Saturday night’s Menards 250 at Elko Speedway was shaping up to be the latest episode of the Ty Gibbs show. But a late caution changed everything, and a three-lap shootout to the checkered flag produced another fantastic finish — with Corey Heim reaching Victory Lane instead of Gibbs.
Gibbs, the recipient of a classic short track bump-and-run, picked up most of ARCA’s special awards at the 3/8-mile paved oval in Elko New Market, Minnesota. But he did not get the winner’s trophy.
For the seventh time in the first nine ARCA Menards Series races of 2021, Gibbs started from the General Tire Pole. He did so after recording the fastest lap (14.469 seconds/93.303 mph) in qualifying at Elko. Gibbs has now rolled from P1 at the largest track on the schedule, the 2.66-mile Talladega Superspeedway, as well as the smallest.
Gibbs did his best to run away from the field, but after a caution for an incident involving Thad Moffitt and Jesse Love, he briefly lost the lead to Heim on Lap 52 before getting back on Lap 63. Gibbs appeared to be on pace to lead all the way through the checkered flag, becoming the Richmond Water Heaters Halfway Leader for the sixth time this season in the process. But he was moved out of the position by Heim on Lap 248.
Gibbs led 236 of 250 laps to earn Valvoline Lap Leader honors for the night; Heim led the remaining 14 laps. Gibbs’ seasonlong total of 794 laps led dwarfs the remainder of the field, with Heim’s 125 laps led serving as the only other triple-digit total on the year. Gibbs at Elko led the most laps in a single ARCA Menards Series race since 2008, when NASCAR Cup Series champion Joey Logano led 257 of 312 laps at North Carolina’s Rockingham Speedway.
Heim’s use of his front bumper to pass Gibbs for the victory was the runaway winner of the Reese’s Sweet Move of the Race as voted upon by fans. In addition, the move propelled the No. 20 team’s Shannon Rursch to be named the Cometic Crew Chief of the Race and Heim to take Bounty Rookie of the Race honors.
Rursch holds an 11-point lead over Joe Gibbs Racing crew chief Mark McFarland in the Cometic Crew Chief of the Year chase. Billy Venturini, splitting time between his Venturini Motorsports team’s No. 15 and No. 25 Toyotas, holds the third position, 26 points behind Rursch.
Heim also grew his advantage over Ty Gibbs in the Bounty Rookie of the Year hunt to 22 points. Fellow full-timer Nick Sanchez sits a distant 67 points behind Heim.
Love put his early incident with Moffitt behind him and focused on making it to Lap 250 at Elko. Not only did he do that, but he finished second thanks in part to the chaos of the final three laps. Gaining five positions from his seventh-place qualifying effort, Love took home the K&N Filters Hard Charger award from Elko.
The Menards 250 was the third round of the 2021 Sioux Chief Showdown, a prestigious 10-race championship that tests the strengths of drivers at a variety of short tracks and road courses. Gibbs won each of the first two Showdown events (Toledo and Mid-Ohio). Heim’s win at Elko sparked a jump from fourth to second in the Showdown standings, and he now trails points leader Gibbs by only four. Nick Sanchez is in close range of the top spot, as well, holding third place with an eight-point deficit to Gibbs. Thad Moffitt is in fourth place, 11 points arrear of Gibbs.
The ARCA Menards Series will return to action at Marne, Michigan’s Berlin Raceway for the first time since 2018 with the running of the Zinsser Smart Coat 200 on Saturday, July 17. The defending winner is current NASCAR Xfinity Series driver Joe Graf Jr., who dispatched Chandler Smith and Zane Smith to score his only ARCA Menards Series victory three years ago.
The Zinsser Smart Coat 200 will also be Round 4 of the Sioux Chief Showdown, and it marks the second event in a stretch of 10 races in 10 weeks for ARCA Menards Series regulars.
MAVTV will carry live TV coverage of the Berlin race beginning at 8 p.m. ET on Saturday with a live stream available on NBC Sports Gold’s TrackPass.