant performance at the Illinois State Fairgrounds that saw him lead 64 of 100 laps to win in just his second ARCA Menards Series start.
Despite Crews’ extensive dirt racing background, the stellar run came as a surprise. He knew his Venturini Motorsports teammate Jesse Love would be difficult to defeat since Love was the most recent winner at the Springfield Mile, yet Crews ended up prevailing over the series points leader by 20.717 seconds.
Crews credited his Venturini crew for not only building him a fast car, but also helping him get acclimated to running a heavier chassis on dirt. The midgets and micro sprints Crews typically runs are much lighter, and it took a few laps before Crews found a comfort zone in the ARCA car.
Springfield’s one-mile length also provided Crews plenty of challenges. It was the largest dirt track on which Crews had competed in his brief career, which meant he had to approach that event much differently from an on-track standpoint as opposed to a sprint race on a bullring.
“Trying to work the throttle [at Springfield] is much different than working a midget throttle,” Crews said. “It’s definitely a lot different having to run on a mile compared to little, tiny Millbridge [Speedway]. I’m trying to adapt as well as I can, and hopefully we can move this momentum onto DuQuoin.”
Like Springfield, DuQuoin’s dirt track is exactly one mile in length. Despite this, Crews anticipates several differences between the two dirt events.
Sunday’s Southern Illinois 100 will be held in cool, nighttime conditions as opposed to the scorching afternoon setting at the Springfield Mile. Crews believes raw speed will be preferred over handling at DuQuoin due to the wet and sticky dirt surface.
“In the daytime, a dirt track is going to be a lot slicker and dustier,” Crews said. “It takes up all the moisture out of the racetrack. But in the nighttime at DuQuoin, I think the track will keep moisture better and get a little bit rough. They’ll probably water it better than Springfield because of that.
“I’m expecting a more tacky experience.”
No matter what kind of track conditions he encounters Sunday night, Crews feels comfortable about obtaining a second ARCA Menards Series victory in just three starts.
Even if he does not win, there are other bonuses within the Performance Seed Dirt Double for which Crews remains eligible. The best average finish between Springfield and DuQuoin would net Crews $7,500, with second- and third-best averages awarding $5,000 and $2,500, respectively.
Crews is not content with just settling for a strong run and is determined to pick up where he left off at Springfield. Accomplishing that goal will require Crews to stay focused and utilize all the information obtained from his track time thus far in the ARCA Menards Series.
“We’re going to try and adapt with the little practice given,” Crews said. “I know we’ll have a fast car once again, but I just have to do my part with [preparation] and studying so I can drive a smart race.”