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ARCA Menards rewind: Takeaways from Berlin Raceway

The ARCA Menards Series and Sioux Chief Showdown seasons continues Saturday in dramatic fashion with a visit to Michigan’s Berlin Raceway for the running of the Zinsser SmartCoat 200.

The race on the 0.438-mile asphalt oval was dominated by GMS Racing’s Daniel Dye, but it was Sammy Smith who earned a trip to Victory Lane when a mechanical issue ended Dye’s dominant run less than 10 laps from the checkered flag.

The triumph was the first ARCA Menards Series victory for Smith, who is the defending ARCA Menards Series East champion. He is also the current points leader in the East Series for Kyle Busch Motorsports as he pursues his second-straight championship.

MORE BERLIN: Results | Highlights

While Smith earned his maiden trip to Victory Lane, the battle for the ARCA Menards Series championship remained tight between Rajah Caruth and Nick Sanchez. Dye, despite his mechanical issues at the end of the race, also remains in the hunt.

Below are the key takeaways from Saturday’s Zinsser SmartCoat 200 at Berlin Raceway.

A little luck helps Sammy Smith earn first win

Sammy Smith had no problem admitting that he did not have the best car during Saturday’s Zinsser SmartCoat 200.

That honor belonged to Daniel Dye, whose No. 43 GMS Racing Chevrolet was unquestionably the class of the ARCA Menards Series field at Berlin Raceway.

Dye, the defending race winner at Berlin Raceway, started from the pole and led 192 of the first 194 laps, but with seven laps left his car noticeably began to slow.

Cue the Jaws theme.

Smith, who was several seconds behind Dye at the time, quickly made up ground and passed Dye coming out of Turn 4 with six laps remaining. Smith would cruise from there, ultimately getting to the finish more than six seconds ahead of runner-up Tom Hessert.

Dye was obviously disappointed following the race, but remained upbeat after his impressive performance Saturday night.

“We had such a great GMS Racing Chevy tonight, and I can’t believe how bad our luck has been so far this year,” Dye said. “The GMS guys did great in preparation and getting the Race to Stop Suicide car dialed in and making it possible to get the pole. We’ll keep just putting our best effort in, and one of these days, hopefully, it will pay off. Thanks to all the fans that came out and showed their support all day.”

Despite the frustrating end to his race, Dye stuck around post-race to sign autographs for fans who had watched him control the ARCA field throughout the evening.

Battle for ARCA title remains tight between Caruth, Sanchez

Rajah Caruth, driver of the #6 Max Siegel-St. Vincent & The Grenadines Chevrolet, during the Zinsser Smart Coat 200 for the ARCA Menards Series at Berlin Raceway in Marne, Michigan on June 18, 2022. (Eric Bronson/ARCA Racing)
Rajah Caruth, driver of the No. 6 Max Siegel-St. Vincent & The Grenadines Chevrolet, during the Zinsser Smart Coat 200 for the ARCA Menards Series at Berlin Raceway in Marne, Michigan on June 18, 2022. (Photo: Eric Bronson/ARCA Racing)

Rajah Caruth and Nick Sanchez remain attached at the hip in the battle for the ARCA Menards Series championship.

Neither driver was in contention to win the Zinsser SmartCoat 200, but they entered the race tied at the top of the series standings after six races.

Caruth brought his No. 6 Rev Racing Chevrolet home in the fifth position Saturday evening, his series-best fourth top-five finish so far this year. Sanchez followed him home in sixth.

That gives Caruth a one-point edge on Sanchez after seven races as the ARCA Menards Series heads to Minnesota’s Elko Speedway this Saturday night for the Menards 250.

While Caruth and Sanchez continue to lead the way in the ARCA standings, Dye also remains in the hunt. He’s 11 points behind Caruth, meaning he could find himself right in the thick of the title fight should bad luck strike Caruth and Sanchez at any point.

With 13 races remaining on the ARCA Menards Series schedule, literally anything can happen.

A strong return for Tom Hessert

It’s like he never even left.

Tom Hessert, a six-time ARCA Menards Series race winner, made his return to competition for the first time in four years during the Zinsser SmartCoat 200 driving the No. 15 Toyota for Venturini Motorsports.

Hessert started fifth and raced in the top-five all night, racing as high as second behind race-long leader Dye. He was running third late in the race when Dye slowed with a mechanical issue, which elevated Hessert to second in his return to ARCA competition.

“We were a little tight in the center, a little free off and just kind of searching around a little bit trying to find something that worked,” Hessert said. “Kevin Reed, Billy (Venturini), everyone at Venturini brought a great Toyota for us. Really happy with today. It’s been awhile and to come back and finish second is a good outcome.”

Hessert is scheduled to compete in two more events this year for Venturini Motorsports. He’ll be back with the team this Saturday at Elko Speedway and is also scheduled to join the team for the Reese’s 200 at Lucas Oil Indianapolis Raceway Park on July 29.

NOTES:

  • Brad Smith, who entered Saturday’s race with one top-10 finish in 391 prior ARCA Menards Series starts, earned his second top-10 finish in ARCA competition following a 10th-place result in the Zinsser SmartCoat 200.
  • Amber Balcaen’s string of top-10 finishes ended at three after a crash at Lap 63. She is currently fifth in the ARCA Menards Series standings.
  • After starting the season without a top-10 finish in the first three races of the year, Greg Van Alst hasn’t finished worse than eighth in the last four ARCA Menards Series events.
  • Rita Thomason, who was making her ARCA Menards Series debut in an alliance with Clubb Racing, finished 12th after starting 15th.