Gus Dean survives wild night, puts Venturini Motorsports back on top at Daytona

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — An efficient decade for Venturini Motorsports at Daytona International Speedway continued with Friday’s expedited Daytona ARCA 200.

Taking the checkered flag was veteran Gus Dean, who passed teammate Jake Finch on the final restart of the night to deliver Venturini Motorsports their fourth Daytona victory in the past five years.

Dean was overcome with emotion when he parked his No. 55 Dean Custom Air Toyota on the frontstretch. The process to reach Victory Lane at Daytona for the Bluffton, South Carolina native was one dominated by sacrifice and relentless dedication.

“I started racing when I was four years old at a tiny little dirt track in South Georgia,” Dean said in his post-race interview. “It’s been a whole lot of miles, a whole lot of work and a whole lot of people behind me.”

RELATED: Complete results from the Daytona ARCA 200

Like nearly everyone else who started Friday’s 80-lap feature, Dean’s night was eventful from the moment the green flag waved.

While getting a push from Leland Honeyman, Dean got loose and collided with teammate Toni Breidinger. The ensuing contact turned Breidinger around in front of the field, which collected Dean’s two remaining teammates Kris Wright and Amber Balcaen.

Dean shook off the early contact and patiently bided his time behind Finch, who dominated most of the ARCA Daytona 200. He did everything possible to help protect that lead from the pack, but an overtime restart would put Dean and Finch on the front row.

Dean used a push from Andres Perez to pull ahead from Finch coming off Turn 2. As Finch attempted to charge back on the outside line, he was turned into the wall by Andy Jankowiak, triggering a final multi-car crash that secured the victory for Dean.

The Daytona ARCA 200 served as Dean’s first ARCA Menards Series triumph since 2018 when he prevailed at Elko Speedway. Dean’s only other victory came at Talladega Superspeedway, which was also decided by a late-race caution.

A veteran presence for a young Venturini Motorsports lineup, Dean has provided his teammates plenty of insight on how to time runs and utilize the draft to their advantage. Despite this, Dean was still eager to add another triumph of his own with the limited amount of opportunities at his disposal.

Finally ending a near six-year drought carried plenty of catharsis for Dean in numerous ways. He dedicated his ARCA victory and Super Late Model triumph at New Smyrna Speedway earlier this week to his grandfather Charles Dean Sr., who passed away earlier this year.

With his grandfather riding shotgun on his car Friday evening, Dean had plenty of motivation to shine on ARCA’s biggest stage and re-establish Venturini’s dominance at Daytona.

“My granddad came to every race I ever ran,” Dean said. “In every single one, he told me to get what I can, even at the end when I would call him on the phone. [On Friday], we got what we could.  It might not be the Daytona 500, it might not be the biggest race, but it is the biggest coliseum.

“For a small-town kid from Bluffton, South Carolina, this is everything.”

Thomas Annunziata survived the chaos on the final restart to finish second in his debut ARCA Menards Series appearance. Defending Daytona ARCA 200 winner Greg Van Alst placed third with Christian Rose and Tim Richmond completing the Top 5 finishers.

The ARCA Menards Series will be back in action on March 8 for the General Tire 150 at Phoenix Raceway. Fox Sports 1 will broadcast the race live.