Championship Combatants Ready for Final Quarter of the Season as 2019 ARCA Menards Series Season Winds to a Close

Championship Combatants Ready for Final Quarter of the Season as 2019 ARCA Menards Series Season Winds to a Close

There are still five races remaining in the battle for the ARCA Menards Series championship, a quarter of the season’s races yet to be run. With fifteen races now in the history books, there’s still no telling which of the season-long contenders for the title will sit at the head table at the Championship Awards Banquet in Indianapolis on December 14.

The pre-season favorites, Christian Eckes (No. 15 JBL Audio Toyota) and his Venturini Motorsports teammate Michael Self (No. 25 Sinclair Lubricants Toyota) are where the prognosticators thought they’d be. Except Eckes, the heavy favorite after winning three times in an abbreviated 2018 season, is in the unenviable position of having to hunt Self down over the final five races of the season.

Eckes led the series standings after the second race of the season. He started the season with a fourth-place run at Daytona and backed it up with a third-place finish at Five Flags and looked to be in the proverbial cat bird’s seat headed into the third race of the season at Salem Speedway, a race he had won the year before.

But an overnight bout of food poisoning sent Eckes to the emergency room and put him on the sidelines. Instead, Daytona winner Harrison Burton would pilot Eckes’ car to an eighth-place finish. Eckes returned to the seat at Talladega but was involved in a mid-race crash that left him 26th in the 26-car starting field. In two races, Eckes went from a 65-point lead to a 180-point deficit.

After trading the lead throughout the first quarter of the season with Travis Braden (No. 27 MatrixCare/Consonus Health Care/Liberty Village Ford), Self finally took control of the top spot after the sixth race of the season at Toledo Speedway. Braden, driving for long-time team owner Don Fike, stayed close by a string of consistent finishes while Self, who won on the short tracks at Five Flags and Salem, struggled to find consistency to fill out the rest his finishes.

By the time the series reached the halfway point following the tenth race of the season at Madison, Self had managed to hold onto the lead but was facing pressure from a new challenger. Munford, Alabama’s Bret Holmes (No. 23 Holmes II Excavation Chevrolet) had leapt over Braden in the standings and had narrowed the gap on Self.

Despite looking for his first career series victory, the former pro late model champion at Five Flags Speedway had proven himself to be a serious contender for the title. Just 35 points behind after the tenth race of the season, Holmes and new crew chief Shane Huffman finished among the top ten in eight races and half of those finishes were among the top five.

Holmes stayed in the hunt the next five races as he scored top ten finishes at WWT Raceway, Chicagoland Speedway, Elko Speedway, Iowa Speedway and Pocono Raceway. Not only was Self able to finish in the top five in four of those races, he was in the top five in all four of them. That allowed him to add to his points lead, which had grown to 90 points after Iowa.

Following the most recent race on the schedule, the fifteenth of the year and series’ second visit of the season to Pocono, the lead has shrunk slightly. And, Self has a new name hot on his heels.

Eckes has made up 100 points of the 180-point deficit he had following the Talladega race and is now second in the standings. The winner earlier in the season at Fairgrounds Speedway Nashville, Eckes punctuated the closure of the third quarter of the year with his second win at Pocono and served noticed to Self and the others that he will be a contender for the series title over the final five races. Eckes needs to average a 17-point gain in each of the final five races of the year – which translates to roughly four positions on the racetrack – to snatch the title away from his teammate.

Eckes will continue his pursuit of Self in the Allen Crowe 100 on the Springfield Mile at the Illinois State Fairgrounds on Sunday August 18. Practice is set for 10 am ET, with General Tire Pole Qualifying scheduled for 12 n ET, and the green flag for the 100-mile headliner to follow at 2:30 pm ET. The race will be televised live on MAVTV. ARCA for Me members can access live timing & scoring, live track updates and live chat at ARCARacing.com. New users can register for free with a valid email address at ARCARacing.com/login. Please visit TrackEnterprises.com for ticket information.

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