MOORESVILLE, N.C. (July 24, 2017) – For the second race in a row, Cunningham Motorsports driver Dalton Sargeant turned heads, driving his No. 77 Big Tine Ford Fusion to the lead in an impressive win in the Sioux Chief PowerPEX 200 at Lucas Oil Raceway Fridaynight. Charging his way from 11th to first in just four laps, the win comes two weeks after Sargeant left his mark at Iowa Speedway, making this his third victory of the season and Cunningham’s second win at the famed Indiana track.
“This was definitely a much needed win,” said Sargeant. “Every race we know we have to get a good finish in order to stay fighting for the championship and the guys on this team have never given up even though we’ve had a pretty big point deficit in the past. To be able to battle back from a 12th place starting position and methodically work our way top the front and put ourselves in contention for a win is a testament to how fast these Cunningham cars are every week. A lot of our friends from Big Tine were at the race and to be able to get a win with all of them there was really special. I think there’s a lot to look forward to these next few races and hopefully we’ll keeping adding wins to the season.”
The night opened with Sargeant starting back in the 12th position but immediately made his way into the top-10 by lap five. When the first caution of the night fell on lap 56, Sargeant came down pit road to get two new General Tires and Sunoco race fuel, restarting in the seventh position on lap 64. Three more cautions fell before Sargeant broke into the top-five, restarting third on lap 136 after the team opted to follow the two leaders and stay off of pit road. Battling a field full of cars with fresh tires, Sargeant fell back into seventh and remained off of pit road when another caution came with just over 50 laps to go. Continuing to fight lead cars with new tires, Sargeant dropped to tenth before rain started to fall, bringing out the final caution on lap 174 where Sargeant would get the four tires he needed to propel him towards the front of the field.
“We went with a pretty bold tire strategy late in the race and I knew it would be the right call to make,” said crew chief Chad Bryant. “Every week we know we have to beat the 52 car in order to gain some ground in the championship standings and in my mind that means we have to make decisions that others might not make all the time. We decided to stay out when the 52 pitted and when that last caution came I knew we’d win the race. I’m really proud of how aggressive Dalton drove the car in those last few laps…I think he can taste this championship just like the rest of us and that desire to win pushes him forward in tough situations.”
In a championship battle that has been brewing since Daytona, Sargeant climbed 30 points closer to point leader Austin Theriault, now sitting just 130 points away from first. With momentum shifting in Sargeant’s favor, the 19-year-old has renewed confidence looking at the last nine races of the season, especially heading into Pocono later this week.
“Last time we went to Pocono we had to race in our back-up car built for short tracks and we still came away with a top-10 finish,” said Sargeant. “I think this time we have everything going our way, we know we can win, and we’re going to be disappointed if we don’t win. We’re getting closer to this championship and every week we’ve been gaining ground on Austin (Theriault). It’s been a really good battle and I think it’s only going to get better as we get closer to the end of the year.”
Sargeant hopes to close the gap even more this week as the team heads to Pocono Raceway for the second time this season. The ModSpace 150 will take place Friday, July 28, with practice running from 9:00-10:30 that morning. General Tire Pole Qualifying is set for 1:00 p.m. followed by the 60-lap race starting at 4:00 live on FS1. All time are local (Eastern).
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