#15: Christian Eckes, Toyota Camry JBL Audio celebrates the race win and championship
Billy Ventruni (center) celebrates in Victory Lane with driver Christian Eckes at Kansas Speedway after they won the 2019 finale and clinched the ARCA Menards Series championship. (Barry Cantrell/ARCA Racing)

King of the Hat Dance: Billy Venturini Wears Them All

When it comes to wearing a lot of hats, few in the ARCA Menards Series wear as many as Billy Venturini.

The 44-year-old from Chicago, Illinois, has put on a lot during the Victory Lane "hat dance" – the post-race process of posing for the winner’s photographs with the myriad of series, team and sponsor hats. After all, his Venturini Motorsports team won 14 races in 2019 and the first two of 2020. But he also wears several within his organization.

Along with his parents, he’s one of the team’s owners, and along with his wife Emily he’s in charge of making sure the ship stays pointed in the right direction. And interestingly, he’s also one of the team’s crew chiefs, calling the shots for the No. 20 car that’s slated to be shared by Chandler Smith and Ryan Repko this season.

Venturini likes the competitive aspect of calling races from the pit box.

"I played sports in high school and I am a former driver," Venturini said. "I love to compete and being a crew chief is the way I can still do that. Some people can do it really well, and this is a way for me to measure myself against them. It’s a true measurement of where you are with your craft. If you are the winner, everyone else is the loser.

"A lot of people know how to make race cars go fast, but winning is an art and I think I have gotten pretty good at it."

"There are a lot of people in the garage area we are friendly with, but as soon as the National Anthem ends, I don’t talk to anyone that’s not a part of my team. I am there to beat everyone else and that gets even more focused once the anthem is done. We’re there to beat you and beat you as badly as we can from that point on."

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Another interesting aspect of the various roles he plays throughout the season is how his relationships vary with his driver when he’s "Car Owner Billy" versus "Crew Chief Billy."

"As an owner I am kind of like their pal and I try to give them some advice," he said. "When I am the crew chief, I am more of a disciplined mentor. As the owner, I am a little more laid back and I try to see things from more of a big picture perspective. In the crew chief role we are more focused on individual tasks and a little more short sighted with our vision."

Venturini has been in position as a crew chief to battle against a car he owns for victory on more than one occasion.

"I don’t root for one over the other," he said. "There is always some extra satisfaction when I win as a crew chief. And up until the last pit stop is done, I am focused 100 percent on that car during the race. After that, then I really become a fan of my race team again and I can root them all on. Sometimes I have to keep coaching and encouraging my driver as a crew chief role, but whenever one of my drivers wins I couldn’t be happier."

Venturini appreciates the camaraderie among his fellow Venturini Motorsports crew chiefs, but admits at the end of the day they are the ones he often wants to beat the most.

"Those guys help take care of my car during the week, which allows me to focus on getting deals put together with drivers and sponsors so we can all go race," he said. "They oversee my stuff so when I get to the track I have everything I need, and I do my end so they have everything they need to go out and compete for wins. But there are definitely days when I take a lot of extra pride in beating Kevin (Reed, crew chief for Michael Self)."

Venturini is the son of 1987 and 1991 ARCA Menards Series champion Bill Venturini, and a former winner as a driver in the ARCA Menards Series as well. In 2019, he was named the series’ Cometic Crew Chief of the Year.