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Ford Performance Claims Hailie Deegan in 2020 DGR-Crosley Deal

On December 11, DGR-Crosley announced it would be making the jump from fielding Toyotas to Fords in 2020 and that in just six days, they would be introducing a new development driver. This manufacturer swap spelled early speculations for Hailie Deegan, who was a free agent following the 2019 season and who already had ties to the newly branded Ford team in the past.

Fast forward six days and DGR-Crosley revealed that the 18-year old driver will indeed be racing for their organization full-time in the newly modeled ARCA Menards Series as Ford Performance’s development driver. This is a massive win for both Deegan and DGR-Crosley as the female racing prodigy has cemented herself as arguably the sport’s most enticing up-and-coming talent.

This new deal comes just one month following Deegan’s breakout season in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West in which she captured 11 top-10s, eight top-five’s and her first multi-win season (2) – all while finishing third in the series’ standings.

MVPindex also revealed that last year, the female development driver ranked third amongst all NASCAR drivers in social media engagements and impressions, only bested by 2019 Monster Energy Cup Series Champion Kyle Busch and seven-time champion Jimmie Johnson. In an all important digital age where social media is prevalent in growing the sport’s popularity, it’s highly encouraging that Deegan is the only driver inside of the top-10 who doesn’t compete in the Cup Series.

Being a highly touted talent skyrocketing through NASCAR’s lower divisions and someone who is essential for the sport’s growth, the Ford Performance development driver deal makes sense for both sides. By getting Ford’s support, Deegan is getting assurance from the manufacturer that she will receive all the tools and backing to ensure a long-standing career in NASCAR.

The deal with DGR-Crosley also opens new potential avenues for the 18-year old driver and her racing career. The David Gilliland run race team fields drivers in the NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series. It would not be out of the ordinary to see Deegan potentially run some truck races in the later stages of 2020, given on-track success in the ARCA Series.

The California-product will race the No. 4 Monster Energy Ford Fusion in all 20 races run in the ARCA Menards Series, but she won’t be going in blindly to the developmental driver series. In 2019, Deegan amassed four top-10’s and one top-five finish in the mere six races she ran for Venturini Motorsports.

It should also be noted that the latest success story of Ford Performance’s developmental driver program was Cole Custer. Custer masterfully raced his way to a ride in the newly named NASCAR Cup Series in 2020 after a stellar NASCAR Xfinity Series season. The California-native will take over driving duties for the No. 41 at Stewart-Haas Racing and with stars like Kevin Harvick, Clint Bowyer and Aric Almirola nearing the back-end of their careers, Deegan could make a potential great fit down the road.

The deal between the Ford Motor Company, DGR-Crosley and Deegan should spell a future of longevity and success for all parties involved. This is a much-needed statement from both Ford and NASCAR that Deegan will be one of the core-center pieces in shaping the growth of sport’s future. One thing is certain, all eyes will remain to be on the 18-year old talent as she continues her meteoric rise through NASCAR’s lower ranks.

EMAIL COLE AT: colecusumano88@gmail.com

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The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management to other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered and endorsement.

 

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Trucks

DGR-Crosley, Ford Partnership A Win For All

On Wednesday, Dec. 12 it was announced that DGR-Crosley will be switching manufacturers from Toyota to Ford in 2020.

The move came after a successful 2019 season where the team recorded wins in the Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series, ARCA Menards Series East, and the ARCA Menards Series. So, after all the success, the decision may seem like a strange one; however, when you look at the situation at hand, this was probably the best time to do it for all parties involved.

For one, when it came to trucks, DGR was always going to be the number two option for Toyota’s development system behind Kyle Busch Motorsports. Not to forget the amount of Toyota teams in the various lower-tier series as well.

Now, this was not a horrible thing for the team, but this new opportunity allows them to take a bigger role as a driver development group. With that in mind, don’t be surprised if this team gets even better next season with its newfound manufacturer support.

This brings us to Ford.

A group that really didn’t have a pipeline system into the lower series like the one Chevrolet has with GMS Racing, and Toyota has with KBM. They know have that with DGR, which really cannot be understated.

While a full driver lineup as yet to be announced, there are a bunch of qualities options at the table that the team could add or resign, that would be good additions for the Ford camp also.

For one there is Todd Gilliand, who is a free agent and has that obvious connection with DGR, that could be somebody scooped up. Yes, he did not have the best of seasons with KBM in 2019, but he did show potential and did win a race with the team.

Then there is somebody like a Tanner Gray, who is young and won in his first season in the East Series last year with a history of success attached to his name.

And finally, there’s the appeal to other drivers who may be stuck in the Toyota pipeline that may not have a clear vision upwards. Someone like a Hailie Deegan, who is currently a free agent, has a history with DGR and been rumored to be joining the team.

The announcement may already be creating waves, and the manufacture sent out a media advisory that they will be announcing a new development driver to their program on Tuesday, December 17.

Not to forget that if DGR is successfully able to devise a pipeline for Ford, it may raise the likelihood of a team like Team Penske or Stewart-Haas Racing of maybe investing in DGR to invest in the future of their own race teams.

While all of this may be looking into a crystal ball one thing is for certain, this is move is a win for all parties involved.

EMAIL MITCHELL AT mitchell.breuer@popularspeed.com

TWITTER: @MitchellB66

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

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News

Christian Eckes Clinches ARCA Menards Series Championship with Victory in Season Finale at Kansas Speedway

The ARCA Kansas 150 was a microcosm of the entire season for Christian Eckes. The Middletown, New York native was fast in practice, but engine issues necessitated a change following qualifying. That sent Eckes to the rear of the field for the start, but he quickly knifed his way through the field to the top five.

On a lap 57 restart, Eckes (No. 15 JBL Audio Toyota) challenged race leader Michael Self for the lead. One lap later, Eckes took control of the race, taking over the lead and driving away to, at times, a three-second lead.

“The day didn’t go smoothly at all,” Eckes said. “We had an engine problem in qualifying and the guys had to change it an hour before the race. We started at the back and we were in the top ten in five laps. The car was on a rail all night.”

Eckes night wasn’t smooth, and neither was his entire season.

After taking the championship lead after the second race of the season, at Five Flags Speedway, Eckes fell ill the night before the third race of the year at Salem Speedway. He missed the race, giving up the points lead to teammate Self.

Eckes and his Kevin Reed-led team were tenacious throughout the summer and fall, closing the gap and retaking the lead following the season’s penultimate race at Lucas Oil Raceway.

Eckes became the first series champion since Tim Steele in 1996 to miss a race en route to the championship.

“We even missed a race,” Eckes said in disbelief in victory lane. “The entire season has been filled with drama and we are still here. It’s absolutely incredible.”

Self (No. 25 Sinclair Lubricants Toyota) did all he could do to turn the tables on his Venturini Motorsports teammate. He jumped out to the lead at the start and led the first 57 laps, locking up five bonus points for leading a lap and by the halfway point clinching an additional five bonus points for leading the most laps.

But he couldn’t keep Eckes at bay. Self would end up second, 1.9 seconds behind at the finish.

“Second sucks,” Self said after visiting Eckes in victory lane. “I am thankful to have the opportunity to come and race for a championship. We won four times but we had a lot of ups and downs. I wish it would have turned out differently but I am really happy for Christian and the Venturini team. I just wish it played out in our favor tonight.”

The race was completed in one hour, three minutes and 31 seconds at a record average speed of 141.695 miles per hour. There were just two cautions for 12 laps, the first at lap 40 when Drew Dollar (No. 4 Dollar Concrete Construction Toyota) scuffed the turn four wall and the second at lap 52 when Tim Richmond (No. 06 GreatRailing.com Toyota) spun in turn two.

There was one lead change among two drivers, with Self leading the first 57 laps and Eckes leading the final 43.

Eckes finished 25 points ahead of Self in the final ARCA Menards Series championship standings, with fourth-place finisher Bret Holmes (No. 23 Holmes II Excavation Chevrolet) third in the final standings 165 points behind. Fifth-place finisher Travis Braden (No. 27 MatrixCare/Consonus Health Care/Liberty Village Ford) was fourth in the final standings and ninth-place finisher Joe Graf, Jr. (No. 77 EAT SLEEP RACE Chevrolet) rounded out the top five.

The ARCA Menards Series racing season is now complete, with the next event on the calendar the annual Championship Awards Banquet held at the Indiana State Convention Center in downtown Indianapolis, in conjunction with the annual Performance Racing Industry Trade Show, set for Saturday December 14.

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NASCAR, ARCA announce framework for four championship series in 2020

From Jimmie Johnson to William Byron, the path to the top of NASCAR has long gone through ARCA and the NASCAR K&N Pro Series.

In 2020, that path will take on a new look.

With an announcement Wednesday, NASCAR and ARCA unveiled the new ARCA Menards Series, which will encompass the three long-running regional stock car series, while also providing a new combined championship series.

What has been known as the K&N Pro Series East and West will become the ARCA Menards Series East and West. The current 20-race ARCA Menards Series will remain in place. And a 10-race slate within the latter will serve as a crossover for all three series, and crown a fourth champion of the ARCA Showdown.

The news is the next step that began with an announcement in April 2018 that NASCAR had acquired ARCA. Over the ensuing months, hours of research, on-track testing and meetings with stakeholders were poured into the process to come up with a series that would serve as one strong pathway for drivers aspiring to reach the next level of the sport while at the same time becoming a place where veteran short-track racers could find a home.

While they competed as separate series throughout 2019, both sides worked together to create the common platform.

Enter the ARCA Menards Series.

“Both NASCAR and ARCA have worked extremely hard over the last year to provide a rules package and schedule that will serve as the foundation for the pre-eminent series for racing at this level,” said Brandon Thompson, managing director, NASCAR touring series. “It was important for us to move the series forward while creating an environment inclusive for both the current long-term owners and drivers in the series as well as aspiring competitors.”

“What first started as a friendship between Bill France Sr. and John Marcum nearly 70 years ago took a momentous step forward today,” ARCA President Ron Drager said. “The amount of history and tradition these series are bringing together to form four elite championships for drivers is an amazing testament to the strength of this sport.”

NASCAR also announced if an East, West or current ARCA Menards Series car owner has a car that meets the 2019 Rule Book, there will be a rules package that will allow them to compete in 2020.

DRIVING SUCCESS AT THE GRASSROOTS LEVEL

In recent years, both the NASCAR Pro Series and ARCA Menards Series have become instrumental in developing the next crop of NASCAR Cup Series superstars. Like Martin Truex Jr. and Kevin Harvick before them, the likes of 2018 Cup Series champion Joey Logano, Chase Elliott, Alex Bowman and Kyle Larson raced – and won – at this level.

Of the 12 remaining drivers in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs, 10 of them have won races in either series – accumulating 43 victories and four championships. The top eight NASCAR Xfinity Series playoff drivers have won races in either the NASCAR K&N Pro Series or ARCA Menards Series, with Justin Allgaier and Chase Briscoe being former champions.

With series that feature historic names such as Frank Kimmel, Hershel McGriff and Andy Santerre, the ability to create an environment where drivers can compete at this level for an extended period of time was equally important in the process.

From NASCAR to the Indianapolis 500, John Menard has found success supporting motorsports in the United States, and the opportunity to serve as the entitlement sponsor for this new broader entity fit perfectly into his desire to support grassroots racing.

MORE: Daytona, Midwest carry traditions into new era

“We’ve been a long-time racing sponsor at various levels including NASCAR, IndyCar and ARCA and are pleased to take our partnership with ARCA to the next level,” Menard said. “We like doing business together and share many of the same values and standards that have helped us survive and thrive through the years.”

K&N Engineering, which took over as the East and West entitlement sponsor in 2010 and helped further elevate the two regional series as a cohesive national stage, will remain a key entity in the sport as the “Official Performance Filter of NASCAR.”

NEW ERA EXTENDS RICH HISTORY

The new series provides continuity to three of the longest running high-level regional stock car series in the United States.

 The ARCA Menards Series West began in 1954 as the Pacific Coast Late Model Series. In what became more widely recognized during the NASCAR Winston West era, it produced short-track legends such as McGriff, Ray Elder and Roy Smith. Harvick won the championship in 1998, and in recent years, powerhouse Bill McAnally Racing and southern California car owner Bob Bruncati’s Sunrise Ford Racing have clashed in championship battles under the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West banner.

 ARCA Menards Series East was founded in 1987 as the NASCAR Busch North Series, a companion to the Charlotte-based NASCAR Busch Series. Northeast stars like Andy Santerre, Mike Stefanik and Ricky Craven dominated the Expanding to the East Series in 2006, it became a proving ground for the sport’s next top stars, beginning with Logano’s championship run in 2007 as a highly touted 16-year-old. Drivers such as Larson, Byron and Tyler Ankrum won East titles to kick off their ascent up the NASCAR ladder.

 The ARCA Menards Series, founded in 1953, is a mix of national series combination events and Midwest short tracks. Frank Kimmel won a record 10 championships between 1998 and 2013, while current Cup Series drivers Ty Dillon and Chris Buescher and 2019 NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series Regular Season Champion Grant Enfinger took home championships in recent years.

While the complete 2020 race schedules for all four championships are still to be announced, Thompson and Drager confirmed a number of key events for the upcoming series.

 The 2020 ARCA Menards Series will officially begin Saturday, Feb. 8, at Daytona with the Lucas Oil 200 Driven By General Tire. It will mark the 57th annual ARCA visit to Daytona. The 10-race superspeedway portion of the schedule will include Talladega Superspeedway, Michigan International Speedway, Chicagoland Speedway and Pocono Raceway, and finish the season at Kansas Speedway in October.

 The ARCA Menards Series West will begin the season as part of the national series weekend at Las Vegas, with the return to the Bullring at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. The West slate will also include traditional events at Irwindale Speedway, All American Speedway in Roseville and Sonoma Raceway, with the championship culminating at ISM Raceway in November.

 The ARCA Menards Series East schedule includes events at Five Flags Speedway in Pensacola, Florida, as well as Toledo Speedway, Watkins Glen International and again be part of the annual Full Throttle Fall Weekend at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. It will have its championship decided with its traditional fall visit to Dover International Speedway.

 The Showdown will take the green flag with ARCA’s inaugural visit to ISM Raceway on March 6 as part of the national series’ event weekend in Phoenix. The Showdown’s 10 races, which will also count as part of the 20-race ARCA Menards Series schedule, features events at Indiana’s Salem Speedway, Lucas Oil Raceway in Indianapolis, Minnesota’s Elko Speedway, Bristol Motor Speedway, Iowa Speedway and World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway. Both Iowa and Gateway have hosted K&N Pro West combination races as well as ARCA events annually, and this in an opportunity for those tracks to bring all three series together. The first Showdown champion will be crowned at Memphis International Raceway in September.

In addition, NASCAR and MAVTV announced a three-year extension of its telecast rights agreement for select ARCA Menards Series races. The partnership, combined with the races covered on FOX Sports, means that all 20 ARCA Menards Series races — including the 10-race Showdown portion — will be available via live or same-day broadcast. NBCSN will continue to carry the ARCA Menards Series East and West as part of their extensive NASCAR coverage.

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Ty Gibbs Scores Clean Sweep with Dominant Victory in ARCA Menards Series Kentuckiana Ford Dealers Fall Classic 200 at Salem Speedway

Ty Gibbs (No. 18 Monster Energy/ORCA Coolers/Terrible Herbst/Advance Auto Parts Toyota) scored a dominant victory in Saturday night’s ARCA Menards Series Kentuckiana Ford Dealers Fall Classic 200 at Salem Speedway. Gibbs thoroughly dominated the entire day as he led the day’s practice session, set the fast time in General Tire Pole Qualifying, and led every green flag lap to score his second career series victory.

“That’s all due to my right foot, the guys who build these great racecars and the man upstairs,” Gibbs said in victory lane. “It’s great to come out here and get our second win of the season. We aren’t racing for the championship so it’s all about wins for us.”

Gibbs finished two seconds ahead of Christian Eckes (No. 15 JBL Audio Toyota), who moved to within five points of championship leader Michael Self (No. 25 Sinclair Lubricants Toyota), who suffered a mechanical problem and finished 14th.

“It’s great to have Salem behind us,” Eckes said. “This isn’t my favorite track and to come out of here with that big of a gain on Michael is huge for us. It sucks we couldn’t get up there and race Ty for the win but we’ll take second and head to Indianapolis and go race for the win there.”

Self was dejected after giving up 65 of his 70-point lead over Eckes.

“We’ve had too many mechanical problems this season,” Self said. “All we want to go is come out here and race for wins. We’re going to put tonight behind us and go to Indy and Kansas to go win some races.”

Corey Heim (No. 22 Speedway Children’s Charities Ford) finished third, Bret Holmes (No. 23 Holmes II Excavation Toyota) was fourth and Sam Mayer (No. 21 Chevy Accessories Chevrolet) finished fifth.

Just as Chandler Smith (No. 20 Craftsman/828 Logistics Toyota) did in a dominant performance to win last fall at Salem, Gibbs led every green flag lap. He led from the initial start through lap 172 when he was beat off pit road by Eckes. Gibbs retook the lead on the restart at lap 176 and we never headed.

The race was slowed five times by cautions. The first, at lap 23, was for debris, while the second, at lap 75, was for Gavin Harlein (No. 55 Autism Awareness #4Presley Toyota), who experienced mechanical issues and stopped at the entrance to pit road. The third caution of the night was for engine issues for Tim Richmond (No. 06 GreatRailing.com Dodge), and Ed Pompa (No. 11 Milwaukee Crusher/Double H Ranch Toyota) – whose Darrell Waltrip-themed throwback scheme earned him the first Jack Harrison Trophy in a fan vote during pre-race festivities – spun on lap 170 to set up the final round of pit stops that allowed Eckes to assume the lead. The fifth and final caution, again for debris, was displayed on lap 186 and set up a nine-lap dash to the checkered for Gibbs.

There were two lead changes among Gibbs and Eckes, and the race was completed in one hour, 26 minutes, and 54 seconds at an average speed of 76.640 miles per hour.

The ARCA Menards Series will take two weekends off before returning to action on Saturday October 5 with the Herr’s Potato Chips 200 at Lucas Oil Raceway. Practice starts the day’s activities at 2 pm ET, with General Tire Pole Qualifying at 5 pm ET. The 200-lap main event, scheduled for live broadcast MAVTV, will go green shortly after 8 pm ET. ARCA for Me members can access live timing & scoring, live chat, and live track updates at ARCARacing.com. New users can register for free with a valid email address at ARCARacing.com/login. Discounted adult general admission tickets are available through October 4 at Indianapolis-area Menards locations for just $20. For more information, please visit TrackEnterprises.com.

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Christian Eckes Closes in on ARCA Menards Series Championship Lead with Third Victory of 2019 in Southern Illinois 100 at DuQuoin

Christian Eckes (No. 15 JBL Audio/Illinois Truck & Equipment Toyota) scored his third ARCA Menards Series victory of the season with a dominant performance in the Southern Illinois 100 on the Magic Mile at the DuQuoin State Fairgrounds.

Eckes started outside General Tire Pole Award winner Ken Schrader (No. 52 Federated Auto Parts Toyota), and slipped past third-place started Kelly Kovski (No. 16 Schluckebier Farms/RaceTires.com Chevrolet) on lap 10 to take the lead and led the rest of the way to take his second career ARCA Menard Series win on dirt. He also won at Springfield in 2018.

“I don’t know if you can call me a dirt track expert just yet,” Eckes laughed in victory lane. “I tried to drive Springfield and DuQuoin like dirt tracks last year and burned everything off the car I could. We tried some new things here tonight and I drove the track more like a pavement track and it really paid off.”

Eckes finished in 0.443 seconds in front of his Venturini Motorsports teammate, and defending race winner, Logan Seavey (No. 20 Craftsman Toyota). Seavey started tenth and methodically worked his way towards the front of the field. He utilized lap traffic to work past his other Venturini Motorsports teammate Michael Self (No. 25 Sinclair Lubricants Toyota) to take over second with 28 laps to go. From there Seavey was able to stay within sight of Eckes but he couldn’t close in enough to seriously challenge.

“It stinks coming back here and finishing second,” Seavey said. “We worked our way to the front and caught a good break in traffic to get past Michael but we didn’t quite have enough to close in on Christian.”

Corey Heim (No. 22 Speedway Children’s Charities Ford) finished third. He rebounded from a disappointing seventh-place result at Springfield after restarting second with two laps to go.

“It’s a little bittersweet,” Heim said. “We should have finished no lower than third at Springfield but ended up seventh. We had a great night here today but I would have liked to have started a little closer to the front. If we qualified a little better we wouldn’t have had to have worked so hard to get to the front and might have had a shot at running Christian down for the win.”

Self finished fourth and gave up 35 points to Eckes in the hunt for the ARCA Menards Series championship.

“The lapped cars were tough tonight,” Self said. “I get you want to race hard and stay on the lead lap but you also need to respect the leaders of the race. They didn’t give a lot of room out there for sure. We lost a position late in the race to lapped car. Maybe I could have been a little more aggressive, I don’t know.”

Illinoisan Kelly Kovski (No. 16 Schluckebier Farms/RaceTires.com Chevrolet) finished fifth.

“We’re happy with a top five but we want to come out here and win,” Kovski said. “I only get a couple of chances a year to do this. It means a lot to me to come out and run well but I want to win for my guys and Grant (Enfinger). I know our days of having Grant come and crew chief for us are probably numbered so we want to take advantage of it while we can.”

The race was only slowed twice by cautions, each time for debris. That allowed Eckes to set a record speed on his way to the victory, 105.798 miles per hour. With the victory, Eckes unofficially closes to within 70 points of series championship leader Self in the race for the ARCA Menards Series championship with three races remaining.

The ARCA Menards Series returns to action on Saturday September 14 in the Kentuckiana Ford Dealers Fall Classic 200 at Salem Speedway. Practice is set for 2:30 pm ET with General Tire Pole Qualifying to follow at 4 pm ET. The 200-lap main event will close the night at 7:15 pm ET. The race will be televised live flag-to-flag on MAVTV. ARCA for Me members can follow live timing & scoring, live chat, and live track updates at ARCARacing.com; new users can register for free with a valid email address at ARCARacing.com/login. For ticket information, please visit SalemSpeedway.com.

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News

Michael Self Scores Fourth ARCA Menards Series Win of 2019 – and First Career Dirt Win – in Allen Crowe 100 at Springfield

Although he dominated the second half of the ARCA Menards Series Allen Crowe 100 presented by Lucas Oil, Michael Self (No. 25 Sinclair Lubricants Toyota) held off his Venturini Motorsports teammate Christian Eckes (No. 15 JBL Audio/Illinois Truck & Equipment Toyota) on a two-lap dash to the checkered to earn his fourth series victory of the season.

Self, the current series championship leader, took the lead from another Venturini Motorsports teammate and General Tire Pole Award winner Logan Seavey (No. 20 Craftsman Toyota) shortly after halfway. From there, Self build a nearly four-second advantage over the field until an incident in turn four involving Ty Gibbs (No. 18 Monster Energy/ORCA Coolers/Terrible Herbst/Advance Auto Parts Toyota) and Joe Graf, Jr. (No. 77 EAT SLEEP RACE Ford) with less than ten laps to go. The race would get restarted at the scheduled conclusion, lap 100, for a green-white-checkered dash to the checkered.

Self got the break on the restart and battled side-by-side with upstart rookie Corey Heim (No. 22 Speedway Children’s Charities Ford), but the two made contact in turns three and four. Self dashed to the lead while Heim dropped through the field allowing Eckes to move into second.

“I did not want to see that last yellow,” Self said. “I was really nervous about it. I knew we had to get a great restart. It was pretty wild going off into turns one and two.”

For his part, Heim was disappointed but he knew what to expect going into the final couple of laps.

“We just got pushed up into the loose dirt in turns three and four,” Heim said. “If I was in that position that’s what I would have done too. It sucks we lost all those positions. We stayed patient all day and worked the bottom groove and did what we needed to do.”

Eckes was happy to come across the line in second knowing he could have given up a lot more ground to Self in the ARCA Menards Series championship battle.

“We’re happy with second but we needed more than that today,” Eckes said. “We were fourth before that last restart so it could have been worse than that. It’s just a shame we gave up everything we picked up at Pocono.”

Bret Holmes (No. 23 Holmes II Excavation Chevrolet) was third, Seavey fourth, and Will Kimmel (No. 69 Kimmel Racing Ford) was fifth.

Self continues to lead the ARCA Menards Series championship standings with an unofficial 105-point lead over Eckes headed into the Southern Illinois 100 at DuQuoin on August 31.

The race was slowed just four times by cautions. The first was for a crash involving Eric Caudell (No. 7 Honoring America’s Warriors Dodge) on the opening lap. The second yellow of the day was on lap 10 for rain, which forced a 12-minute delay while the track crew worked the dirt surface of the track. The third yellow of the afternoon waved on lap 27 for a spin involving Tim Richmond (No. 06 GreatRailing.com Dodge), and the final yellow for the spin involving Gibbs and Graf waved on lap 94.

Self’s winning average speed was 76.917 miles per hour. His margin of victory over Eckes was 0.363 seconds.

The next race for the ARCA Menards Series is the Southern Illinois 100 on Saturday night August 31. Practice starts at 2:30 pm CT, General Tire Pole Qualifying is set for 5:30 pm CT, and the race is set for 8 pm CT. The race will be televised live on MAVTV; ARCARacing.com will have live timing & scoring, live chat, and live track updates for registered users.

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News

Christian Eckes Makes Statement with Dominant Win in FORTS USA 150 at Pocono

Christian Eckes (No. 15 JBL Audio Toyota) made a statement that he will be a threat for the ARCA Menards Series championship with a dominant victory in Friday’s FORTS USA 150 at Pocono Raceway. Eckes took control on lap 35 when the dominant driver in the early stages of the race, General Tire Pole Award winner Todd Gilliland (No. 18 Frontline Enterprises Toyota), was penalized for a blend line violation after his only pit stop of the afternoon.Eckes led the final 26 laps of the caution free race to score his second win of the season and fifth overall.

Once Eckes was alerted by his crew that he would be the leader after Gilliland’s penalty, he kept his head in the game to minimize mistakes.

“Once they told me what happened to the 18 it was all about keeping our heads down and not making any mistakes,” Eckes said. “We knew there was a long way to go and we needed to be perfect to close it out.”

Gilliland, who led the first 31 laps in a substitute role for Joe Gibbs Racing while the team’s regular driver Riley Herbst is racing in the NASCAR XFINITY Series at Iowa Speedway, was disappointed with his second-place run.

“The blend line rule is different in Trucks and ARCA,” he said. “In the truck, we can go above the line with the right side tires as long as we keep the left side tires below it. In ARCA they want you to keep all four tires below it until your between turns one and two. It wouldn’t have been a problem for me at all to keep them below the line. I should have know it but I didn’t.”

With his second win of the season, Eckes closes the gap on his Venturini Motorsports teammate and championship leader Michael Self (No. 25 Sinclair Lubricants Toyota), who finished third. Eckes knows with just five races remaining every point matters.

“We need to be perfect from here on out,” Eckes said. “Without missing the race at Salem, we’d be 150 points ahead. Without the last lap at Elko we’d be within 50 points or so. We were perfect here today and we need to be perfect every week from here on out. I’ve won at three of the five tracks and my crew chief Kevin Reed has won at all five of them so I am confident we can make a run at it.”

Self finished third in what was an uneventful race for the points leader.

“We had a right rear tire go down and we had to pit early,” Self said. “Once the field cycled through and we didn’t get a caution it evened out for us. We weren’t close to second place and we were way ahead of fourth so we were just trying to make sure we didn’t do anything to give it away at the end.”

There were four lead changes among five drivers. Gilliland lead the first 31 laps from the pole, and Chandler Smith (No. 20 Craftsman/828 Logistics Toyota), Austin Wayne Self (No. 32 Win Tron Racing Chevrolet), and Bret Holmes (No. 23 Holmes II Excavation Chevrolet) each led a lap while the field cycled through green flag pit stops. Eckes took the lead at lap 35 and led the rest of the way to the finish.

Without a caution to slow the pace, Eckes averaged Pocono Raceway ARCA Menards Series record 164.534 miles per hour. Eckes’ margin of victory was 13.027 seconds.

Self continues to lead the series championship standings with an unofficial 90-point advantage over Eckes who has now moved into second. Holmes is now third, 110 points back and ninth-place finisher Travis Braden (No. 27 MatrixCare/Consonus Health Care/Liberty Village Ford) is fourth 150 points behind.

The next race for the ARCA Menards Series is the Allen Crowe Memorial 100 at the Illinois State Fairgrounds on Saturday, August 18. Practice on the one-mile dirt oval will begin at 10 am ET/9 am CT, General Tire Pole Qualifying is set for 12 n ET/11 am CT, and the 100-mile feature event will go green at 2:30 pm ET/1:30 pm CT. The race will be televised live flag-to-flag on MAVTV. ARCA for Me members can follow live timing & scoring, live chat, and live track updates at ARCARacing.com. New users can register for free with a valid email address at ARCARacing.com/login. For ticket information please visit TrackEnterprises.com.

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Dominant Chandler Smith Takes Fourth Straight Short Track Win in Fans with Benefits 150

After leading the afternoon’s practice session and winning the General Tire Pole Award, Chandler Smith (No. 20 Craftsman/828 Logistics Toyota) put a period on a clean sweep of the ARCA Menards Series Fans with Benefits 150 with a dominant victory Friday night at Iowa Speedway. Smith led the first 106 laps before losing the lead on pit road during the penultimate caution flag of the night. Once back under green, it took him just 10 laps to knife his way through the field to retake the lead from Ty Gibbs (No. 18 Monster Energy/ORCA Coolers/Terrible Herbst/Advance Auto Parts Toyota) to lead the final 35 laps.

The win is Smith’s fourth of the season, and his fourth consecutive ARCA Menards Series short track victory.

Smith wasn’t hampered at all by traffic or the dreaded aero push as he sliced his way through the field.

“The only time I ever felt the car respond to aero all night was when I passed a lap car on the outside,” Smith said. “Other than that it was perfect. I can’t thank Billy and the rest of the Venturini Motorsports team for giving me such a great car here. To have five wins on the season is a dream come true.”

It’s the second time this season the 17-year-old from Talking Rock, Georgia has raced at the 0.875-mile D-shaped oval. He led the first 55 laps of the NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series race here earlier in the season in his debut driving for Kyle Busch Motorsports.

“I learned a lot that carried over here to the ARCA car,” Smith said. “They have the same engine and the same power so a lot of the way they drive is similar. Any time you get extra laps is a benefit.”

Smith’s late-race charge to the front was necessitated by a miscue on the final pit stop.

“We had some sort of jack malfuction,” he said. “It’s all just part of it. I really wanted to lead them all tonight but we’re still leaving here with the trophy and that’s what matters.”

Smith led a Venturini Motorsports sweep of the top three finishers. Christian Eckes (No. 15 JBL Audio Toyota) was second in front of Michael Self (No. 25 Sinclair Lubricants Toyota) in third.

“I thought I got a better restart than Chandler did on the final restart,” Eckes said. “We went down into one and just got way too loose. When the track is as hot and slick as it was tonight I don’t know if that’s what it was or if we were just too loose. But this is as hot as I’ve ever been in the racecar.”

As if the 90-degree temperatures weren’t enough of a challenge, Self fought a gearbox issue that left his car stuck in fourth gear for most of the night. On each restart he would drop back through the field and be forced to pass the same cars repeatedly as he charged back to the front.

“The only time we had all the gears was on the initial start of the race,” Self said. “Every other restart we would drop back through the field and have to pass our way back towards the front. It really felt like it was one of the most physical races I’ve ever driven because I was always racing someone for position all night long. The final restart we didn’t lose as many positions as the others because it was just a couple of laps to go and I held it wide open through turns one and two and whatever happened happened.”

The race was slowed four times by cautions, twice for debris and twice for incidents on track. Scott Melton (No. 69 Melton McFadden Agency Toyota) spun to bring out the first caution of the night on lap ten, and the final caution of the night was necessitated for a spin by Tim Richmond, who nosed into the inside wall going into turn one, with just eight laps to go.

Smith took one hour, 20 minutes, and 40 seconds to claim the win at an average speed of 97.624 miles per hour. His margin of victory over Eckes was 1.515 seconds.

Next up for the ARCA Menards Series is the FORTS USA 150 at Pocono Raceway on Friday, July 26. Practice starts at 9 am ET with General Tire Pole Qualifying set for 1:35 pm ET and the green flag on the FORTS USA 150 set to fly at 4 pm ET. The race will be televised live flag to flag on FS1. ARCARacing.com will have live timing & scoring, live user chat, and live track updates for registered users at ARCARacing.com. New users can register for free with a valid email address at ARCARacing.com/login. For ticket information please visit PoconoRaceway.com.

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Chandler Smith Scores Third ARCA Menards Series Win of 2019 with Dominant Performance at Elko

Chandler Smith (No. 20 Craftsman/828 Logistics Toyota) recovered from a mid-race spin to win the ARCA Menards Series Menards 250 at Elko Speedway on Saturday night. Smith, who started seventh, was dominant throughout the race, able to drive way to a full straightaway lead on several occasions on his way to his third series victory of the season.

Although he had the dominant car, Smith did have to work for it. He slid in oil laid down in turn one by another competitor and spun on lap 146 and dropped to the tail of the lead lap. By virtue of a fast car and numerous mid-race cautions that continued to jumble the running order, Smith was able to knife his way back to the lead by lap 209. From there, he was able to drive away to nearly a full straightaway lead crossing the stripe 4.147 seconds ahead of second-place finisher Ty Gibbs (No. 18 Monster Energy/ORCA Coolers/Terrible Herbst/Advance Auto Parts Toyota).

“I was so mad when I spun down there in one,” Smith said post-race. “I was the only one riding the top groove at that point and there was oil all over the place. It just went around so slow, like it was in slow motion. I though we might have had a tire go down or maybe even got hit. I was just mad. You definitely didn’t want to hear our radio traffic after that happened.”

For his part, Gibbs thought he could have challenged Smith for the win but lost track position on the final restart and couldn’t ever close the gap.

“Everyone jumbled up on the final restart,” Gibbs said. “We lost a ton of track position and just couldn’t make it up.”

Sam Mayer (No. 21 Chevy Accessories Chevrolet) finished third.

“It was a crazy night out there but we don’t have any scratches on the car,” he said. “We’ll take it. We have some K&N Pro Series races coming up over the next month so we won’t be back until Salem and Indy in the fall, but we think we’ll be able to come back and get us a win in one of those two races.”

Michael Self (No. 25 Sinclair Lubricants Toyota) finished fourth by inches over Corey Heim (No. 22 Speedway Children’s Charities Ford). Self was racing for position with General Tire Pole Award winner Christian Eckes (No. 15 JBL Audio Toyota) on the final lap when the two made contact, sending Eckes for a smoky spin off turn four coming to the checkered. Eckes would finish eleventh, the final driver on the lead lap.

“Right now I can’t think of anything else from this race but the last lap,” Self said afterwards. “I absolutely hate that we got into Christian on the last lap. He’s not only my teammate but he’s one of my best friends. It puts a real damper on the night.”

The race was action-packed, with a slew of cautions for incidents throughout the middle stages of the race. One of those cautions involved championship contenders Bret Holmes (No. 23 Holmes II Excavation Chevrolet) and Travis Braden (No. 27 MatrixCare/Consonus Health Care/Liberty Village Ford). The two made contact on the frontstretch on lap 198, with Holmes catching a piece of the wall and Braden receiving body damage to the rear end of his car. Four laps later the two came together again with Braden spinning. Holmes finished ninth while Braden finished 12th.

Next up for the ARCA Menards Series is the Fans with Benefits 150 at Iowa Speedway on Friday, July 19. Practice is set for 12:45 pm ET/11:45 am CT, General Tire Pole Qualifying follows at 4:45 pm ET/3:45 pm CT, and the Fans with Benefits 150 will go green at 9 pm ET/8 pm CT. The race will be televised live on MAVTV. ARCA for Me members can access live timing & scoring, live user chat, and live track updates for free at ARCARacing.com. New users can register for free with a valid email address at ARCARacing.com/login. Fans can purchase tickets at a 15% discount at Des Moines area Menards locations.