Father Fike full-ahead with ARCA in '17...Nashville next

Father Fike full-ahead with ARCA in '17...Nashville next

TOLEDO, Ohio (March 12, 2017) -- ARCAracing.com caught up with AJ Fike during his recent trip to Lake Tahoe where the Galesburg, Illinois racer was enjoying a skiing vacation, a family tradition that goes way back.

"As kids, my brother and I would come out with our mom and dad," said Fike. "Then I didn't ski for six or seven years and decided to pick it back up again."

There's something else that Fike decided to pick back up again - that would be another full-time run at the ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards.

"We're planning on doing the whole schedule," said Fike. "We'll be at Nashville. I like that track."

We could tell. Fike started mid-pack in last year's race and worked his way into winning contention, ultimately finishing second behind Josh Williams.

"It would have been nice to get a yellow to see if we could have gotten to Josh. I'm looking forward to going back."

Fike, an open-wheel star from Galesburg, Illinois, is also looking forward to coming back to ARCA fulltime. The last time he raced in a full ARCA season was in 2004, finishing seventh in national championship points.

"Our focus is on ARCA. We're still going to run our Silver Crown car at Springfield and DuQuoin, maybe Indy but that's probably it. ARCA is the main goal this year. We like the composite bodies and the ARCA Ilmor engine allows us the chance to be competitive with the bigger teams."

Unfortunately, he got caught up in a multi-car wreck in the Daytona season-opener, finishing 34th.

"We had to buy a speedway car for Talladega...it's a back-up for the 23 car."

Fike's Dan Glauz led crew is also outfitting newer composite cars for the season ahead.

"We actually updated our dirt car with a new composite body. That's going to be our intermediate car this year. The car we ran at intermediate tracks last year became our dirt car...that's also a composite. Our dirt car needed updated anyway and we made our other composite car a little nicer too.

"Everything's pretty-much updated. We've got new bodies on everything. This is the best we've ever been going into the season. Don't know what we're doing for the road course yet."

Fike also says he's enjoying the chance to race on some of the tour's bigger tracks, something he hasn't done much over the last 13 seasons.

"It's been a long time since we've raced on these bigger tracks. I enjoy going back to Pocono, Michigan, Kentucky and Kansas and we should run better than we did last year. Running the short tracks...the Salems, Winchesters, Toledos, the dirt...it's all exciting. We like the whole schedule."

Fike will also have a healthy mix of sponsors on his No. 27 Ford, including MatrixCare, Consonus Healthcare, Office Specialist, RD McMillen Enterprises, Liberty Village, Holt Supply and RFMS.

In addition to his second-place finish at Nashville, Fike also finished second last year on the Springfield (Ill.) mile dirt. Fike won at Springfield in 2015, which proved popular with his strong Illinois fan base. Fike is also a two-time Tony Bettenhausen 100 winner at Springfield in the USAC Silver Crown Series.

When Fike isn't working in his father's Liberty Village family business, he's busy raising his daughter Kylie, who just turned 16. While racing cars is always associated with an element of danger, Fike says it's nothing as scary as seeing his daughter drive away for the first time.

"She just turned 16 and just started driving. That's scarier than anything I've ever done. She's a good driver but seeing your girl drive off for the first time is scary. I wanted to go with her but she has to learn. She's a good kid...I can't complain. She plays volleyball, does track and plays clarinet in the band. She's a really good kid."

Don Radebaugh