One week after a rough-and-tumble conclusion at Elko Speedway involving Corey Heim and Ty Gibbs, most assumed the story Saturday at Berlin Raceway would be their rematch.
Instead, Daniel Dye stole the show as he roared to his first ARCA Menards Series victory in just his second start, holding off Gibbs to claim the trophy in the Zinsser SmartCoat 200. And that trophy was just one of several awards the 17-year-old Florida native collected Saturday night.
MORE BERLIN: What we learned from the Zinsser SmartCoat 200
Dye was an ARCA Menards Series East regular for Ben Kennedy Racing until last month, when GMS Racing announced he would join the team for the remainder of the East Series schedule as well as select ARCA Menards Series races. In his first two starts for GMS Racing, Dye posted solid-but-unassuming finishes of sixth (East Series at Southern National) and seventh (AMS at Elko).
But Dye made clear early at Berlin he would be a contender at the tricky, 7/16-mile paved oval.
After posting the second fastest time in practice Saturday afternoon, Dye recorded a blistering lap of 16.468 seconds/95.640 mph to take the General Tire Pole Award with a new track record to boot.
At the halfway mark of the 2021 season, Dye became the fourth different driver to start from the pole in an AMS race thanks to the dominance of Gibbs. Dye added his name to the short list of non-Gibbs pole-sitters, which features only Drew Dollar (Daytona) and Corey Heim (Mid-Ohio).
Dye early in the race showed he was just as fast in race trim. Wary of Berlin’s reputation for chewing up inexperienced drivers who mismanage tires, he grew and maintained a healthy gap between himself and the rest of the field. All told, he officially led 198 of 200 laps to win the Valvoline Lap Leader award, collecting the Richmond Water Heaters Halfway Leader award along the way.
Dye’s 198 laps led at Berlin immediately slot him into second place in the yearlong Valvoline Lap Leader standings behind Gibbs (796) and ahead of Heim (125). The other two laps in the Zinsser SmartCoat 200 were led by Gibbs, who was able to edge Dye at the line following a pair of restarts even though he was unable to complete the passes.
That is not to say Gibbs did not try his hardest to pass Dye. On Lap 81, Gibbs attempted a crossover move on Dye in Turns 3-4 and initiated contact. Dye somehow managed not only to save his car, but also to maintain the lead. Fans voted his recovery as the Reese’s Sweet Move of the Race.
Dye was named the Bounty Rookie of the Race. With Gibbs finishing second and Heim rounding out the podium in third, Heim still leads the Bounty Rookie of the Year standings with a 20-point advantage over Gibbs.
Driving for Andy Hillenburg, Mason Mingus started 10th at Berlin and finished seventh, a three-position gain large enough to earn him the K&N Filters Hard Charger award for the race.
Dye reached Victory Lane at Berlin thanks in part to the tutelage of crew chief Chad Bryant, the Cometic Crew Chief of the Race winner. For Bryant, a former ARCA Menards Series championship-winning crew chief with Chase Briscoe who spent the last three years pulling double-duty as a team owner, as well, it was his first victory as a crew chief since he won three races with Dalton Sargeant in 2017.
The Cometic Crew Chief of the Year fight continues to be a close battle between Shannon Rursch (Heim) and Mark McFarland (Gibbs), with Rursch currently ahead of McFarland by nine points.
Up next on the ARCA Menards Series schedule is Saturday night’s Shore Lunch 150 at Iowa Speedway in Newton, Iowa. The race will serve as a points event on both the ARCA Menards Series and the ARCA Menards Series East schedules, as well the fifth event in the 2021 Sioux Chief Showdown.
As the Showdown approaches its halfway mark, the battle for the title is a close contest between Gibbs and Heim. Gibbs leads Heim by five points, third-place Nick Sanchez by 12 points and Thad Moffitt in fourth place by 21 points.
The Shore Lunch 150 is scheduled to go green shortly after 8 p.m. CT / 9 p.m. ET on Saturday, July 24, with live television coverage on MAVTV. The race will be simulcast on TrackPass on NBC Sports Gold.