His primary rival in the 2021 ARCA Menards Series championship chase, Corey Heim, did not let it happen.
Even though Heim passed Gibbs with 68 laps to go at the half-mile oval in Toledo, Ohio, after the latter had led the first 131 laps, the driver of the No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota was able to battle his way back to P1 on Lap 179 and cruise to his third victory of the season.
Gibbs’ comeback was a sign of resilience to go along with the speed he has shown this season. And Heim’s power move to temporarily steal the point, which was voted the Reese’s Sweet Move of the Race, was a sign of his unwillingness to concede to Gibbs without a battle.
Heim was not able to hold off a charging Gibbs for the win at Toledo. Now the question is whether the Venturini Motorsports driver can keep his rival in his rear-view in the championship standings.
Round 5 goes to Ty Gibbs
Gibbs’ third win of the season broke a tie with Heim for the most in the series, as the two are the only drivers who have won races through five events.
Heim, though, still has a 17-point cushion on Gibbs in points thanks largely to the latter’s crash and subsequent 27th-place finish at Talladega Superspeedway in April.
Heim has an edge in average finish with a series-high 1.8 through five races. Yet Gibbs has led 390 of the 593 laps he has run, easily the most in the series. Heim is second in laps led with 91, including the 47 he spent on the point at Toledo.
Heim after the race conceded Gibbs still has an edge in speed, but it’s an advantage he expects to erase.
“I’m 100 percent confident we’re going to get there,” Heim said regarding his team’s ability to draw even with Gibbs’ team on power by season’s end. “No doubt about it.”
Heim will need that speed in order to keep the lead over Gibbs in the title race. His pair of wins this season came in the two superspeedway races, at Daytona and Talladega, where VMS teamwork was a strong factor.
Gibbs’ wins, including a margin of victory of 5.138 seconds after leading every lap at Kansas Speedway, have been more convincing.
Heim was visibly frustrated Saturday night after finishing behind Gibbs yet again. But he made a point to note he is not worried about what has already transpired in the championship race.
“We’re all looking forward right now,” said Heim. “We have 15 more raced in the series, and that’s all we’re looking forward to.”
RELATED: Updated ARCA Menards Series Points
Moffitt making moves
Thad Moffitt said after Saturday night’s race at Toledo he felt he could have and should have finished better than fifth.
Which is a great sign for the 20-year-old driver who now sits third in ARCA Menards Series points, the highest he has ever been, as he looks to fill the back end of his 2021 schedule.
— David Gilliland Racing (@dgr_racing) May 24, 2021
Moffitt, who has been racing part-time in the series since 2017, now has a pair of top-five finishes and four top 10s in five races this season, with his only finish outside the top 10 coming after an incident in the opener at Daytona.
He finished two laps down in that race, so beyond those, he has run every possible lap in the ARCA Menards Series this year. Only Heim has completed all 608 laps.
Moffitt is 42 points behind second-place Gibbs in the standings, but he has a 27-point edge on fourth-place Nick Sanchez. Which reflects how consistent Moffitt has been through five races.
If he continues to run this well, and if he is able to race a full 2021 schedule, he likely will find himself with a new career-high finish in ARCA Menards Series points.
Nick Sanchez finds momentum
Sanchez could not stop smiling after Saturday night’s race at Toledo. He finished third to tie his career high, but he knew his car was slipping as the race progressed, so he found amusement in his fortune that the event was only 200 laps.
The main reason for his smiling, though, seemed to be the thought of heading to Charlotte Motor Speedway for Saturday’s General Tire 150.
Save for the ARCA Menards Series test session held at Charlotte a couple weeks ago, Sanchez has never raced an ARCA Menards car on the 1.5-mile tri-oval in Concord, North Carolina. His only prior race on a 1.5-mile track came earlier this year at Kansas, where he finished ninth.
P3 tonight in Toledo. Struggled at the beginning but the car came alive at the end. Good work by my @RevRacin team and thank you too @Max_Siegel for believing in me. I’m ready to go for it all next Saturday in Charlotte 👊 pic.twitter.com/ZJkCYXFfj1
— Nicholas Sanchez (@Nicksanchez080) May 23, 2021
Yet because of what he and his team discovered during that test, Sanchez now considers himself a fan of bigger tracks.
“A lot of momentum going into Charlotte,” he said after Saturday’s race at Toledo. “I’m really confident in my team and the car we’re bringing (to Charlotte). I’m hoping to finish two spots ahead.”
Sanchez, who is driving for Rev Racing in the ARCA Menards Series this season as part of the NASCAR Drive for Diversity program, is fourth in points heading into the sixth race of his rookie season.
- Dick Doheny finished 10th at Toledo, his first top-10 finish in 43 ARCA Menards Series starts. Doheny also serves as crew chief for the No. 10 car he drives for team owner Andy Hillenburg.
- Gibbs’ win at Toledo was his 11th in the ARCA Menards Series, moving him to a tie for 27th on the series’ all-time wins list with Jack Harrison, Ernie Derr, Fred Lorenzen and Don White.
- Heim extended his streak of top-five finishes to six dating back to last season’s finale at Kansas. He is the only driver with a top-five finish in every race so far this season.
- Gibbs earned his fourth consecutive General Tire Pole Award in qualifying at Toledo. The only other driver to earn a pole so far in 2021 is Drew Dollar (Daytona).
- Because Heim passed Gibbs at Toledo to prevent the latter from leading every lap for the second consecutive ARCA Menards Series race, Marvin Smith remains the last driver to lead every lap in back-to-back races (both at Flat Rock Speedway in 1980).
- Along with Doheny, other drivers who set or tied career-best ARCA Menards Series finishes at Toledo were Cole Williams (sixth), Gracie Trotter (seventh) and Alex Clubb (eighth).
- A.J. Moyer, the son of 1981 ARCA Menards Series champion Larry Moyer, made his series debut carrying the No. 40 on the Wayne Peterson Racing Chevrolet, honoring his father’s championship that came 40 years ago this season. Moyer stayed out of trouble all evening and finished ninth.
- The Herr’s Potato Chips 200 marked the first race of the 2021 Sioux Chief Showdown, giving Gibbs an early lead in that series’ standings.