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Ty Gibbs
Cars line up 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)

NOTEBOOK: Lack Of Experience Outweighs Possible Home-Track Advantages At Charlotte

Charlotte Motor Speedway is the home track for many in stock car racing, making Saturday night’s General Tire 150 (7 p.m. ET, FS1) special for those in the ARCA Menards Series who call the area home.

Yet, because of a lack of experience, there will be little-to-no home track advantages. There are three Charlotte-area natives in the field for Saturday’s race and only two ARCA Menards starts at the 1.5-mile quad oval among them.

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Ty Gibbs, who has a series-high three wins through five races in 2021, turned his first laps in an ARCA Menards car at Charlotte on May 11 in an open test. The 18-year-old has never raced a stock car at his home track.

With that said, the series leader in laps led this season will enter Saturday night’s race with fresh experience. Gibbs will make his sixth NASCAR Xfinity Series start prior to the General Tire 150 when he runs the Alsco 300 at Charlotte (1 p.m. ET, FS1).

Gibbs will have to adjust to the differences between his Xfinity car and his ARCA car when he races in the second leg of the Saturday doubleheader. Which shouldn’t be a problem based on the way he has dominated the ARCA Menards Series in 2021.

Thad Moffitt
Thad Moffitt, driver of the No. 46 Clean Harbors Ford, looks on during practice ahead of the Herr’s Potato Chips 200 for the ARCA Menards Series at Toledo Speedway in Toledo, Ohio, on May 22, 2021. (Nic Antaya/ARCA Racing)

Thad Moffitt, the grandson of Richard Petty who grew up in Trinity, North Carolina, has just one start at Charlotte entering Saturday night’s race. He started 12th and finished 10th in 2019, the last time the ARCA Menards Series visited the track in Concord, North Carolina.

Moffitt at Charlotte will be looking to build on the momentum he has established over the last few races. He sits third in ARCA Menards Series points behind the leader Corey Heim and second-place Gibbs; it’s the highest he has ranked through five part-time seasons in the series.

The third Charlotte-area native in the field for Saturday night’s race is Jason Miles, who has four ARCA Menards Series starts on his resume dating back to 2019 racing for Andy Hillenburg.

Miles started 21st and finished 18th at Charlotte in 2019. He again will drive one of Hillenburg’s cars in this year’s race.

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Charlotte first-timers

Gibbs is not the only driver making his first series start at Charlotte on Saturday. In fact, the vast majority of drivers in the field are doing so.

Of the 24 confirmed entries, 18 have never raced in the ARCA Menards Series at Charlotte. That includes the points leader, Heim, as well as rookie Nick Sanchez, who is fourth in points.

“There’s so much that is an unknown because my team hasn’t raced at something like 17 or 18 of the tracks on the ARCA Menards Series schedule,” said Sanchez. “We have no data to work off of. Everyone on the whole team is learning at the same time as I am.

“We don’t have any time to waste, either, because practice is so short, we have to get out there and go as hard as we can as quick as we can to start gathering information.”

Added Toni Breidinger, another driver making her Charlotte debut in the series: “I am excited to race at Charlotte Motor Speedway this weekend. It will be my first time racing at this track, but I’m hoping my experience on the bigger tracks, including my most recent start at Kansas Speedway will prove to be helpful.

“My goal for Charlotte is to get all the laps in and learn more about the mile-and-a-half tracks.”

Drew Dollar has never raced in the ARCA Menards Series at Charlotte, but he’ll gain some experience at the track when he runs the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race Friday night. Jack Wood, another first-timer in an ARCA Menards car at Charlotte, will have the same opportunity.

Other drivers making their first starts in the ARCA Menards Series at Charlotte include Kyle Sieg, Owen Smith, Richard Garvie, D.L. Wilson, Parker Chase, Tim Richmond, Greg Van Alst, Jason Kitzmiller, Dave Mader III, Andy Jankowiak, Charles Buchanan, Chris Hacker and Max Gutiérrez.

Hacker and Gutiérrez, the latter of whom won this season’s ARCA Menards Series East opener at Florida’s New Smyrna Speedway in dramatic fashion, are making their series debuts Saturday at Charlotte.

“Any track time is critical to me right now and as I look to move forward in my racing career,” said Gutiérrez. “Competing at these bigger tracks will certainly help me grow and become a better driver.”

General Tire Superspeedway Challenge: Round 4

General Tire Super Speedway Challenge

Saturday’s General Tire 150 at Charlotte is the fourth of seven races in the 2021 General Tire Superspeedway challenge, a special series within the overall ARCA Menards Series championship chase.

The challenge is comprised of races on the ARCA Menards Series schedule at paved ovals equal to or greater than 1.5 miles in length. Race points only count toward a team’s yearlong tally, with bonus points disregarded within this total.

The General Tire Superspeedway Challenge is contested among car owners, rather than drivers, so that a team using multiple drivers has the same chance of winning as a team with a single, full-time driver.

Previous races this year were at Daytona International Speedway, Talladega Superspeedway and Kansas Speedway. Bill Venturini leads the yearlong standings with 127 points over his father Bill with 124 points. Rod Sieg is third with 111 points, followed by Maury Gallagher at 108 and Stacy Holmes at 105.

Beyond Charlotte, included in he series will be races at Pocono Raceway and Michigan International Speedway before another event at Kansas for the season’s final race in October.

And more:

  • NASCAR Cup Series driver Matt DiBenedetto will serve as a guest race analyst in FS1’s booth for the call of the General Tire 150. DiBenedetto made two ARCA Menards Series starts in 2011. He also has three wins in 20 starts in what is now the ARCA Menards Series East.
  • The General Tire 150 at Charlotte will be the 1,499th race in ARCA Menards Series history. The 1,500th race will be Friday, June 4, at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in Lexington, Ohio.
  • The first ARCA Menards Series race at Charlotte was held Oct. 25, 1964, won by Curtis Turner. There have been a total of 23 ARCA races at Charlotte. Other winners include Tim Steele, Mark Thompson, Gary Laton, Frank Kimmel, Adam Petty, Mario Gosselin, Kirk Shelmerdine, Lyndon Amick, Ryan Newman, Kerry Earnhardt, Jeff Fultz, Chad Blount, Ryan Hemphill, Brandon Jones and Ty Majeski.
  • Thompson, Laton, Petty, Gosselin, Amick, Fultz and Majeski all earned their first ARCA Menards Series wins at Charlotte. For Laton, Petty, Amick and Fultz, they were their only ARCA wins.
  • Drivers who earned their final series win at Charlotte include Turner, Shelmerdine and Jones.
  • Brad Smith will make his 371st series start in the General Tire 150. Con Nicolopoulos will make his 90th start, and Richmond will make his 35th start.