After qualifying was concluded at the Sioux Chief PowerPex 200 at Toledo Speedway in May, Michael Self (No. 25 Sinclair Lubricants Toyota) was the most surprised of anyone at the track that he had just nailed down the General Tire Pole Award for the race. Self went on to insist in an interview shortly thereafter that he was “not the greatest qualifier by any means,” with the pole being just the third of his career in 103 combined stock car starts. Five months and five poles later, you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone who still believes Self when he says he’s no qualifying ace. His five poles led the 2019 ARCA Menards Series field, and he will be recognized with the General Tire Pole Award at the series award banquet in December for his feat.
In addition to his pole at Toledo, Self was also the polesitter for races at Charlotte, Michigan, World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway and Chicagoland. Self won the race at Michigan from the pole, leading 86 laps in the process, but had to make the winning pass on the final lap when Ty Majeski (No. 22 Crestliner Boats Ford) ran out of fuel while leading in turns 3 and 4. Self had just one pole to his credit in ARCA competition prior to this season, winning the pole for the race at Talladega in 2018. Self also won a pole in one NASCAR K&N Pro Series West race in 2017 at All American Speedway, later winning the race as well. The K&N Pro Series West will be known as the ARCA Menards Series West beginning in 2020.
Chandler Smith (No. 20 Craftsman Toyota) started from the pole four times in his 11 starts, the second-best mark behind Self. Smith won the General Tire Pole Award at Pensacola (shattering Gary Bradberry’s 25-year old track record in the process), Nashville, Madison and Iowa. Smith won the race from the pole at both Madison and Iowa.
Joining Self and Smith as multi-time polesitters in 2019 were Christian Eckes (No. 15 JBL Audio Toyota) and Ty Gibbs (No. 18 Monster Energy Toyota). Eckes won the pole for the season opener at Daytona as well as at Elko. Gibbs was the polesitter for back-to-back races at Salem and Lucas Oil Raceway in the fall and took home a dominating victory at Salem.
Seven drivers each won a single General Tire Pole Award. Carson Hocevar (No. 28 GMPartsNow.com Chevrolet) picked up his second career pole in just his fifth-ever start at Salem in the spring. Brandon Lynn (No. 20 Carolina Excavation & Grading Toyota) won the pole at Talladega, his only start of the season. Harrison Burton (No. 20 Ruud Toyota) won the pole for the first Pocono race in May while Todd Gilliland (No. 18 Frontline Enterprises Toyota) was the polesitter at Pocono in the July race. Logan Seavey (No. 20 Craftsman Tools Toyota) used his dirt experience to claim the pole at Springfield. Tanner Gray (No. 54 Valvoline/Durst Toyota) ended his season strong by winning the pole for the finale at Kansas. And 64-year old Ken Schrader (No. 52 Federated Auto Parts Toyota) won the pole at DuQuoin in his return to the series, breaking his own record from Salem in 2015 as the oldest short track pole winner as well as Mark Thompson’s record as the overall oldest series pole winner. Thompson won the pole at Daytona in 2015 at 63 years old, ironically driving a Toyota owned by Schrader.
The General Tire Pole Award, along with the rest of the season’s trophies and honors, 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.