Simply put, Michael Self (No. 25 Sinclair Oil Toyota) was the class of the field at Salem Speedway on an abbreviated, rainy Sunday afternoon in Southern Indiana. Self and his Venturini Motorsports team won not only the Kentuckiana Ford Dealers 200 but also a slew of special points awards at Salem.
Self qualified fourth and quickly got the jump on Joe Graf Jr. (No. 77 Eat Sleep Race Ford) to move up to the third spot before settling in and logging some laps early on. It became apparent, though, that the Sinclair Dino was the fastest thing on the track and Self reeled in the second-place car of Ty Gibbs (No. 18 Monster Energy Toyota) with ease. After Self managed to get by Gibbs, then-leader Carson Hocevar (No. 28 Scott’s/KBR Development Chevrolet) was a sitting duck. Self made his move heading into turn 3 on lap 27 and turned on the jets from there. The 26 laps that Hocevar led were the first he’d led in 2019. Self would lead nearly every lap the rest of the way, save for Chandler Smith (No. 20 Craftsman Toyota) leading three laps when he briefly stayed out under a yellow flag. Self paced the field for 72 circuits in total at Salem, earning him the Valvoline Lap Leader award.
By virtue of leading at lap 100, Self earned the Richmond Water Heaters Halfway Leader award. Self also won the award at Pensacola, giving him two Halfway Leader awards on the year. Gus Dean (No. 32 Baker Distributing Chevrolet) won the award at Daytona.
The Cometic Crew Chief of the Race is awarded to the crew chief of the driver that has the lowest combined starting and finishing positions over the course of the weekend. Race-winning crew chief Shannon Rursch, calling the shots for Self, picked up the award at Salem. Self qualified fourth and won the race, giving Rursch a combined score of 5.
Sam Mayer (No. 21 Chevy Accessories Chevrolet) and Carson Hocevar joined Michael Self on the Sioux Chief Short Track Challenge podium at Salem. Mayer made a remarkable run to second place after starting in ninth. Mayer bounced back nicely from a late mechanical failure at Pensacola, with his runner-up finish here coming on the heels of a dominating win at Bristol in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East race the previous weekend. Like Mayer, Hocevar had also left Pensacola disappointed when he encountered a fuel pump issue before the race even hit the quarter mark there. Self takes over the lead in the Sioux Chief Short Track Challenge standings with 445 points. Ty Gibbs and Chandler Smith are tied for second with 420 points.
Self increased his yearly total to 140 laps led, giving him the lead in the Valvoline Lap Leader standings over Raphael Lessard (No. 19 FRL Express Chevrolet) who led 83 laps in his lone start of the year at Pensacola. Harrison Burton (No. 15 JBL Audio Toyota), a late fill-in for an unwell Christian Eckes, never led a lap at Salem after starting in the rear and maintains the third spot in the standings with 48 laps led.
Billy Venturini, crew chief of the No. 20 Venturini Motorsports Toyota, remains atop the Cometic Crew Chief of the Year standings with 22 points. His drivers this year have included Harrison Burton and Chandler Smith. Kevin Reed, crew chief for Christian Eckes and the No. 15 JBL Audio Toyota, made a small gain at Salem and has 25 points. Burton filled in for Eckes at Salem on short notice while Eckes battled an illness. Paul Andrews continues to hold down the third position in the standings with 41 points after driver Corey Heim (No. 22 Speedway Children’s Charities Ford) picked up a top five at Salem in his second start of the season. Connor Hall drove the No. 22 to an 11th place finish at Daytona.
The next stop on the ARCA Menards Series tour will be the Talladega Superspeedway on Friday, April 26th. The Sioux Chief Short Track Challenge returns on May 4th at the Fairgrounds Speedway Nashville.