Thursday is likely going to be a very big day for Sammy Smith.
The 18-year-old from Johnstown, Iowa, has the chance to secure a pair of championships when the checkered flag waves at the conclusion of the Bush’s Beans 200 | Sioux Chief Showdown at Bristol Motor Speedway.
The race serves as the 18th event on the ARCA Menards Series schedule as well as the final races of the season for the ARCA Menards Series East and Sioux Chief Showdown. Smith enters the race as the championship leader in both the East Series and the Sioux Chief Showdown. He is the defending East Series champion.
In the East Series, Smith has been dominant through the six races run thus far. He’s won four of those six, with his only defeats coming at the hands of Taylor Gray at Dover Motor Speedway on April 29 and Brandon Jones at Iowa Speedway on June 11.
Smith has collected victories at New Smyrna Speedway, Five Flags Speedway, Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway and most recently the Milwaukee Mile. He finished second in the two races he didn’t win, giving him an average finish of 1.3 entering Bristol. He holds a 33-point advantage on Gray in the East Series standings and needs only to finish 28th or better to clinch the title no matter what Gray does.
For Gray to win the championship, he would need to win Thursday’s race and hope Smith finishes 30th or 31st. There is no scenario where Gray can finish second or worse and still win the championship.
Smith can double his fun by claiming the Sioux Chief Showdown championship as well Thursday night. The 10-race 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.
Held at various short tracks and road courses, the Sioux Chief Showdown offers drivers who might not be old enough to race at bigger ovals a chance to compete for a championship against drivers who are.
In the nine races contested so far as part of the Sioux Chief Showdown, Smith has performed well. He earned victories at Berlin Raceway, Elko Speedway and the Milwaukee Mile and has a worst finish of fifth at Watkins Glen International.
His average finish in the nine Sioux Chief Showdown races so far is an impressive 2.3. Smith holds a comfortable, 26-point advantage on Jesse Love entering Thursday’s night of racing and needs only to finish 27th or better to claim the title no matter what Love does.
For Love to win the Sioux Chief Showdown championship, he’ll need to finish fourth if Smith finishes last, third if Smith finishes 30th, second if Smith finishes 29th and win if Smith finishes 28th.
Smith finished second last season at Bristol to eventual ARCA Menards Series champion Ty Gibbs, meaning the odds are in Smith’s favor this Thursday.
Can Brandon Jones go four for five?
NASCAR Xfinity Series driver Brandon Jones’ return to the ARCA Menards Series this season for Joe Gibbs Racing has been largely successful.
He’s competed in four races thus far, winning three of them at Charlotte Motor Speedway, Iowa Speedway and Watkins Glen International. His lone loss came at Pocono Raceway, when he finished third behind winner Taylor Gray and runner-up Nick Sanchez.
He’ll back back in the ARCA Menards Series for the final time this season Thursday night at Bristol, a track where he’s raced three times in ARCA Menards Series East competition.
His three starts came from 2013-15, and he earned a best finish of fifth in 2015. Since then, he’s raced in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series and NASCAR Xfinity Series at Bristol, giving him more experience than any other driver in the field at the 0.533-mile concrete oval.
Should Jones win Thursday’s race, he’ll end his five-race schedule in the ARCA Menards Series with more victories than any other competitor this year with two races left. Nick Sanchez and Gray also have three victories this season.
Andy Jankowiak honoring mother with throwback car
Racing runs in the family for Andy Jankowiak, and that includes his mom, Debby Jankowiak.
The wife of the late Tony Jankowiak, Debby raced for a period of time during her youth and was the first woman to win a feature race at New York’s Lancaster Speedway.
Andy will throw back to his mom’s racing days this Thursday at Bristol when he pilots a black and orange No. 73 that is reminiscent of the car his mother drove all those years ago.
Andy was only 2 when his father died in a crash at Stafford Motor Speedway, so it was his mom who took him to the race track every week when he was a child. Eventually, Andy became a star racer in his own right in New York state, winning countless Modified features at a variety of race tracks in the Northeast.
He entered the ARCA Menards Series last season and has since made a dozen starts, scoring a best finish of sixth earlier this year at Daytona International Speedway.
He’ll try to improve upon that finish this weekend at Bristol. His only previous ARCA start at Bristol came last season, when he finished 26th following a crash.
- Several drivers are pulling double-duty this weekend at Bristol. Sammy Smith, Nick Sanchez and Brandon Jones will all race in the NASCAR Xfinity Series event on Friday while Rajah Caruth, Taylor Gray, Leland Honeyman and Justin Carroll are entered in Thursday’s NASCAR Camping World Truck Series event that follows the ARCA Menards Series race.
- NASCAR Drive for Diversity competitor Andres Perez de Lara will make his ARCA Menards Series debut Thursday night at Bristol. It’s the first of three races he’ll run for David Gilliland Racing this season. He’s also slated to compete in the ARCA Menards Series West events at The Bullring at Las Vegas Motor Speedway and Phoenix Raceway.
- Michael Lira returns to JW Motorsports for his second ARCA Menards Series start of the season Thursday. He finished 21st in the opener at Daytona in February.
— Michael Lira (@1MichaelLira) September 9, 2022
- Ashton Higgins will make his second start on the ARCA platform this year and his ARCA Menards Series debut Thursday night. He competed in the ARCA Menards Series East race at Five Flags Speedway in Pensacola, Florida, on March 19, finishing seventh.
- Another returning driver is Tanner Arms, who made his ARCA platform debut in the East Series event at Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway, finishing sixth. He’ll once again drive the No. 95 for team owner Mark Noble.
- Jake Finch is set for his third start of the ARCA Menards Series season. In his previous two starts, he finished seventh at Pocono Raceway and eighth at the Milwaukee Mile. He’ll pilot his father James Finch’s No. 1 Phoenix Racing Toyota Thursday night.