ARCA Pensacola 200 Post-Race Notes
ARCA Pensacola 200 Post-Race Notes
The ARCA Pensacola 200 presented by Inspectra Thermal Solutions at Five Flags Speedway marked the ARCA Menards Series’ first visit to the home of the Snowball Derby in 23 years. The series was greeted with a large crowd and a warm welcome from the community. The fans on hand were treated to a race that saw three drivers swap the lead five times, and despite just two cautions – both for debris – the race came down to a battle between winner Michael Self, runner-up Ty Gibbs, and third-place finisher Christian Eckes.
All twenty drivers in the field attended the autograph session before the race and they were welcomed by a huge throng of people. The crowd was energetic and excited to meet the ARCA drivers and stayed until the very end.
Self’s win was his fourth ARCA Menards Series victory but his first on a short track. “I guess I am known for the big track stuff but it’s not like I don’t run good on the short tracks,” Self said. “I have short track wins in the K&N Pro Series West, but for some reason that just hadn’t translated over here yet. I really like the style of racing on the big tracks. I like the physics of it, the aerodynamics, the strategy. But it’s not like I am a complete stranger to success on short tracks.”
Self’s win was the first for crew chief Shannon Rursch with Venturini Motorsports. Rursch joined the team after two seasons with JGR, where he led 2017 Bounty Rookie of the Year Riley Herbst to a victory at Pocono Raceway.
Mardy Lindley, who led Zane Smith to a runner-up finish in the 2018 series standings, returned to the series at Five Flags working with GMS Racing and driver Sam Mayer.
Raphael Lessard made his second series start, driving for KBR Development as a teammate to Carson Hocevar. Lessard was one of the dominant drivers on the night, leading 83 laps before giving up the lead on the final round of pit stops. Lessard came out second, but the car unexpectedly got tight and he drifted to eighth at the finish.
Both Mayer and Hocevar failed to finish after struggling with fuel pressure issues.
With a dire weather forecast early in the week, ARCA and track officials were concerned about the need to dry the track in case rain moved in and delayed the action. Nearby Talladega Superspeedway stepped up and supplied a jet dryer to Five Flags should weather be an issue. Thankfully the inclement weather predicted early in the week moved north, and the only time the jet was needed was the blow the track clean prior to the race.
GMS Racing made its first series appearance since 2015, fielding an entry for Sam Mayer. The last time GMS entered an ARCA Menards Series race was 2015 when the organization won the series championship with Grant Enfiinger driving.
Toyota swept the top four finishing positions but all three participating manufacturers - Toyota, Ford, and Chevrolet - led laps under green.
ARCA officials dispatched the fire crew to attend to Tommy Vigh, Jr. on the cool down lap. A fire had broken out in the left front wheel well due to tire rubber build up throughout the race. A small fire had also smoldered in the wheel well of Travis Braden’s car before the last caution of the night, again due to tire rubber buildup.
The average age of the top five finishers was 18.6 years old. Race winner Michael Self, at 27 years old, skewed that average higher. The average age of the rest of the other four top five finishers was 16.5 years old.
Kaden Honeycutt led laps for the first time in his brief ARCA Menards Series career. He won the race off pit road on the final caution of the night and led several laps under green before eventual winner Michael Self slipped by with 29 laps to go.
Tim Richmond, driving for Wayne Peterson Motorsports, finished 14th in his series debut.