While a majority of Saturday’s field will be racing at Memphis International Raceway for the first time, Gus Dean has not only raced on the .750-mile Tennessee oval, he’s won there.
The 25-year-old from Bluffton, South Carolina, is hoping the ARCA Menards Series return to Memphis will also mean his return to Victory Lane. A two-time series winner, Dean will be making his third series start of the season and the 35th of his career.
"It’s the perfect place for our luck to change and the right spot to give us some momentum going into the offseason to get ready for 2021," said Dean, who won a Late Model race at Memphis in 2014 in what is now the CARS Tour. "You have to be easy on the throttle and make sure you are conserving the tires, those will be the two biggest factors at Memphis this weekend.
"Obviously, the track will change throughout the race, but it is making sure we’re keeping up with those changes, especially following that final segment that I hope will make us a factor on Saturday night."
– Gus Dean (@gusdean) September 24, 2020
Dean will pair with crew chief Jamie Jones, who won at Memphis in 2005 in the NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series.
"I’m stoked about going to Memphis, obviously," said Dean. "I know Jamie (Jones) is hungry to win there again and I hope we can go out there this weekend and have a good showing and hopefully bring home the checkered flag."
Fans In The Stands
The Sioux Chief Showdown will conclude at Memphis International Raceway with the Sioux Chief PowerPEX 200 (6 p.m. ET / 5 p.m. CT), the final of the 10-race championship slate that brings together the best drivers of the ARCA Menards Series East, ARCA Menards Series West and ARCA Menards Series.
The race will also be No. 18 of 20 on the ARCA Menards Series calendar, and fans will be allowed to attend.
– RaceMIR (@RaceMIR) September 24, 2020
Rookie Roller Coaster
After leading 85 laps and finishing fifth at Missouri’s Lebanon I-44 Speedway, 19-year-old Hailie Deegan has a pair of sixth-place finishes before winding up 12th at Indiana’s Winchester Speedway after her day was cut short by a wreck. Despite the issues, Deegan has extended her lead in the Bounty Rookie of the Year standings to 19 points over Drew Dollar.
She’s also third in ARCA Menards Series points.
For Deegan, though, that’s not much of a consolation prize.
"We are here to win races and run the best we can. That’s our goal," said Deegan on a video conference call with media this week. "We aren’t here to run third in the points or win the rookie of the year award. We are here to win and get experience and find the funding to go forward in my career. Winning will help with that, finishing third in the points won’t."
Dollar endured a run of three finishes outside the top 10 over five races before bringing it home sixth at Winchester.
Deegan’s DGR-Crosley teammate Taylor Gray, on the other hand, has six straight top 10 finishes, including a third at Lebanon I-44, and fifth-place runs at Ohio’s Toledo Speedway and Winchester.
"Memphis is pretty worn out so it’s going to be all about taking care of your tires," said the 15-year-old. "It’s an eight tire race but we will have to work hard to take care of our tires."
Gray confirmed that he will run the East finale at 5 Flags Speedway and then the final three ARCA Menards Series West events.
– Chandler Smith is still looking to rediscover what took him to two wins and a runner-up finishes in his first three starts of the season. He’s had three runner-up finishes, but he’s also had heartbreak – like a broken sway bar that resulted in a 23rd-place finish his last time out at Bristol.
"It will be a new one I haven’t been to before. I am excited to go," said Smith. "I haven’t talked to anyone though and I haven’t seen any videos. I guess you could say I am winging it."
– More returns: Kris Wright will be back in the No. 22 for Chad Bryant Racing, after radio issues waylaid his night at Bristol.
"I really enjoyed Bristol, despite our finish," said Wright. "But that race is behind us but the momentum from it is not. I feel like as a rookie driver I’ve made some big gains over the last month or so and I plan to continue to showcase that during Saturday’s race at Memphis."
Saturday’s race will have both practice (1:15-2 p.m. ET) and General Tire Pole Award Qualifying (3 p.m.), which Wright hopes will provide valuable experience in an ARCA car.
Another driver returning to the track Saturday is Thad Moffitt, who will be making his first start since finishing 11th at the DAYTONA Road Course. Moffitt, who has two top fives and seven top 10s in 12 starts this year, will be in a third car for DGR-Crosley.
– ARCA Menards Series veteran Brad Smith, 51, scored his first career top 10 at Winchester. He nursed the car home in ninth despite not having an extra set of tires to change on the second break. That fact was not lost on NASCAR on NBC analyst and 10-time ARCA Menards Series race winner Parker Kligerman, who responded to Smith’s post-race video with an offer to buy him a set of tires for his next race.
This is the most racer mentality/ genuine post race I’ve ever seen
James Hylton and his son were always incredibly kind to me during my time in ARCA. Follow me so I can DM you, please https://t.co/lfyuqDz4wr
– Parker Kligerman (@pkligerman) September 20, 2020