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Landon Huffman
(Photo: Adam Fenwick/NASCAR)

NOTEBOOK: Landon Huffman set for return to ARCA competition at Salem

Landon Huffman is enjoying a career resurgence.

The 26-year-old driver from Claremont, North Carolina, recently secured his first Hickory Motor Speedway Late Model Stock Car track championship, an honor he now shares with his father, two-time Hickory champion Robert Huffman.

It wasn’t all that long ago that the younger Huffman was unsure what his future in the racing world would hold.

Huffman made his ARCA Menards Series debut in 2016 driving for Venturini Motorsports, starting fourth and finishing 16th at Michigan’s Berlin Raceway. In the years that followed, he also made five NASCAR Camping World Truck Series starts but could only muster a best finish of 16th in 2019 at Bristol Motor Speedway.

Fast forward to Saturday’s Herr’s Snacks 200 at Salem Speedway, and Huffman, who is rightfully still celebrating his championship at Hickory, is set to return to the ARCA Menards Series thanks to a partnership with team owner Jeff McClure.

ARCA at Salem: Entry list | Complete event schedule

“I’ve been friends with Jeff McClure a good while. He’s also been friends with my uncle, so he’s been a family friend for a long time,” Huffman said. “Jeff actually crew chiefed for me when I drove for Venturini back in 2016. I actually spotted for Jeff for most of that year. So I had a good working relationship with him, too, both inside the car and on the spotter stand.

“This past year Jeff went out and has done his own deal. He’s had some other drivers in [the car], and I’ve been in contact with him back and forth, and that if the opportunity were to come up that I was able to get into the seat we would try to make it happen.”

Huffman’s performance this year at Hickory, which included three victories in addition to his season championship, allowed him to pull together the sponsorship required to climb back into an ARCA Menards Series entry for the first time since 2016.

“After the Hickory deal ended and we ended up winning the championship there, I had some opportunities from a couple companies to put some money together, and Jeff had the seat open,” Huffman said. “He called and asked if it was something I was interested in and if it was something we thought we could put some money together for.”

Huffman has never raced at Salem Speedway, but he has been to the venue and worked there as a spotter, so he is familiar with how the track races. His hope is that his experience at Hickory, another track with an old and abrasive surface, will help him Saturday afternoon.

“I’ve been there a number of times. I think the place is awesome,” Huffman said of Salem. “It’s an incredible short track. It’s got a lot of character. Old, worn-out pavement. A lot of tire wear.

“I’m looking forward to it. Salem is a different animal, but I think with my experience on worn out race tracks and being a little older, I don’t think it will be too difficult for me to adjust. I’m just ready to get out there and kind of get a feel for everything.”

Venturini battling KBM for ARCA owner crown

Jesse Love and Sammy Smith
Jesse Love (No. 20) and Sammy Smith (No. 18) in action during the Menards 250 for the ARCA Menards Series at Minnesota’s Elko Speedway on June 25, 2022. (Matt Krohn/ARCA Racing)

The battle for the ARCA Menards Series driver championship is coming down to the wire between Nick Sanchez and Daniel Dye, with the two drivers separated by just five points with two races left in the season.

In the owner standings, the battle is just as intense between Venturini Motorsports and Kyle Busch Motorsports.

Entering Saturday’s Herr’s Snacks 200 at Salem Speedway, the No. 20 Venturini Motorsports team holds a six-point advantage on the No. 18 Kyle Busch Motorsports team for the ARCA Menards Series owner championship.

The No. 20 team has visited Victory Lane three times this year, with Corey Heim scoring victories at Daytona International Speedway and Kansas Speedway and Jesse Love triumphing at the Illinois State Fairgrounds.

Meanwhile, the No. 18 Kyle Busch Motorsports entry has scored four victories. With Sammy Smith at the wheel, the team has collected trophies at Berlin Raceway, Elko Speedway, the Milwaukee Mile and Bristol Motor Speedway. Drew Dollar also piloted the No. 18 in four events with a best finish of seventh.

The No. 18 team, last year owned by Joe Gibbs Racing, most recently claimed the owner and driver championships. Ty Gibbs piloted the No. 18 to 10 victories en route to a sweep of the season-long championships in 2021.

Will Kimmel, driver of the #69 Kimmel Racing Ford, looks on before the Atlas 100 for the ARCA Menards Series at the Illinois State Fairgrounds in Springfield, Illinois on August 21, 2022. (Jeff Curry/ARCA Racing)
Will Kimmel, driver of the #69 Kimmel Racing Ford, looks on before the Atlas 100 for the ARCA Menards Series at the Illinois State Fairgrounds in Springfield, Illinois on August 21, 2022. (Jeff Curry/ARCA Racing)

A home race for Will Kimmel

The Kimmel family has a long history at Salem Speedway, and Will Kimmel has done his best to continue that family legacy.

The 34-year-old from nearby Clarksville, Indiana, is a multi-time winner at Salem Speedway in Super Late Model and Grand American Stock Car competition.

In fact, when Kimmel made his Salem Speedway Super Late Model debut in 2006, he became the first driver in track history to win in his first Super Late Model start. One year later, he captured the Super Late Model track championship at Salem at the age of 19, the youngest driver to do so. He added a second track title in 2019, when he secured the Great American Stock Car championship.

More recently at Salem, Kimmel captured the annual running of the Great American Stock Car Halloween 200 in 2021. He became the third member of the Kimmel family to win the event, joining his uncle Frank Kimmel and cousin Frankie Kimmel as winners of the event.

The Kimmel clan has also enjoyed ARCA success at Salem, with Frank Kimmel earning nine of his 80 series victories at the legendary short track. Will Kimmel continues to chase his maiden ARCA victory, but he’s come close at Salem before. He has four top-five finishes at the track in ARCA competition, including a runner-up result in 2011 to recent NASCAR Cup Series winner Chris Buescher.

Will Kimmel was also in the hunt last year, finishing fourth behind winner Jesse Love, Ty Gibbs and Rajah Caruth.

NOTES:

  • Jesse Love returns to Salem Speedway as the defending race winner. Last year he took the lead late from Ty Gibbs and went on to score his maiden ARCA Menards Series victory. He added his second ARCA triumph earlier this year at the Illinois State Fairgrounds.
  • Ed Pompa is back for his third ARCA Menards Series start of the season this weekend at Salem Speedway. He has finishes of 20th at Pocono Raceway and 17th at Watkins Glen International this year.