News and notes from the ARCA Menards Series banquet and Performance Racing Industry trade show…
Travis Braden finished fourth in the ARCA Menards Series championship, and on off-weekends from the ARCA tour spent several weekends racing major super late model events for Team Platinum. The team was competitive all season long and racked up numerous top-five finishes but hadn’t clicked off their first win of the season until last Monday when they took home the famed Tom Dawson Trophy for winning the Snowball Derby at Five Flags Speedway. Braden had the trophy with him when he arrived in Indianapolis on Thursday and had the trophy on display in the ARCA booth at the trade show throughout the weekend.
Former NASCAR Cup Series champion Brad Keselowski has deep roots with the ARCA Menards Series. His father Bob is the 1989 ARCA champion and Brad himself attended many races with his family as his dad chased championships and checkered flags. As his driving career was starting, Brad spent a couple of seasons racing ARCA-sanctioned late model races at Toledo Speedway before making the leap into the NASCAR Gander RV and Outdoors Truck Series. Never forgetting his roots, Keselowski stopped by the ARCA booth to visit during his time at the trade show on Thursday afternoon.
NASCAR XFINTY Series team owner Bobby Dotter also has deep ARCA roots, his father Bob also a former ARCA champion winning in 1980, 1983, and 1984. He passed through the ARCA booth to visit with ARCA president Ron Drager, showing off one of his father’s coveted championship rings and reminiscing about the old days.
There are dozens of former ARCA drivers that stop by the booth at the PRI Trade Show each and every season, but there are fewer and fewer drivers who raced in the old MARC series that make an appearance. One of those drivers, Jim Bray, stopped to chat with ARCA staff on Friday. Bray, from Ontario, Canada, raced in the Midwest Association for Race Cars in the early 1960s at places like Dayton Speedway and Lancaster Speedway.
Three-time NASCAR Cup Series champion Tony Stewart is also a former ARCA winner, taking the win at DuQuoin in 2001. He made a very brief appearance at the ARCA booth as he went from one appearance to another, but did take a moment to chat and take a photo with Joe Graf, Jr.
Graf, Jr. and ARCA Manager of Communications Charles Krall participated as “celebrity bar tenders” at Racers Know Dave Dusick V benefit for the Riley Children’s Hospital on Thursday night at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Other participants throughout the evening included IndyCar drivers Gabby Chavez and Charlie Kimball, NHRA racer Tommy Johnson, Jr., and broadcasters Jamie Howe, Amanda Busick and Dave “The King” Wilson. The benefit raised over $4,500 for the Riley Kids foundation.
NASCAR K&N Pro Series East and West director Chris Wright was in attendance at Saturday’s awards banquet. He will continue on in that role in 2020 as the series transitions to the ARCA Menards Series East and West.
Former NASCAR Cup Series director and long-time NASCAR crew chief Gary Nelson was also in attendance, a guest of ARCA president Ron Drager.
Line of the night at Saturday’s awards banquet came from team owner Coy Gibbs as he congratulated Christian Eckes on his championship. Gibbs referenced Bill Venturini’s tradition of planting a smooch on his drivers in victory lane, and told Eckes that’s not a likely possibility as he transitions to Kyle Busch Motorsports’ NASCAR Gander Trucks program in 2020. “I work with a lot of racecar drivers and some of them can be a real handful. I know who your team owner is for next year. I work with him every day. Don’t expect any kisses in victory lane from him!”