Nick Sanchez and Daniel Dye
Nick Sanchez and Daniel Dye (Photo: Nic Antaya/ARCA Racing)

NOTEBOOK: How Nick Sanchez, Daniel Dye reached their ARCA championship showdown at Toledo

Nick Sanchez and Daniel Dye have worked all season to get here.

On Saturday afternoon at Toledo Speedway, one of them will become the 39th different driver to capture an ARCA Menards Series championship.

Entering Saturday’s Shore Lunch 200, Sanchez holds a two-point advantage over Dye in the standings. Before the 20th and final race of the ARCA Menards Series season, let’s take a look at how Sanchez and Dye got here.

ARCA at Toledo: Entry list | Complete event schedule

Nick Sanchez
Nick Sanchez (Photo: Ed Zurga/ARCA Racing)

Nick Sanchez: 882 points

The 2022 season didn’t begin well for Sanchez, who was running inside the top 10 during the opener at Daytona International Speedway when a tire went flat with fewer than 20 laps to go. He ended up finishing 20th, one lap down.

It didn’t take long for Sanchez to get things turned around. He scored a seventh-place finish at Phoenix Raceway, but things really got going when he slipped through a late-race crash to score his second career ARCA Menards Series victory at Talladega Superspeedway on April 23.

The positive momentum continued for Sanchez in the next round at Kansas Speedway on May 14, when he held off his Rev Racing teammate Rajah Caruth to earn his second straight series victory.

Sanchez followed his back-to-back victories with an eighth-place finish at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Finishes of seventh at Iowa Speedway, sixth at Berlin Raceway, 11th at Elko Speedway and 11th at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course followed.

The driver from Miami, Florida, found his groove again at Pocono Raceway on July 22, when he finished second to Taylor Gray. Following a seventh-place run at Lucas Oil Indianapolis Raceway Park, Sanchez scored his third victory of the season in impressive fashion at Michigan International Speedway on Aug. 6. A runner-up finish at Watkins Glen International followed two weeks later.

RELATED: Nick Sanchez’s 2022 ARCA Menards Series stats

Sanchez then collected three consecutive fifth-place finishes at the Illinois State Fairgrounds, the Milwaukee Mile and the DuQuoin State Fairgrounds before registering another runner-up finish at Kansas on Sept. 10.

Things didn’t go Sanchez’s way at Bristol Motor Speedway, where he struggled to find pace and finished 12th. Last weekend at Salem Speedway, he wasn’t bad, but he wasn’t great, either, and settled for a sixth-place finish.

Entering the Shore Lunch 200 at Toledo, Sanchez has three victories, nine top fives and 15 top-10 finishes.

Daniel Dye
Daniel Dye (Photo: Ben Jackson/ARCA Racing)

Daniel Dye: 880 points

The 2022 season has been all about consistency for the GMS Racing driver.

Dye started the season with a third-place finish at Daytona, which he followed with a runner-up result at Phoenix a few weeks later. His worst finish of the season came at Talladega in April, when he made a move late for the lead. He instead ended up spinning off the nose of Corey Heim’s Toyota, resulting in a 17th-place finish.

A third-place run at Kansas followed by a sixth-place finish at Charlotte despite multiple incidents got Dye’s season back on track, but another 17th-place run at Iowa seemingly derailed him again.

That was the last time Dye finished outside the top 10 in 2022.

RELATED: Daniel Dye’s 2022 ARCA Menards Series stats

At Berlin, Dye had the dominant car and looked well on his way to a comfortable victory, but a mechanical failure in the final laps dropped him from the lead to seventh after he led 192 laps.

Finishes of fifth at Elko, eighth at Mid-Ohio, fifth at Pocono, fourth at Lucas Oil Indianapolis Raceway Park, third at Michigan and fourth at Watkins Glen followed for Dye as he kept himself in the thick of the championship hunt.

Dye escaped the Illinois State Fairgrounds with a seventh-place finish, which he followed with a third-place effort at the Milwaukee Mile. Consecutive fourth-place finishes at DuQuoin and Kansas set him up for the final stretch of the season.

Bristol proved a pivotal race for Dye, as he finished fifth to close to within five points of Sanchez in the title fight. A third-place finish last weekend at Salem shrunk that gap to just two points entering the finale at Toledo.

Entering the Shore Lunch 200, Dye has 13 top fives and 17 top 10s. Should he win the championship without winning a race, he would be the first ARCA Menards Series champion to go winless since Bob Dotter accomplished the same feat in 1980.

For all of the ARCA Menards Series championship scenarios at Toledo Speedway, click here.

Kyle Busch Motorsports takes slim car owner standings lead into Toledo finale

While he isn’t battling for the ARCA Menards Series driver championship at Toledo, Sammy Smith still has plenty for which to race.

Smith and the No. 18 Kyle Busch Motorsports team are in a heated battle with the No. 20 Venturini Motorsports team for the ARCA Menards Series car owner championship entering the Shore Lunch 200.

Following Smith’s victory last weekend at Salem, the No. 18 KBM team moved ahead of the No. 20 Venturini team by a single point. The No. 20 team, which has been led this year by Jesse Love and Corey Heim behind the wheel, entered the race at Salem ahead by six points.

Smith’s dominance in the second half of the season has allowed the No. 18 team to get back in the fight for the owner championship after a slow start to the season. Smith has shared the No. 18 with Drew Dollar, who struggled for consistency in the four events he competed in early in the year.

That put the No. 18 team behind early, but five wins by Smith compared to three wins by Love and Heim have catapulted the No. 18 team into the lead with one race remaining.

With bonus points in play and every position mattering, the battle for the ARCA Menards Series owner championship will likely come down to the final lap at Toledo on Saturday afternoon.

RICHMOND, VIRGINIA - AUGUST 13: Grant Enfinger, driver of the #23 Suredone Chevrolet, waits on the grid during qualifying for the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Worldwide Express 250 for Carrier Appreciation at Richmond Raceway on August 13, 2022 in Richmond, Virginia. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images) | Getty Images
Grant Enfinger, driver of the No. 23 Suredone Chevrolet, waits on the grid during qualifying for the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Worldwide Express 250 for Carrier Appreciation at Richmond Raceway on Aug. 13, 2022. (Photo: Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

The return of the 2015 champion

It’s been a few years since Grant Enfinger last strapped into an ARCA Menards Series (national) race car, but that changes Saturday afternoon at Toledo.

Enfinger, the 2015 ARCA Menards Series champion, will make his first series start since 2018 on Saturday in partnership with team owner Jeff McClure.

The driver from Fairhope, Alabama, will be one of the most experienced drivers in the field for the Shore Lunch 200. In 95 previous ARCA Menards Series starts, he has scored 16 victories. His most recent came in a one-off start in 2017 at the Illinois State Fairgrounds aboard the No. 16 Chevrolet for team owner Mike Allgaier.

Following his ARCA Menards Series championship in 2015, Enfinger moved up the ladder and has become a regular competitor in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series. He’s made 158 Truck Series starts, earning seven victories, including a win earlier this year at Lucas Oil Indianapolis Raceway Park.

He currently drives for GMS Racing in the Truck Series, the same team that is fielding the No. 43 Chevrolet for championship contender Daniel Dye this Saturday afternoon.

In eight previous ARCA Menards Series starts at Toledo, Enfinger’s best finish is second. That came in 2011, when he was bested by eventual series champion Ty Dillon.

NOTES:

  • Amber Slagle returns to ARCA Menards Series competition Saturday aboard the No. 42 Toyota for Cook Racing Technologies. The event at Toledo is a home race for Slagle, who hails from nearby Sylvan Lake, Michigan. It’ll be her second ARCA Menards Series start of the season and of her career.
  • Venturini Motorsports is fielding four entries this weekend at Toledo, including the No. 55 Toyota for Michigan driver Morgan Baird. This will be Baird’s first start for the team and second start of the season following a 10th-place finish at Michigan International Speedway in August while driving for team owner Andy Hillenburg.
  • With no previous Toledo ARCA winners entered in Saturday’s race, the driver who wins the Shore Lunch 200 will become the 45th different ARCA Menards Series race winner at the half-mile paved oval dating back to the first ARCA event at the track in 1963. Saturday’s race is the 82nd ARCA Menards Series event in track history.
  • In addition to the battle for the ARCA Menards Series championship, there is a tight battle for fourth in the series standings between Greg Van Alst and Sammy Smith. Van Alst holds a one-point advantage on Smith, who has won a season-high five races this year despite only competing in 15 of the 19 races contested thus far.