Strong Top-Five Run Cut Short for Milka Duno at Salem Speedway
SALEM, Ind. (May 2, 2011) - If it weren't for bad luck it seems like Milka Duno would have no luck at all so far in the 2011 ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards season. Driving her way into the top-five over halfway into the Kentuckiana Ford Dealers 200 at Salem Speedway, it looked as if Duno and her Sheltra Motorsports team were well on their way to a top-five finish when bad luck struck as unavoidable contact caused severe damage to the nose of Duno's CITGO SUPERGARD Dodge, putting a hole in the radiator and bringing her day to an early end.
"You have to drive hard to be able to win a race, especially at a place like this," said Duno. "But at the same time you take calculated risks. Sometimes when you take those risks something will happen because you are driving hard and fighting for position. We were running fifth and had a very aggressive, very good race going but the two cars in front- one got real loose, the other slowed down too much and I had nowhere to go and hit him. I was still able to keep going and fight for more positions even with that much nose damage to the car. Unfortunately we started to lose power because we damaged the radiator. It was very disappointing, but at the same time I am very happy with our performance and the way the car ran. It gives us a lot of confidence going forward."
The weekend began under sunny skies as the stars of the ARCA Racing Series rolled into Salem Speedway's half-mile oval Saturday afternoon for practice and qualifying. Making her first-career short track start, Duno and her Sheltra Motorsports team spent a majority of the practice session learning to negotiate Salem's high-banks. She was able to do so with great success, posting the 17th-fastest time of the session, 18.448 seconds (108.304 mph). As the fifth car to take to the half-mile track for qualifying, Duno improved on her practice time posting a lap of 18.256 seconds (109.443 mph), the 17th-fastest time of the day.
Under hazy skies and on a damp track, the ARCA Racing series went to racing for 200-laps of action on Sunday afternoon. Looking to fight the rain, the green and yellow flag flew simultaneously to start the Kentuckiana Ford Dealers 200. The drivers maintained their positions for the first 19 laps under the yellow flag condition until the track was dry enough to go racing.
The green flag flew to get the racing action started on lap 20 and Duno, a little cautious in her first laps of green-flag short track racing, maintained the 16th position. On lap 37 she fell one lap down to the leaders but her lap times were continuously getting faster as she began to catch back up to the lead pack.
On lap 52 the caution came out for a wreck in turn three and Crew Chief Jon Wolfe called his driver down pit road for two tires on lap 55 under the yellow. Making her first short track pit stop, Duno was called for a speeding penalty forcing her to restart the race from the back of the longest line.
The penalty lit a fire under Duno as the green flag came back out on lap 59. Duno began to climb through the field, still marred in 16th one lap down to the leaders, but a quick caution on lap 69 gave the CITGO SUPERGARD the "lucky dog" award, allowing Duno to get back on the lead lap. From there she never looked back.
With all the teams on different pit strategy, Duno took the restart in the eighth position on lap 72. Fighting to make her way through lapped traffic she fell to 11th on lap 79 but as the laps clicked off, Duno began meticulously climbing back through the field. By lap 106 she moved past the No. 41 of Ty Dillon, putting her into the sixth position.
The caution came back out on lap 108 and Wolfe again took the opportunity to bring Duno to the attention of her Sheltra Motorsports team. With a lightning-fast pit stop, the team changed four tires and sent Duno back on the track in the fifth position for the lap 115 restart.
With the field tightened up and aggressive short track racing, Duno was in a tight battle with the No. 31 and the lapped No. 11 car of Bryan Silas when on lap 121 Tim George Jr's No. 31 got extremely loose coming off turn 4. The No. 11 checked up trying to avoid George leaving Duno nowhere to go as she got in the back of Silas. The contact caused severe damage to the hood of the CITGO SUPERGARD Dodge, but Duno continued on only losing one position.
Duno continued fighting to get back in the top five with her severely damaged Dodge for the next 11 laps, when smoke started to come out of the tailpipes. Two laps later, she reported that she was losing power and was forced to bring her car down pit road. The contact had damaged the radiator ending the day for Duno and her Sheltra Motorsports team only 66 laps shy of the finish. After a promising day, Duno would end the day where she started, in the 17th position.
"Milka exceeded all of our expectations," said Wolfe. "Today proved that she can race with all of the competitors in the ARCA Series and be successful. ARCA short track racing is very aggressive and has a lot of beating and banging. Unfortunately we fell victim to that and knocked a hole in the radiator. That ended our day and a great run by Milka and the Sheltra Motorsports team."
The ARCA Racing Series will take a weekend off before heading to the second short track on her schedule at Toledo Speedway for the Menards 200. The green flag will drop for 200 laps of short track racing action on Sunday, May 15 at 2:00 p.m. EST.
About Milka Duno:
About Sheltra Motorsports: