The results of Saturday’s Crosley Record Pressing 200 presented by T-Mobile at Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway suggest Sammy Smith cruised to his second ARCA Menards Series East win in a row. And that’s not entirely untrue.
But they don’t perfectly reflect how hard the driver of the No. 18 Engine Ice Toyota had to work to get to that point. Smith had to fight his way back from an early penalty en route to becoming the star of the show at Nashville.
At least he was nice enough to share some of ARCA’s special awards with other drivers in field.
RELATED: What We Learned at Nashville
Saturday afternoon’s General Tire Pole Qualifying saw the third different pole-sitter in as many races this season when a first-time East Series competitor topped the leaderboard. Of course, Mason Mingus is no rookie.
Mingus, a stout Late Model racer and the runner-up to champion Frank Kimmel in the 2013 ARCA Menards Series standings, was a late entry in Andy Hillenburg’s No. 11 Fast Track Racing Ford, and he stunned with a top lap speed of 110.008 mph to edge Smith for the pole. It was the first pole for Hillenburg’s team since Chad McCumbee started first in the spring AMS race at Salem in 2005.
Smith got a jump on Mingus at the start of Saturday’s race, hence his penalty. Though Mingus led the first lap — the first of 56 he led on the night — series officials deemed that Smith committed a start violation. He was given a pass-through penalty and fell a lap down, dropping back as far as 11th in the process. It didn’t take long for Smith to catch and pass Mingus to get back on the lead lap.
Mingus held the lead until Lap 57, when Mason Diaz took over the point. Diaz paced the field for 41 laps until Smith completed his comeback and claimed first place for good on Lap 98. It was a timely move for Smith, moving into the lead just in time to take the Richmond Water Heaters Halfway Leader award for the first time this season.
With 103 laps led, Smith also was the Valvoline Lap Leader for the evening.
The K&N Filters Hard Charger award went to Mason Diaz, who qualified sixth but gained four spots throughout the race to record his second consecutive runner-up finish for Visconti Motorsports.
The Bounty Rookie of the Year hunt continues to be Smith-controlled territory, as well, as he earned Bounty Rookie of the Race honors yet again at Nashville. Smith has an 11-point edge on Joey Iest in the yearlong standings. New Smyrna winner Max Gutiérrez is third.
There was only one caution for an incident at Nashville, and Rajah Caruth was nearly a part of it. Daniel Dye went for a solo spin in Turn 2 with 20 laps to go. Conner Jones and Caruth darted to the high side to avoid Dye’s spinning machine, but the hole had all but closed by the time Caruth arrived. He managed to miraculously escape any contact, and his near miss was voted the Reese’s Sweet Move of the Race by the fans on Twitter.
— ARCA Menards Series (@ARCA_Racing) May 9, 2021
A replay of Saturday night’s race at Nashville will broadcast on NBCSN on Thursday, May 13, starting at 7 p.m. ET.
The ARCA Menards Series East will be back in action Friday, May 14, at Dover International Speedway for the General Tire 125. Live coverage of the event will begin at 5 p.m. ET on TrackPass on NBC Sports Gold, and a radio broadcast will be available on MRN and SiriusXM (XM channel 391, online channel 981).