The 2019 ARCA Menards Series season served as a significant step forward for the Chad Bryant Racing team. In the team’s second season with the eponymous crew chief-turned-car owner fully in charge of operations, CBR picked up three race victories as well as a top five finish in the final driver standings with Joe Graf Jr. (No. 77 Eat Sleep Race Ford) and a third place finish in the final owner point standings with the No. 22 car. The season went very smoothly for Bryant, who purchased the assets of the former Cunningham Motorsports team in January 2018 from longtime owners Briggs Cunningham and Kerry Scherer. After fielding a second car in just four races during the 2018 season, Bryant resurrected the No. 22 team for a full schedule with various drivers and became the winning car owner for the 2019 General Tire Superspeedway Challenge with a final tally of 2800 points.
The special awards have been a long time coming for Bryant and his team, who also clinched the R.E. Lightning Challenge award prior to the finale at Kansas. The General Tire Superspeedway Challenge was the first major award win for Bryant as a team owner. It is the second superspeedway challenge win for the organization as a whole, which can trace its history back to former part-owner Kerry Scherer winning the 1997 award with Mark Gibson as his driver. Three different drivers climbed behind the wheel of the No. 22 Ford to deliver the award win to Bryant, marking just the third time in the last 35 years that a team owner won the General Tire Superspeedway Challenge with multiple drivers at the helm.
The No. 22 team had an inauspicious start to the superspeedway portion of the schedule at the season-opening Lucas Oil 200 at Daytona. Connor Hall was set to make his ARCA Menards Series debut behind the wheel of the No. 22 Marlow Yachts Ford. The highlight was Hall spinning in a shower of sparks on lap 49 but somehow avoiding any contact. The ensuing chaos knocked three cars out of the race, but most important was the fact that Hall was not one of those cars, and he soldiered on for an 11th-place finish.
The ARCA Menards Series would not visit another superspeedway until the end of April, where CBR was set to put a familiar face in the seat of the No. 22 Ford. Ty Majeski, who had previously driven for Cunningham Motorsports during the 2017 season, was going to race at Talladega and at five other events during the rest of the season with sponsorship from Crestliner Boats. Majeski showed no signs of rust despite not having competed in an ARCA Menards Series race in 18 months, qualifying second and finishing fourth.
Charlotte was worth the wait for Majeski and Bryant as Majeski took the lead in the closing stages of the General Tire 150 and held on through nine laps of green-white-checkered overtime to score the victory. It was Majeski’s first career ARCA Menards Series win. Majeski wasted no time in picking up win number two the very next week at Pocono. Crew chief Paul Andrews made the call to bring Majeski in for his final green flag pit stop of the day while he was running second to race leader Riley Herbst. Majeski then passed Herbst for the lead while Herbst was still getting up to speed after his pit stop, easily pulling away for his second AMS win in nine days.
Michael Self (No. 25 Sinclair Lubricants Toyota) showed the most speed of any driver by far during the next week’s race at Michigan, leading to Andrews playing the pit strategy card once again for Majeski. Self dove onto pit road with ten laps to go for a splash of fuel to make it to the end of the race while Andrews instructed Majeski to stay out and conserve fuel. Coming through turns 3 and 4 on the final lap, Majeski’s car ran dry and Self roared past the sputtering No. 22 car to take the win. Majeski coasted down the frontstretch to finish second, missing out on back-to-back-to-back wins by the narrowest of margins.
World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway is the shortest superspeedway on the AMS schedule, and at 1.25 miles in length the rules state that drivers as young as 15 years old are allowed to compete at the track if approved. 16-year old Corey Heim was set to pilot the No. 22 Speedway Children’s Charities Ford at Gateway as well as at the second Pocono race in July. Heim never showed a hint of inexperience as he qualified third and finished fourth in his first superspeedway start.
Majeski was tapped back in for the Bounty 150 at Chicagoland, the final event in a stretch of seven races in as many weeks for the ARCA Menards Series. Majeski led 72 of 100 laps in his third win of the season, posting a margin of victory of over nine seconds. Heim reprised his role as the No. 22 driver at Pocono in July and finished fourth, leaving Bryant with a healthy lead in the General Tire Superspeedway Challenge with just one superspeedway left on the schedule.
Despite being on the sidelines for nearly four months between starts, Majeski quickly picked up where he left off and delivered a third-place finish at Kansas, earning the General Tire Superspeedway Challenge for No. 22 team owner Chad Bryant in the process with 2800 points. Billy Venturini’s No. 20 Venturini Motorsports Toyota finished second with 2640 points; the superspeedway driver lineup for the No. 20 included Harrison Burton, Brandon Lynn, Myatt Snider and Chandler Smith. Burton scored the No. 20’s lone superspeedway win in the season opener at Daytona. Bill Venturini’s No. 15 Venturini Motorsports Toyota came home third in the standings with 2520 points. With overall series champion Christian Eckes behind the wheel, the No. 15 won superspeedway races at Pocono in July and at Kansas.
Don Fike’s No. 27 RFMS Racing Ford wound up fourth in the General Tire Superspeedway Challenge standings with 2490 points. Driver Travis Braden finished in the top ten in all nine superspeedway races. Coy Gibbs’ No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota completed the top five in the superspeedway challenge standings with 2485 points. Drivers Riley Herbst, Ty Gibbs and Todd Gilliland split time in the Monster Energy-sponsored Toyota, with Gibbs eking out a win at Gateway in June.
The General Tire Superspeedway Challenge award, along with the rest of the season’s trophies, will be presented during the 2019 ARCA Menards Series awards banquet on Saturday, December 14. The year-end banquet will be held in Indianapolis, Indiana as part of the Performance Racing Industry trade show weekend. Tickets are on sale now and are available to the general public for purchase.