Gibbs, Smith Take Home Last Round of Short Track Special Awards
Gibbs, Smith Take Home Last Round of Short Track Special Awards
The first 140 laps of the Herr’s Potato Chips 200 on Saturday night looked like a repeat of the fall Salem race for young Ty Gibbs (No. 18 Monster Energy Toyota). At Salem, Gibbs led the first 172 laps of the race and 196 laps total as he cruised to the win. This week, at Lucas Oil Raceway in Indianapolis, Gibbs led 143 straight laps to open the race before an untimely accident ended his day just four laps later. Chandler Smith (No. 20 Craftsman Toyota) wound up being the lucky beneficiary when rain forced the race to end early, winning for the fifth time this season and achieving a split with Gibbs as the pair divvied up ARCA’s special awards at LOR.
Much like at Salem three weeks prior, Gibbs began his evening by taking the top spot in General Tire Pole Qualifying. It was Gibbs’ second General Tire Pole Award of the season as well as his second in a row. Gibbs joins Christian Eckes (No. 15 JBL Audio Toyota) as two-time polesitters this season. With just one race remaining, and a superspeedway race at that, Michael Self (No. 25 Sinclair Lubricants Toyota) has clinched the yearly mark for most General Tire Pole Awards in 2019 with five. Second place Chandler Smith has four poles this season, but will not be racing at Kansas Speedway as he is under the minimum age requirement to run at that track.
Gibbs started strong and easily led the first 143 laps of the race. He was awarded the Richmond Water Heaters Halfway Leader award for the second time this season, joining Christian Eckes (2), Michael Self (4) and Chandler Smith (4) as multi-time halfway leaders in 2019. With Gibbs leading much of the race at LOR, Smith was able to capture the year’s Valvoline Lap Leader award one race early. Smith led the last seven laps in the Herr’s 200, finishing his season with 666 laps led. It is the second consecutive Valvoline Lap Leader award for Smith, who led 763 laps in 2018 to take that year’s lap leader title. Venturini teammate Self will finish second in the lap leader standings, having led 480 laps over the first 19 races this year. Gibbs sits third with 427 laps led in his first season of competition. Eckes currently holds fourth with 367 laps led and speedway ace Ty Majeski (No. 22 Crestliner Boats Ford) will look to improve upon his fifth-place mark of 112 laps led at Kansas.
With Chandler Smith winning the race after an eleventh-hour pass on teammate Christian Eckes, Smith earned the Bounty Rookie of the Race honors. Not all was lost for Eckes, though, as he cemented his spot atop the yearlong Bounty Rookie of the Year standings by finishing second. Eckes’ 450 points gives him an insurmountable lead over current second-place rookie Tommy Vigh Jr. (No. 10 Extreme Kleaner Ford), who has 378 points. Should Eckes maintain his current overall championship lead and become the 2019 ARCA Menards Series champion, series rules dictate that he will not be allowed to take home the rookie of the year title as well. It would be an uncommon occurrence, though it isn’t without precedent. Since 1990, the series champion has had to give up their prospective rookie of the year title three times: Tim Steele in 1993, Andy Hillenburg in 1995 and Chase Briscoe in 2016. Vigh will be in line to be named the Bounty Rookie of the Year if Eckes takes home the championship.
Chandler Smith’s late race charge to victory after qualifying in third place was enough to give No. 20 team leader Billy Venturini the nod as the Cometic Crew Chief of the Race. Venturini has led the Cometic Crew Chief of the Year standings virtually the entire season and while he can’t quite clinch that title just yet, it would take an uncharacteristic series of mistakes at Kansas for Venturini and the No. 20 team to lose that title. Venturini has 145 points, with fellow VMS crew chief Kevin Reed of the No. 15 team in second with 173 points. Paul Andrews, crew chief of the Chad Bryant Racing No. 22 team, is presently in third with 180 points.
The Sioux Chief Short Track Challenge came to a close at LOR, nearly seven months after the opening short track race at Five Flags Speedway in Pensacola. Three drivers entered the race mathematically in contention for one of the most prestigious awards in the ARCA Menards Series: Michael Self, Christian Eckes and Ty Gibbs. Though Self entered the Herr’s 200 as the leader in the Sioux Chief Short Track Challenge, Eckes had the upper hand when looking at each driver’s best ten short track races. Eckes benefitted the most from having one short track mulligan – he missed the spring Salem race with food poisoning – and took home the Sioux Chief Short Track Challenge championship with his second-place finish at LOR and 2150 total points. Self finished sixth and ended the short track slate with 2105 points. Gibbs finished third with 2020 points. Corey Heim (No. 22 Speedway Children’s Charities Ford) finished fourth with 2010 points and Chandler Smith rounded out the top five with 2000 points.
The R.E. Lightning Challenge – an awards race that counts race points only among participating teams – also concluded at Lucas Oil Raceway with Chad Bryant’s No. 22 car sealing up the award after driver Corey Heim finished fourth. Bryant’s No. 22 Ford has 3915 points and a cushion large enough to clinch the award one race early. Stacy Holmes’ No. 23 car is second with 3660 points. Don Fike’s No. 27 Ford sits third with 3565 points. Bryant’s other team car, the No. 77 Ford, is in fourth place with 3410 points while Mike Bursley’s No. 28 Chevrolet rounds out the top five with 3385 points.
Bret Holmes (No. 23 Holmes II Excavation Toyota) completed all 167 laps at Lucas Oil Raceway and inched closer to winning the S&S Volvo Laps Completed award. Holmes has completed 2544 of a possible 2553 laps this season, the best mark in the series. Holmes has to merely avoid trouble at Kansas to clinch his second award of the season – he already won a nailbiting race for the CGS Imaging Four Crown last month at Salem. Travis Braden (No. 27 MatrixCare/Consonus Ford) is second with 2456 laps completed and is ready to strike if Holmes encounters problems in the finale. Joe Graf Jr. (No. 77 Eat Sleep Race Ford) is a distant third with 2402 laps completed.
The ARCA Menards Series will end the season on Friday, October 18 at the Kansas Speedway with the running of the ARCA Kansas 150. Eight months and nineteen races have passed since Harrison Burton won the season opener at Daytona International Speedway in February, and now it’s time to crown a champion at Kansas. Live television coverage will be provided by FS2 beginning at 8:30 PM Eastern, with a repeat airing on FS1 later at 11:30 PM Eastern. All registered users on ARCAracing.com will have access to live timing & scoring as well as a live chat. You won’t want to miss the thrilling conclusion to the 2019 ARCA Menards Series season!