The 2019 ARCA Menards Series season was an all-around banner season for Venturini Motorsports, with 14 race wins as well as both the driver’s and owner’s championships topping this year’s resume for the Concord, North Carolina-based organization. It was particularly sweet for Billy Venturini, the car owner and crew chief for the No. 20 team that won the owner’s championship. Venturini won the Cometic Crew Chief of the Year award as the series’ top shotcaller during the 2019 season.
The Cometic Crew Chief standings are calculated by adding together a driver’s starting position, based on General Tire Pole Qualifying results if the session is held, as well as a driver’s final finishing position. The crew chief of the driver with the lowest combined total is named the Cometic Crew Chief of the Race each week, and the crew chief with the lowest cumulative total across all 20 AMS races is named the Cometic Crew Chief of the Year at the season’s end. Billy Venturini finished the year with 164 points, having held a healthy lead in the Crew Chief of the Year standings nearly all season long.
Venturini started the season with a bang when he led Harrison Burton (No. 20 DEX Imaging Toyota) to a victory at Daytona, keeping his young driver calm as Burton held off the field during a one-lap shootout to end the race. With four of the next five races following Daytona coming at short tracks, Venturini turned to young phenom Chandler Smith (No. 20 Craftsman Toyota) at Pensacola, Salem, Nashville and Toledo. Smith started on the pole at Pensacola and Nashville and finished in the top five in all four starts. Smith picked up his first win of the season when he dominated the rain-shortened event at Toledo. In between Salem and Nashville, Brandon Lynn (No. 20 Carolina Excavation & Grading Toyota) returned to VMS for a one-off at Talladega and won the pole before finishing third.
Burton returned to the No. 20 car for the next two superspeedway races at Charlotte and Pocono. Burton ran fourth in the home race for Venturini at Charlotte and won the pole at Pocono but finished two laps down in sixth place. The result was the first finish outside the top five all year for the No. 20 team, as well as the first finish off the lead lap for the car. Myatt Snider (No. 20 Cometic Toyota), the 2016 AMS winner at Toledo, made a return to the series at Michigan and piloted Venturini’s car to an eighth-place finish. Venturini was able to return to his winning ways at Madison when Chandler Smith dominated the Wisconsin half-mile by winning from the pole. It was the fifth pole position and the third win for Venturini as a crew chief in the first half of the year alone.
Smith made his much-anticipated superspeedway debut at the 1.25-mile World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway and qualified fourth for Venturini. However, Smith encountered axle issues during the race and spent nearly half of the event in the garage before returning to the race. Smith finished 16th, 59 laps down, in what would be the worst finish for the No. 20 team all year long. Venturini rallied the troops by the next week’s race at Chicagoland and coached Harrison Burton to a runner-up finish in that event. Smith would return to the seat for the next two short track events at Elko and Iowa, winning both races as well as the pole at Iowa.
Fresh off his 17th birthday, Smith was tabbed as the No. 20 driver for the second Pocono race and finished eighth in a race that saw zero caution flags. Logan Seavey (No. 20 Craftsman Toyota) returned to VMS to run the dirt miles at Springfield and DuQuoin for the second year in a row. Seavey won the pole at Springfield and finished fourth, then bettered his effort by finishing second at DuQuoin. Smith prepared for his last two starts of the year, finishing eighth at Salem, then ending his AMS season on a high note by winning yet another rain-shortened race at Lucas Oil Raceway. In the season finale at Kansas, Harrison Burton again got the call and finished 12th after hitting the wall in the opening laps of the race.
Billy Venturini finished with a stellar crew chief stat line of six wins, 14 top fives, 18 top tens and seven poles. His drivers led 757 laps on the season and had an average starting position of 4.0 to go with an average finish of 4.5. Chandler Smith finished the season with five wins, the most of any driver in the series, all coming with Venturini as his crew chief.
Kevin Reed, crew chief for Christian Eckes’ No. 15 JBL Audio Toyota, finished second in the Cometic Crew Chief of the Year standings with 185 points. Reed won the overall series driver’s championship with Eckes and had two poles, four wins, 13 top fives and 18 top tens as a crew chief. Eckes ran 19 races and Harrison Burton filled in for an ailing Eckes once at Salem in the spring. Reed narrowly edged Paul Andrews, crew chief of the No. 22 Chad Bryant Racing Ford, for the second spot. Andrews took third place with 186 points. Andrews had three wins – all with Ty Majeski – as well as 14 top fives and 18 top tens in the 2019 season.
Shannon Rursch finished fourth in the year-end standings with 205 points. Rursch spent the entire season as the crew chief of Michael Self and the No. 25 VMS team, finishing the year with four wins and a second-place finish in the driver’s championship. Mark McFarland rounded out the top five crew chiefs with 218 points. McFarland spent 2019 as the crew chief for Joe Gibbs Racing’s No. 18 Toyota, winning two races and finishing second a remarkable seven times.
The Cometic Crew Chief of the Year 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.