MOORESVILLE, N.C. (April 11, 2018) -- There's a new "Ironman" in the ARCA house.
Joe Graf Jr. had a weekend he will never forget at the historic Fairgrounds Speedway Nashville when he piloted the Big Tine No. 77 Chad Bryant Racing entry in his ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards debut. The 19-year-old New Jersey native had been preparing for this event his whole racing career when just days prior to the Music City 200 he inadvertently broke his foot.
“It definitely threw us a ringer,” said owner Chad Bryant. “We really weren’t sure how Joe would adjust to the situation, but he came through surprisingly well. It's tough enough making your first ARCA start, but to have a broken foot made the task even more difficult.”
After qualifying 11th out of the 28-car field, Graf got tested right of the bat when the first 50 laps went green without caution. With each lap his confidence rose as he began his march toward the front.
“My guys did an awesome job under tough conditions,” said Graf, Jr. “I can’t thank Chad and Paul Andrews, my crew chief, in giving me a car that allowed me to be competitive, even with my broken foot.”
After the half way point of the Music City 200, Graf started picking off cars, one by one, and nearing 60 to go he found himself battling with the leaders. Under yellow, the four cars in front of him pitted, giving Graf the opportunity to lead his first ARCA race, but on older tires. When the green flag came back out, he battled hard for the lead, but after 10 laps of dueling he was finally passed for the top-spot.
Despite giving up the lead, Graf was set up for a top-5 finish; but on an ensuing restart he lost fourth gear, making his unenviable task enough tougher. In third gear, he soldiered home to 16th place finish.
“I am really proud of Joe Jr.,” said Crew Chief Paul Andrews. “He did a solid job for a first race in ARCA. I really thought we had a shot at a podium finish, but we came up a little short. He showed me a lot when he was leading the race and I am positive that he will improve with each outing.”
Soon after the race, Graf was reminded that he was working with a broken foot.
“My foot was pulsating," Graf said after the 200-lap grind. “I had so much adrenaline during the race that it didn’t seem to hurt that bad while I was racing. But wow, I can assure you it was painful afterward. To lead a few laps and race with the leaders was truly remarkable under the situation. It shows everyone how strong Chad Bryant Racing cars perform. I can’t wait to get back into the No. 77 and race for the win.”
Joe Graf, Jr.’s next ARCA race will be the Kentuckiana Ford Dealers 200 at Salem Speedway Sunday afternoon, April 22.
About Chad Bryant Racing
Throughout his career, Chad Bryant has had the ability to develop young talent and now has become a well-respected, race team owner with the experience of NASCAR Championship Crew Chief Paul Andrews.
As Chad Bryant Racing begins its first season in the ARCA Racing Series, it is still the results driven, no nonsense team where racers go to gain the seat time and experience necessary to help climb the motorsports ladder.
Chad Bryant purchased Cunningham Motorsports in the fall of 2017. The team has produced 40 ARCA Racing Series wins with 15 different drivers as well as the national championship in 2016.