ARCA Menards Rewind: What We Learned At Kansas

Intermediate tracks make up a good chunk of the 2021 ARCA Menards Series schedule, including the championship race in October. So Saturday’s Dutch Boy 150 at Kansas Speedway, the first race on a 1.5-mile tri-oval this season, arrived as a fresh of indicator on who has speed this season.

That indicator pointed at Ty Gibbs before the race even started, and through all 100 laps, it did not move.

Gibbs, 18, won the Dutch Boy 150 to draw even with Corey Heim with two wins apiece through four ARCA Menards Series races this season. Heim still leads the championship points standings with Gibbs 23 points behind in third.

Drew Dollar, who finished second Saturday for his fourth top-10 finish of the season, sits second in points thanks to his consistency.

But the first of two Kansas races this season was all about the No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota and its driver.

His performance leads the top takeaways from the Dutch Boy 150 at Kansas.

DUTCH BOY 150: Race Recap | Highlights | Photo Gallery

Ty and Joe Gibbs
Joe Gibbs, right, fist bumps his grandson Ty Gibbs following his win in the Dutch Boy 150 for the ARCA Menards Series at Kansas Speedway in Kansas City, Kansas, on May 1, 2021. (Jason Hanna/ARCA Racing)

Ty Gibbs finally goes flag-to-flag

Gibbs earned the General Tire Pole for the Dutch Boy 150 with a lap that was so much faster than those of his rivals, few could have doubted he would contend for the win. But to lead every lap?

Based on how close Gibbs had come to doing so in the past, it was a strong possibility.

In 2019, Gibbs led 196 of 200 laps at Salem Speedway; he briefly lost the lead on an exchange of pit stops. Last year, he led 199 of 200 laps at Winchester Speedway. The only lap he failed to lead was when he was beat by inches to the start/finish line by Bret Holmes on a restart.

So Gibbs’ going 100-for-100 at Kansas was a few years in the making.

“I feel like this was one our our best races, for sure,” he said. “Leading all the laps, it really means a lot. We made a statement even though I didn’t think we had to. But I’m coming to race; I’m not coming to brag or be cocky. I’m just coming here to race.”

Gibbs became the first driver to lead every lap of an ARCA Menards Series race since 2012, when Kevin Swindell did so at Chicagoland Speedway.

Asked how he was able to dominate at Kansas, Gibbs could only smile.

“If I would tell you everything that made it the perfect ride, we’d be sitting here for a couple days,” he said. “It was a really good car, and a lot of things are put into it. I feel like people don’t understand how hard these guys work at their jobs and how bad they want to win. That’s what makes a difference.

“My team, and Joe Gibbs Racing in general — we want to win, and we’re a family. We love what we do. We don’t come here to make money; we come here to win and because we love it. That’s the difference between winning and running decent.”

Gibbs’ win at Kansas marked his 10th ARCA Menards Series victory, making him the first driver to reach double-digit series victories since Parker Kligerman picked up his 10th win in 2016 at New Jersey Motorsports Park.

RELATED: Updated ARCA Menards Series Points

‘Not bad for a first-timer’

Jack Wood
Jack Wood, driver of the No. 21 GMS Racing Chevrolet, waves for introductions on pit road prior to the Dutch Boy 150 for the ARCA Menards Series at Kansas Speedway in Kansas City, Kansas, on May 1, 2021. (Jason Hanna/ARCA Racing)

Jack Wood, who’s driving the No. 21 Chevrolet for GMS Racing in the ARCA Menards Series this season, entered Saturday’s race never having competed on a 1.5-mile tri-oval.

So his strong run at Kansas that ended with a fourth-place finish was an impressive feat.

“Not to bad for a first timer,” Wood tweeted after the race. “Proud of everyone that helps this program on and off the track for the growth we are finding. This is definitely something to build on.”

Wood’s first top five in the ARCA Menards Series also marks his second top 10. After crashing out of the Phoenix race in March and finishing 29th, he finished 11th at Talladega last month. So he is one position away from having three top-10 finishes in his first four ARCA Menards Series races.

It’s a good sign for the driver who entered Kansas with only virtual experience.

“I’ve been doing a lot of iRacing on Kansas with Scott Speed and just trying to understand more about that style of racing and holding momentum through the corner,” said Wood before the race.

That preparation seemed to work. As did GMS Racing’s use of this particular chassis.

For Wood’s car at Kansas, the team used the chassis that Sam Mayer drove to top-five finishes at Kentucky and Pocono last season. So make that three top-five finishes for chassis No. 410 in the ARCA Menards Series.

Wood now ranks sixth in championship points through four of 20 races.

Corey Heim cools off

Heim, the ARCA Menards Series championship points leader, entered Kansas having won three of the last four races dating back to last season. That included a dominating win in last year’s finale at Kansas.

So Heim was frustrated, to say the least, to return to Kansas and struggle the way he did Saturday.

This despite a third-place finish that keeps him 13 points ahead of second-place Dollar and 23 points ahead of third-place Gibbs in the standings.

“We were struggling really really bad,” said Heim. “Fired off terrible; kind of got a little better throughout the race. We tried a couple things with this new car and really struggled today.”

The frustration compounded when Heim lost a lap during the mid-race competition caution. He was able to get his lap back via the free pass when Eric Caudell crashed on Lap 66, and he used the last 30 laps of the race to climb back to third place.

Which is where Heim felt he deserved to finish, anyway.

“I don’t think it really changed the outcome of the race,” he said of the mid-race adversity. “I think we has a third-place car.”

Heim insisted he is not worried about the championship standings “right now.” In that context, he reiterated that Kansas was simply a bad day for him and his Venturini Motorsports team.

“We were really bad for the most part of the race. I can do things as a driver to make myself better, too. So it’s a team effort overall. We’ll get better.”

Notes

  • Greg Van Alst and Alex Clubb both earned the first top-10 finishes of their careers Saturday at Kansas. Van Alst finished seventh, and Clubb crossed the line 10th.
  • Van Alst also earned the Reese’s Sweet Move of the Race for avoiding a spinning Bret Holmes on Lap 1.
  • Heim is the only driver with a top-five finish in each of the four ARCA Menards Series races so far in 2021. His average finish is 1.75 on the strength of two wins (Daytona and Talladega), a second and a third.
  • Heim, Dollar and Kyle Sieg remain the only drivers to finish among the top 10 in all four ARCA Menards Series races in 2021. Sieg continued his streak with an eighth-place finish at Kansas.
  • Derrick Griffith made his second appearance of the season driving for Venturini Motorsports and finished fifth. He finished third, a career best, last October at Kansas.