ARCA Menards Series Points Battle Officially "On Fire" Headed to Salem

ARCA Menards Series Points Battle Officially "On Fire" Headed to Salem

The battle for the ARCA Menards Series championship has been heating up throughout the summer. With Michael Self (No. 25 Sinclair Lubricants Toyota) holding the lead over his Venturini Motorsports teammate Christian Eckes (No. 15 JBL Audio Toyota) throughout the summer, it has been seen by many as a two-horse race about to hit the stretch run.

With Self's win on dirt at Springfield, and Eckes matching it with a win of his own on the dirt at DuQuoin, it's safe to say the battle has gone from "heating up" to "on fire."

The gap between first and second is just 70 points with three races remaining. For a little perspective, Eckes lopped 35 points off Self's lead with his win at DuQuoin, combined with a fourth-place finish for Self.

The two head to Salem next Saturday for the 106th ARCA Menards Series race at the 0.555-mile high-banked oval. Both are former winners, with Eckes winning last April and Self winning earlier this season. Here's a twist though, Self was not in the starting field when Eckes won, and Eckes was not in the starting field when Self won. Self ran a limited schedule in 2018 and while he did race at Salem last year, it was in the fall race, not in April. And when Self won earlier in the season, Eckes was on the sidelines, replaced by Harrison Burton after an overnight battle with food poisoning sent him to the emergency room.

Eckes' missed start put him in a deep hole. He earned 25 points for participating in the Salem race, after all, he did practice and qualify the car, but when combined with Self's victory he gave up 220 points to Self in that race alone. Combined with a 26th-place finish at Talladega the next time out, which cost him another 105 points to Self, Eckes was in a deep points hole, some 180 points behind.

Since Talladega, Eckes has won three times, with victories at Fairgrounds Speedway Nashville, Pocono Raceway, and DuQuoin. He's outscored Self by 110 points in those 13 races.

It hasn't been all rainbows and unicorns for Self this season either, though. A crash on lap three of the season-opener at Daytona left him with a wounded racecar, resulting in a 31st-place finish and just 75 points to start the season. Another on-track incident at Nashville left him 15th at the finish, costing him 90 points to winner Eckes. But the biggest source of consternation for Self has been points lost in post-race inspection. Penalties for height violation after his win at Five Flags Speedway and a penalty for an unapproved body modification after his Michigan win have cost him a combined 75 points.

While they will be shooting it out for the points title, they will likely have to deal with drivers not counting points at both Salem and Lucas Oil Raceway. The third member of the Venturini Motorsports team, Chandler Smith (No. 20 Craftsman Toyota). Smith has raced against Self and Eckes seven times on tracks less than one mile in 2019, and has out-pointed Self by 155 points and out-pointed Eckes by 340 points. He has wins at Toledo Speedway, Madison International Speedway, Elko Speedway, and Iowa Speedway, and won last fall's Salem race with a dominant performance by leading 199 of the race's 200 laps.

Clinch scenarios will be formulated and reformulated over the next six weeks for sure, but for Self and Eckes it's easy: to ensure the head table at the annual Championship Awards Banquet in Indianapolis, they both need to win.

The ARCA Menards Series will be joined by the Lucas Oil Great American Stocks at Salem Speedway on Saturday night, September 14. Activities will kick off with ARCA Menards Series practice at 12 noon ET, followed by General Tire Pole Qualifying at 4 pm ET. The Great American Stocks 50-lap feature will roll at 5 pm ET, with the Kentuckiana Ford Dealers Fall Classic 200 set for 7:15 pm ET.

The race will be televised live flag-to-flag on MAVTV.

ARCA for Me members can access live timing & scoring, live chat, and live track updates for free at ARCARacing.com. New users can register for free with a valid email address at ARCARacing.com/login.

For ticket information, please visit SalemSpeedway.com.

Comments
RobbyG83

Between Self (#25) & Eckes (#15) in my opinion on who's going to win championship...base on the partial seasons the last few years and the type of season he's having this year...I'm going with Self (#25) winning the championship....