The 2021 ARCA Menards Series East season ends Thursday with the Bush’s Beans 200 at Bristol Motor Speedway (6:30 p.m. ET on FS1), a combination race with the ARCA Menards Series.
The East Series finale’s status as a combo event was a formula for a hefty entry list. Sure enough, 32 cars appeared on the initial entry list for the 200-lap race on the half-mile concrete oval in Bristol, Tennessee. That’s the most for a short-track race on the ARCA Menards platform since 2017.
And the number of entries absolutely impacts the championship points scenarios for the East Series regulars contending for the title.
Rookie Sammy Smith, the 17-year-old from Johnston, Iowa, who’s running for Joe Gibbs Racing this season, enters the Bristol race with a 24-point lead over second-place Daniel Dye in the East Series driver standings. It’s a comfortable advantage, but not one that should be considered insurmountable.
If Smith finishes 19th or better Thursday night at Bristol, he will win the 2021 ARCA Menards Series East championship. But if he finishes 20th or worse in the No. 81 Engine Ice Toyota, he will allow Dye’s championship scenarios to become possible.
A 19th-place finish for Smith at Bristol without any bonus points would put his season total at 368 points, not including the 50-point bonus drivers will earn for completing all races in the second half of the season. That’s the highest number Dye, the 17-year-old driver of the No. 21 GMS Racing Chevrolet, can reach with a race win and all six bonus points at Bristol.
In the event of a tie in points, Smith would hold the tiebreaker over Dye by virtue of his three East Series wins this season.
As for Dye, without bonus points, he needs to finish seventh or better at Bristol to give himself a chance to win the championship. He also could win it by finishing eighth with one bonus point, ninth with two bonus points or 10th with three bonus points. Of course, that’s assuming Smith finishes last.
Assuming Smith indeed starts the race and earns at least the minimum amount of points for finishing last, only one other driver beyond Dye has the potential to win the East Series championship: Mason Diaz.
Diaz needs to win the race while Smith finishes last with no bonus points. If Smith were to finish 29th through 31st, again without bonus points, Diaz would need the win plus bonus points.
Of course, with that win, Diaz would also need Dye to finish the season with 358 points or fewer to jump both drivers.
Below is a chart that illustrates the championship points scenarios for all three drivers.
Smith’s gray area represents the scenarios in which he would clinch the championship regardless of who else finishes where. The gray areas for Dye and Diaz represent their windows for a championship should Smith slip at Bristol.
Bonus points are awarded as such: three points for race win; one point for General Tire Pole Award; one point for leading a lap; one point for leading the most laps. A maximum of six bonus points can be earned for a maximum possible payout of 49 points.
Notes: Chart based on 32-car entry list; does not include 50-point bonus drivers will receive for completing all races in second half of East Series season
ARCA Menards Series East championship scenarios at Bristol
ARCA Menards Series championship points tiebreakers:
- Events entered and competed in
- Most victories
- Most top-five finishes
- Most top-10 finishes
- Most poles
- Average finishing position