In racing, the position next to your number on the scoreboard at the checkered flag doesn’t always match up with how you ran during most of the race.
For Ty Gibbs, the General Tire 150 at Phoenix perfectly fits that description.
The 17-year-old Gibbs was the man to beat in the ARCA Menards Series’ inaugural trip to the Phoenix Raceway, but when the dust settled at the end of the night, he crossed the line third. Despite his No. 18 Monster/Terrible Herbst/ORCA Toyota being the dominant car nearly the entire day, Gibbs watched Chandler Smith roll into Victory Lane instead after 150 laps of competition. Though it may be little consolation to Gibbs, his performance earned his Joe Gibbs Racing team some of ARCA’s special awards in recognition of his strong drive.
Returning to the ARCA Menards Series after sitting out the season opener at Daytona as well as the 2019 finale at Kansas due to age restrictions, Gibbs picked up right where he left off at Lucas Oil Raceway last year by taking the General Tire Pole Award with a lap clocked at 27.507 seconds (130.876 mph). Gibbs has now started from the top spot in each of his last three series starts.
Gibbs was able to quickly jump out to the lead once the General Tire 150 got underway and had no problem holding off the field when a string of restarts kept the pack bunched up behind him. Gibbs led the opening 53 laps before ducking to pit road to change tires. Even though the field was split on pit strategy, Gibbs was able to retake the lead from Sam Mayer after just three green flag laps. Gibbs earned the Richmond Water Heaters Halfway Leader Award for being out front at lap 75. He also earned the Valvoline Lap Leader Award by a healthy margin, ending the night with 122 laps led out of a possible 150.
Gibbs sits atop the year-long Valvoline Lap Leader standings thanks to his Phoenix performance. Daytona winner Michael Self is second in with 61 laps led.
Race winner Chandler Smith, 17, led the Bounty Rookie Challenge for the night thanks to his victory. Like much of the rest of the field, Smith had very little experience at Phoenix prior to the race weekend, with his only start at the one-mile oval coming in last fall’s NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series event, where Smith finished third. The top rookie from Daytona, Hailie Deegan, finished seventh at Phoenix and grew her lead in the Bounty Rookie of the Year standings. Deegan currently has 79 points, eight more than Drew Dollar.
For coaching Smith to the race victory after qualifying third, Billy Venturini was named the Cometic Crew Chief of the Race. Smith commended his crew chief Venturini for making a late strategy call that put the No. 20 team out in front of the field.
Fellow Venturini Motorsports crew chief Kevin Reed leads the Cometic Crew Chief of the Year standings. Reed has led Michael Self to a win at Daytona and a runner-up at Phoenix.
In recognition of the drivers who must work through a tough day before they can pick up a solid finish, K&N Filters is presenting the Hard Charger Award during the 2020 season. The award is given to the driver who improves the most positions from the start of the race to the checkered flag.
At Phoenix, the K&N Filters Hard Charger was first-time AMS starter Lawless Alan. Scheduled to run the full ARCA Menards Series West slate, the rookie was one of four Bill McAnally Racing cars entered in the General Tire 150. Despite qualifying 18th, Alan was able to drive his No. 12W AutoParkit Toyota into the top ten with a ninth-place finsh.
Through two races, only a pair of drivers have completed all 230 laps that have been run so far: Michael Self and Hailie Deegan, who are tied on top of the S&S Volvo Laps Completed standings. Drew Dollar is close behind after finishing one lap down at Phoenix, with 229 laps to his credit.
The next race for the ARCA Menards Series is the Kentuckiana Ford Dealers 200 from the Salem Speedway on Sunday, April 19. The event will serve as the series’ throwback race as well as the second of ten races that make up the Sioux Chief Showdown. MAVTV will carry live television coverage of the race beginning at 2 p.m. ET.