The ARCA Menards Series had gone 17 years between twin bill weekends at the same track prior to gearing up for a pair of races at the series’ home track of Toledo Speedway. The unique circumstances promised to mix up the field as the drivers prepared for 400 laps of racing split over two days (which turned into three), not only on the scoreboard but also when it came to ARCA’s special contingency awards.
General Tire Pole Qualifying was held for the twin Menards 200 events, rather than setting the lineup b y points as was seen at the three most recent AMS races. When drivers hit the track for their two hot laps, each lap would be equally important: the lineup for Friday’s race was set by a driver’s first lap time, while the lineup for Saturday’s race was set by a driver’s second lap time. This resulted in a split of the General Tire Pole Awards, giving Chandler Smith (No. 20 JBL Audio Toyota) the nod as Friday’s pole sitter with a speed of 112.507 mph and Ty Gibbs (No. 18 Monster Energy Toyota) the spot at the front of Saturday’s grid with a speed of 112.289 mph. Smith is now tied with Venturini Motorsports teammate Michael Self (No. 25 Sinclair Lubricants Toyota) for the most poles on the season with three. Gibbs’ pole was his second on the year, adding his name besides Smith and Self as the multi-time polesitters this season.
Noticeably absent at the front of Friday’s grid was the series’ most recent winner, Bret Holmes (No. 23 Holmes II Excavation Chevrolet). Holmes qualified ninth but picked his way towards the front throughout the event and was fourth when the checkered flag flew, gaining five positions and the K&N Filters Hard Charger Award. Likewise, the man that Holmes is chasing for the overall series championship point lead – Michael Self – pulled off the same ninth-to-fourth rally on Sunday and was the Hard Charger for race number two.
Self ran all 327 laps across both races and remains atop the S&S Volvo Laps Completed standings. Self has completed 1261 of a possible 1263 laps in the ARCA Menards Series this season.
Smith had the field covered for the first half of Friday’s Menards.com 200, staying out in front long enough to be the Valvoline Lap Leader and the Richmond Water Heaters Halfway Leader for the evening. Smith led the opening 103 laps before ceding the point to eventual race winner Sam Mayer (No. 21 Chevy Accessories Chevrolet). This was the second time Smith was the leader at the crossed flags on the season. Mayer led the final 97 laps on Friday night. Ty Gibbs, the top lap leader of 2020, did not lead a lap in Friday’s race, ending a streak of 12 consecutive ARCA Menards Series starts made by Gibbs in which he had led the race.
Gibbs made up for it during the running of the Menards 200 that began on Saturday and concluded prematurely on Sunday. Gibbs led 107 of the 127 laps that were completed before the race was shortened due to rain, but it would be of little consolation to the 18-year old driver as he spun racing for the lead just before the race was called. Though Gibbs was the Halfway Leader for the fifth time in 2020, Mayer was able to snatch away the victory and completed the weekend sweep, leading the final 13 laps on Sunday afternoon. Chandler Smith was the only other driver to lead laps in the second race, pacing the field for seven circuits early in the going.
Gibbs continues to grow his advantage in the yearlong Valvoline Lap Leader standings with 531 laps led. Smith is his closest foe with 297 laps led this year.
With Smith fading late in the race – dropping out, eventually, due to a suspension issue that brought out the final caution Friday – Mayer was able to finally drive away and win his first ARCA Menards Series race in his 16th attempt. Mayer was named the Bounty Rookie of the Race for his win on Friday, and his repeat performance on Sunday netted him the award once again.
Bounty Rookie of the Year leaders Hailie Deegan (No. 4 Monster Energy Ford) and Drew Dollar (No. 15 Dollar Concrete Toyota) remain locked in a tight battle, with Deegan currently holding a lead of one point by a count of 359 points to Dollar’s 358 points.
Ty Gibbs came up just short of both the pole and the win on Friday night, but placing second in both sessions earned team leader Mark McFarland the Cometic Crew Chief of the Race award for race number one. Chandler Smith repeated that feat on Sunday, qualifying and finishing second, making Billy Venturini the crew chief of the race for event number two. McFarland now leads the Cometic Crew Chief of the Year battle with points, having surpassed No. 25 crew chief Kevin Reed who now has 64 points upon exiting Toledo.
After five races in the Sioux Chief Showdown, a close battle is still in progress at the top as the Showdown hit its halfway mark following Toledo race number two. Chandler Smith, winner of Showdown races at Phoenix and Lucas Oil Raceway, has the advantage for now with 201 points. Michael Self is six points back in second with a tally of 195 points, while Sam Mayer has jumped up to third with 194 points thanks to his weekend sweep at Toledo. The next Sioux Chief Showdown race promises to be a wild and historic one as the road course round of the schedule draws closer. The General Tire 100 from the Daytona International Speedway Road Course on August 14 looms as the next challenge for Showdown drivers.
The next race for the ARCA Menards Series will be the VizCom 200 from Michigan International Speedway on Sunday, August 9. The VizCom 200 will be the penultimate race in the General Tire Superspeedway Challenge schedule, with No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota car owner Coy Gibbs currently leading the standings. Serving as the warmup event for the NASCAR Cup Series race later in the afternoon, the VizCom 200 will go green at 1 p.m. ET and will be broadcast live on MAVTV, with a simulcast available on NBC Sports Gold’s TrackPass subscription service.