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Gracie Trotter
Gracie Trotter pictured before the General Tire 150 for the ARCA Menards Series and ARCA Menards Series West at Phoenix Raceway in Avondale, Arizona, on March 12, 2021. (Adam Glanzman/ARCA Racing)

NOTEBOOK: Gracie Trotter, Jesse Love Look To Join Title Contenders’ Fun At Toledo

Saturday’s Herr’s Potato Chips 200 at Toledo Speedway arrives as the fifth ARCA Menards Series race of the 2021 season. To this point, two drivers have won races in the series this season, with championship points leader Corey Heim earning a pair and Ty Gibbs picking up two, as well.

The night race at the half-mile oval in Toledo, Ohio, though, is a chance for some relative newcomers in the series to become its third winner of the year.

PIT BOX: Title Race Heats Up At Toledo

Both 19-year-old Gracie Trotter and 16-year-old Jesse Love are entered at Toledo in Venturini Motorsports cars, meaning they will benefit from the same equipment that has helped Heim take and maintain the series points lead.

Trotter, who last season became the first female driver to win a race on the ARCA Menards platform when she reached Victory Lane at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway Bullring in the West Series, will run VMS’ No. 25 Calico Coatings Toyota for the fourth time this season.

Trotter’s first three ARCA Menards Series races for VMS this season featured a streak of bad luck. An early crash contributed to her 23rd-place finish in the opener at Daytona. Another crash on the first lap at Phoenix knocked her out of the race. At Talladega, contact with another car cut her tire and forced her to pit early; she finished 22nd.

Yet Trotter has shown speed in 2021, as evidenced by her average starting position of 3.3. She has never raced at Toledo in an ARCA Menards car, but her strong runs at similar short tracks in the West Series suggest Trotter will be comfortable on another half-mile oval.

Jesse Love
Jesse Love poses for a portrait before the General Tire 150 for the ARCA Menards Series and ARCA Menards Series West at Phoenix Raceway in Avondale, Arizona, on March 12, 2021. (Adam Glanzman/ARCA Racing)

Love has never raced an ARCA Menards car at Toledo, either. But the youngest champion in West Series history (15 when he earned the title last season) has plenty of experience on similar tracks.

He’ll lean on that experience when he wheels VMS’ No. 15 Mobil 1 Toyota on Saturday night at Toledo.

Two of Love’s three wins in the West Series last season came on short tracks (Irwindale Speedway in Irwindale, California; Colorado National Speedway in Erie, Colorado). He has two top 10s in his pair of short track starts thus far in the ARCA Menards Series (Iowa Speedway and Winchester Speedway last season), and he has seven top 10s in his eight short track starts in the West Series.

Trotter and Love, who were teammates in the West Series racing for Bill McAnally last season, are both running part-time schedules for VMS in the ARCA Menards Series this season. Love will make his first start for the team at Toledo.

Both have the speed and talent to join Heim and Gibbs on the list of 2021 ARCA Menards Series winners.


2021 Sioux Chief Showdown arrives

Arca Showdown 2021

Love is among the drivers who, because of his age, is not eligible to race on bigger tracks and therefore compete for the ARCA Menards Series championship.

The Sioux Chief Showdown exists for drivers like him.

Saturday night’s race at Toledo is the first of 10 Showdown races this season. The Sioux Chief Showdown is ARCA’s series within the series; the 10-race championship is designed to allow drivers not eligible to run the entire ARCA Menards Series the chance to race for a championship.

Showdown events are held at oval tracks one mile in length or shorter and road courses. Drivers must be 18 or older to run at most tracks larger than one mile, while drivers as young as 15 can compete on oval tracks one mile in length and under and road courses.

Beyond Saturday’s race at Toledo, other Showdown events are June 4 at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, July 10 at Elko Speedway, July 17 at Berlin Raceway, July 24 at Iowa Speedway, July 31 at Winchester Speedway, Aug. 6 at Watkins Glen International, Aug. 29 at The Milwaukee Mile, Sept. 16 at Bristol Motor Speedway and Oct. 2 at Salem Speedway.

Sam Mayer, the two-time reigning East Series champion, won last year’s Sioux Chief Showdown on the strength of four wins and nine top-five finishes across the 10 races. He placed ahead of Gibbs in the final standings.

RELATED: Sioux Chief Showdown’s New Look for 2021

Toledo’s rich recent results

Omitting Gibbs’ victory at Toledo in the East Series last season, nobody entered in Saturday’s race has won an ARCA Menards Series event at the half-mile oval.

So somebody is about to join an impressive list of Toledo winners.

Located a few miles from ARCA’s headquarters in Temperance, Michigan, Toledo Speedway has hosted 80 ARCA Menards Series races dating back to 1963.

Several drivers who won at this level at Toledo have progressed to impressive careers in NASCAR. They include Chandler Smith, Zane Smith, Harrison Burton, Myatt Snider, Todd Gilliland, Ty Dillon, Chris Buescher, Justin Allgaier, Michael McDowell and Ken Schrader, to name a few.

Naturally, nobody has more AMS wins at the track than all-time series wins leader Frank Kimmel with nine.

Mayer has won each of the last three ARCA Menards Series races at Toledo, but all three were held last season amid schedule changes forced by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Saturday night’s Herr’s Potato Chips 200 marks the series’ only visit to its home track this season.

And more:

  • Accomplished short-track racer Adam Lemke will make his ARCA Menards Series debut Saturday driving for Rette Jones Racing. The 18-year-old from Hollister, California, has won races and championships in Quarter Midgets, the USAC Western Midget Series, the RPM Pro Late Model Series, the CARS Tour and the NASCAR Advanced Auto Parts Weekly Series. “I’ve been so fortunate and blessed to experience and win a lot in such a short amount of time,” said Lemke. “No doubt moving to the ARCA Menards Series and these heavier cars will be challenging, but that’s where I will lean on my team for guidance and direction. Our goal is a top-five finish at Toledo. And based on the speed the team has shown this year, I think we can not only accomplish that but contend for the win, too.”
  • Thad Moffitt, who enters the Toledo race fifth in ARCA Menards Series points, will have an opportunity to jump in the standings. Two of the drivers in front of him in points, Drew Dollar (second) and Kyle Sieg (fourth), are not entered at Toledo.
  • Including last week’s East Series race at Dover, Gibbs has led every lap in each of the last two ARCA Menards races he has run. He also led every lap at Kansas Speedway earlier this month, the last time the ARCA Menards Series was on track.
  • The track qualifying record at Toledo Speedway is 114.781 mph set by Mason Mitchell in 2014. Kimmel holds the race record at an average of 86.400 mph in a 150-lap race in 1998.
  • Heim and Dollar are the only drivers who have completed all 408 possible laps so far in 2021. If Heim runs all 200 laps at Toledo, he’ll be the lone driver to run every lap in the series since Dollar will not race Saturday.
  • The ARCA Menards Series has seen an average of 6.5 lead changes per race in 2021, up 73 percent from this point last season. The series also has seen an average of 4.5 leaders per race this year, up 50 percent from the number at this point in 2020.