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Taylor Gray, Daniel Dye, Rajah Caruth
Taylor Gray, Daniel Dye and Rajah Caruth

NOTEBOOK: Multiple contenders set to battle for first Iowa victory in ARCA competition

We know Ty Gibbs will not win Saturday’s Calypso Lemonade 150 at Iowa Speedway. The winner of the last two ARCA Menards Series races at the 0.875-mile paved oval and last year’s series champion has moved on to the NASCAR Xfinity Series.

That’s about all anybody can know for sure regarding what to expect Saturday night in Newton, Iowa.

Gibbs’ absence on the entry list for the Calypso Lemonade 150 not only means the annual event will see a new winner for the first time in three years, but the ARCA Menards Series very well could get a first-time Iowa winner. Xfinity Series regular Brandon Jones is the only driver in the field who has reached Victory Lane at the track thanks to his West Series triumph in 2014. At that point, though, the West Series did not run under the ARCA banner.

Many drivers will be racing at Iowa for the first time Saturday night. Which is to say the Calypso Lemonade 150 (8 p.m. CT / 9 p.m. ET on MAVTV and FloRacing) is anybody’s to win, especially considering this is the first ARCA Menards Series-ARCA Menards Series East combination race of the season.

ARCA at Iowa: Entry list | Complete event schedule

Brandon Jones
Brandon Jones (Photo: Veasey Conway/ARCA Racing)

A combination race means the Kyle Busch Motorsports/Joe Gibbs Racing stable has two entries in the field. Brandon Jones, the Xfinity Series regular who won his first ARCA start of the year two weeks ago at Charlotte Motor Speedway, is back, this time with East Series championship points leader Sammy Smith with him as a de facto teammate.

Those Toyotas will be among the favorites to win Saturday at Iowa, but there are plenty more.

ARCA powerhouse team Venturini Motorsports has four cars in the field, with Conner Jones, Toni Breidinger, Jonathan Shafer and two-time defending West Series champion Jesse Love all scheduled to wheel VMS Toyotas.

Taylor Gray, the only driver not named Smith to win in the East Series thus far this season and Smith’s rival in the East title race, is entered in his David Gilliland Racing Ford. Gray has a pair of top-five finishes in his only two ARCA starts at Iowa.

And then there’s Daniel Dye, last year’s runner-up at Iowa. This is one the GMS Racing driver has circled.

“Just had a few too many errors to make up for our lost track position,” Dye said of last year’s race. “Iowa is probably my favorite track I’ve been to so far in an ARCA Menards car, and we’ve had really great speed all season. Just need to put it all together now, and we should be strong on Saturday night.”

All of these contenders, and we haven’t even mentioned the Rev Racing teammates who rank first and second in ARCA Menards Series championship points.

Rajah Caruth and Nick Sanchez have been fast all season, as proven by Sanchez’s pair of wins and Caruth’s trio of top-five runs that have him atop the standings. Iowa is another track where their Chevrolet speed should be a factor.

Caruth has not yet won a race on the ARCA Menards platform, but Saturday is his 20th birthday. That might be a good time for a breakthrough.

Sioux Chief Showdown heats up

Taylor Gray
Taylor Gray celebrates winning the General Tire 150 at Phoenix Raceway on March 11, 2022. (Adam Glanzman/ARCA Racing)

Technically, there are three series under the ARCA Menards banner in action Saturday night at Iowa. In addition to the ARCA Menards Series (national) and East Series, the Sioux Chief Showdown is represented in this event.

Established in 2015 as a short track challenge and having since evolved to include road-course events, the Sioux Chief Showdown is ARCA’s series within the series that brings together the best of the ARCA Menards Series, the ARCA Menards Series East and the ARCA Menards Series West.

Each year, the 10-race Sioux Chief Showdown, held at various short tracks and road courses, offers drivers who might not be old enough to race at bigger ovals a chance to compete for a championship against drivers who are. True to its purpose, the inaugural 2015 title was won by Kyle Weatherman, who was only eligible to compete in 15 of the 20 ARCA Menards Series races that year due to age restrictions.

Saturday night’s Calypso Lemonade 150 at Iowa is the second of 10 Showdown races on the schedule this year. Gray leads the standings thanks to his victory at Phoenix Raceway in March. He places ahead of Dye in second, Smith in third, Caruth in fourth and West Series driver Jake Drew in fifth.

Including Saturday’s Iowa race, the next four events (and five of the next six) on the ARCA Racing schedule are Showdown races. They include the ARCA Menards Series race at Michigan’s Berlin Raceway on June 18, another ARCA Menards Series event at Minnesota’s Elko Speedway on June 18, the West Series race at Irwindale Speedway on July 2 and the ARCA Menards Series race at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course on July 8.

Tanner Allen’s ARCA debut

It’s a commonality to see young drivers get ARCA Menards Series opportunities driving for Andy Hillenburg’s Fast Track Racing team, especially if those drivers are local to the facility in action.

That’s the case for Tanner Allen this week at Iowa.

Allen, a 24-year-old accomplished midget car racer from Springville, Iowa, will make his ARCA platform debut Saturday driving the No. 10 Stolte Farms-CDLJobs.com Toyota for Hillenburg.

 

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Allen drove one of Hillenburg’s cars in January during the ARCA Menards Series pre-race practice at Daytona International Speedway. He is a second-generation racer who started in go-karts before switching to open-wheel dirt racing. He has competed in the Lucas Oil Chili Bowl Nationals, among other marquee midget racing events.

NOTES:

  • ARCA Menards Series rookie Amber Balcaen, who ranks fifth in championship points, is looking to carry the momentum from her career-best seventh place finish at Charlotte. This will mark her first race at Iowa. “I am taking similar steps to prepare for Iowa by watching and studying film, going on iRacing and keeping up with my rigorous fitness and hydration regimens,” she said. “At the end of the day, I am hoping that all of that hard work will pay off with fast laps and a smart race on Saturday night.”
  • Jonathan Shafer will make his second ARCA start Saturday at Iowa for Venturini Motorsports. The soon to be 17-year-old finished seventh in his debut at Dover Motor Speedway in April.
  • Starting Saturday at Iowa, the 2022 East Series season closes with three consecutive combination races with the ARCA Menards Series. The others include the Aug. 28 event at the Milwaukee Mile and the Sept. 15 East Series finale at Bristol Motor Speedway.