DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — The tradition of ARCA Menards Series racing at Daytona continued on, as Saturday night’s event saw a familiar face in Victory Lane, a new face tie a historical mark and a plethora of young drivers acquire knowledge throughout.
Here is what we learned from the Lucas Oil 200 at Daytona International Speedway.
Michael Self entered the season-opener as the only prior winner at Daytona.
Once the checkered flag flew, that fact remained the same.
Self led a race-high 61 of 80 laps en route to his second win at Daytona and eighth of his ARCA Menards Series career, and credited the handling of the car for allowing him to have what looked to be such an easy race.
“I tell people a lot, one of the most important things to win this race is having a car that’s stable and drive-able,” Self said. “Speed isn’t necessarily the main thing that wins you this race. Kevin (Reed) and all the guys at the Venturini shop have done a phenomenal job giving us those cars. It just makes life easier for us and to know we have speed on top of it.”
— Michael Self (@michaelself) February 9, 2020
Runner-Up Debut For Deegan
In her first start for Ford Performance and DGR-Crosley to kick off her full-time ARCA Menards Series campaign, Hailie Deegan came up only one spot short of winning at The World Center of Racing.
The finish tied the best for a female in series history, and marks her best finish in seven ARCA races.
— DGR-Crosley (@DGR_Crosley) February 9, 2020
She was content to ride and finish second. So much so that when spotter Eric Holmes told her to stay on the bottom on the final lap while coming down the backstretch, she calmly replied with “I got ya.”
It’s that kind of big picture thinking that Deegan hopes will play dividends as the season wears on.
“I will say that one thing I regret from the past two seasons was making more enemies than I should have,” she said. “Carrying more grudges than I should have. That is something this season, especially coming to the ARCA Series and a lot of new drivers, I want to stay away from that and have people on my side so that when I do get in situations like where Michael is and we can help each other, it gets him a victory and me a good finish and we are both happy.”
Although she’s won before (three times in the West), the runner-up finish may as well come with a trophy for her and the DGR-Crosley team.
It was mission accomplished.
“That was really my goal. Second is really a win to me this weekend,” Deegan said. “Winning the first race would have maybe been a little too high of standards for the rest of the season. Everything would have been downhill. This gives me something to still work towards.”
Along with savvy veterans come wide-eyed rookies and inexperienced drivers, specifically in the season-opener. After the excitement of 80 laps at Daytona wound down, multiple youngsters had one major takeaway: they learned.
“It was incredible how much I learned,” Thad Moffitt said following his fifth-place run. “Timing your runs, how these races go. It was crazy from start to finish. I can’t really say that I caught my breath during the race. We definitely raced our heart out the whole entire time.”
In his first career start, Drew Dollar only fell outside the top five once during the 200 miles due to a pit road penalty not of his own doing. He wished a more concrete plan would’ve been in place to try and win, but was happy with the big picture aspect of the day.
“We never really had anything planned out at the end unfortunately, but learned a ton,” Dollar said following his third-place run. “Nobody really had any plans. When the car behind us got to us, he just didn’t have a big enough run, just kind of stalled out. Couldn’t do anything there. But the good news is we came home with a clean car and in third-place.”
In his first career stock car asphalt start, World of Outlaws champion David Gravel finished without a right side on his door, but with much more information than he entered with.
“I did a lot of pit road stuff, so I’m fine on and off pit road from here on out,” Gravel joked following his 12th-place finish. “I made some silly mistakes. It’s just tough when you’re running the bottom following a guy. You can’t go anywhere, you’re pinned down and at the mercy of everybody in front of you. It cost me. I had fun, wish we could have done better, but I guess we finished the race, that was my first goal, and we’ll move onto the next one.”
- Sean Corr scored his fourth top-five finish in his 51st start, leading seven of the 80 laps.
- Jason White, a NASCAR Pinty’s Series veteran, scored his first top 10 for Fast Track Racing.
- Willie Mullins earned his fourth career top 10 in his 17th career series start.
- 15 of the 33 cars failed to finish due to various issues. Multiple drivers were involved in “The Big One” on Lap 40.
— ARCA Menards Series (@ARCA_Racing) February 8, 2020
- DGR-Crosleys Tanner Gray (oil cooler) was forced to pit road due to smoke billowing from the engine with under 10 laps remaining. He was running inside the top five at the time of the incident.