One driver has earned nine victories over 23 career starts.
The other has two wins — and two runner-up finishes — just four races into his ARCA career.
On Friday, Chandler Smith completed dominated at Lucas Oil Raceway as he continued his incredible propensity to win nearly every time he strapped into an ARCA Menards Series car. And on Saturday, Jesse Love continued a scorching start to his rookie campaign with an equally impressive performance in the ARCA Menards Series West race at Irwindale Speedway.
Here is what we learned from the ENEOS 125 presented by NAPA Auto Parts in Irwindale, California, and the Calypso Lemonade 200 in Indianapolis.
Love Learns A Lesson At Irwindale
A late-race caution set up a scenario that almost saw Trevor Huddleston snatch the win away from the rookie.
Huddleston, the defending race winner and former multi-time track champion on the half-mile, used the graduated banking to slide in front on lap 115 of the ENEOS 125 Saturday night. Fortunately for Love, who had led the first 114 laps, a caution came out on the very next lap when his teammate Lawless Alan got turned around in Turn 1.
"We were able to save our tires," said Love. "On every restart he’d get closer and closer, and he’d get better on his shifts and his restarts.
"He drove it in there, and took it from me, and made his own lane. … We got a caution, and I wanted it really bad and took it from him. And we were able to get one. Got a little bit of (tire) marks (on the door). But our front end’s clean, that’s all I’m worried about."
Love, 15, was able to slide up in front of Huddleston on the final restart – "You probably couldn’t have fit a newspaper between us," said Love — and drove away for the win by .680 seconds.
It was Love’s second win in as many weeks. He picked up his first career win last weekend on the road-course at Utah Motorsports Campus, and extended his championship points lead to 18 over Blaine Perkins.
Love’s win was also the 14th points win at Irwindale for Bill McAnally Racing in 28 events dating back to the track’s opening in 1999.
– Jack Irving (@jackirvingjr) July 5, 2020
For Huddleston, he came up short after being on the winning end of a similar back-and-forth last year with Drew Dollar in the West race at Irwindale.
"I gave it all I had," said Huddleston. "I was like, alright, I’ve just got to get to the lead. With five to go, I think I can hold him off. But we had a caution, and he did the same thing to me. So congrats to him."
Huddleston climbed up to fourth in points, three behind Gracie Trotter and 30 back of Love.
Smith Gets Another For Venturini Motorsports
Smith’s ARCA Menards Series statistics are borderline unbelievable.
Not only has he picked up nine wins — an incredible 39% winning percentage over three years — he has 17 top fives, 22 top 10s and nine General Tire Pole Awards over that 23-race span.
Did we mention? He has seven wins and a runner-up finish in the last eight times he’s climbed into the No. 20 JBL Toyota for Venturini Motorsports.
– VenturiniMotorsports (@VenturiniMotor) July 4, 2020
His latest victory, wasn’t without its tribulations.
He worked through a broken shock and subsequent small fire in the car during practice, and came back to win the pole. He lost the lead to Ty Gibbs at the start of the race, but moved back in front on Lap 39 and looked to have smooth sailing the finish.
However, defending East champion Sam Mayer mounted a late charge. Over the course of nearly 20 laps, he shaved 2.5 seconds off Smith’s lead and got to his back bumper with less than 10 to go. Mayer made several runs but was never able to fully pull alongside or pass. Once Smith put Bret Holmes a lap down with six to go, he was able to reestablish his cushion and went on to win by .899 seconds.
"Man, I was just running for all it was worth, to be honest with you," said Smith post-race. "Honestly, I don’t feel like I’m in shape where I need to be.
"I’m just glad I’m back in Victory Lane."
Smith also reported that his car lost its fan after the first race break, making it for a sweltering finish.
- Trotter scored her best career finish of third in her fourth West start. The 19-year-old from Concord, North Carolina, is part of the NASCAR Drive for Diversity on the east coast, racing Late Models and , and running the full West schedule with BMR. She has four top 10s in four West races this season.
- Devin Dodson, a 21-year-old out of Bishopville, Maryland, earned his first career top-five with his fifth-place finish at Irwindale. Dodson had previously made eight starts between the ARCA Menards, East and West series over the last two years.
- Johnny Borneman III finished sixth in his first West start since 2017. The three-time race winner made 119 starts beginning in 2000, with a career-best fourth-place finish in the 2002 championship standings.
- After a win and two poles at Utah, 2018 Irwindale Late Model champion Blaine Perkins finished fourth Saturday night. Alan, the 2019 champion at Irwindale, came home ninth.
- Smith’s win Friday for Venturini Motorsports was No. 70 for the organization. They’ve won four of the five ARCA Menards Series races this year, with Smith’s two alongside Michael Self (Daytona) and Drew Dollar (Talladega).
- After three straight seventh-place finishes, Hailie Deegan collected her second podium with a third-place run. She passed Michael Self in the late stages to secure the spot. Self pitted for a left rear flat tire a lap later, lost two laps in the pits and finished eighth. That allowed Deegan to close the championship points gap to 12.
- Howie DiSavino III, 19, had a career-best ninth place in his fourth career start, while Kyle Sieg, the younger brother of NASCAR Xfinity Series driver Ryan Sieg, finished 10th in his series’ debut.
– Hattori Racing (@Hattori_Racing) July 5, 2020