The 2019 ARCA Menards Series season heads to Michigan International Speedway this week for race number nine, almost reaching the halfway point of the season.
And what a season we have seen so far in the ARCA Menards Series. When the season opened up at Daytona, we saw upcoming superstar Harrison Burton take the checkered flag with the powerhouse team of Venturini Motorsports. The Venturini’s continued their dominance by winning back-to-back with Michael Self at Five Flags in Pensacola and Salem.
From there, it looked liked Self and the No. 25 Venturini team would run away with the championship. However, troubles were ahead after having early season success. They still had a decent run at Talladega finishing fifth, but frustrations started to grow at Nashville, Toledo and Charlotte.
At Nashville, the No. 25 of Self was caught up in an accident which took him out of contention and he wound up 15th in that race. Toledo had a better showing for the team, as they finished fourth after starting on the pole and leading 12 laps. Although, Self and company still felt like it was a race they had given away. His teammate, Chandler Smith would go on to win the Toledo race. Then Charlotte came and it looked like the 25 team was back on track to dig themselves out of a hole.
Self started on the pole once more and led a whopping 91 laps of the scheduled 100. But issues arose late in the going when oil and smoke came out of the back of the car. It would eventually go away on restarts, but then on lap 87 of 100, Self spun out when leading the race. The team never could rebound which led to a frustrating fifth place finish in a race they should have won.
Last week at Pocono, Self finished 11th but is starting to grow tired of not winning, even though they feel like they have a car capable of winning every race.
And now ARCA heads to Michigan International Speedway, not too far from the racing capital of the world. Manufacturers like Chevrolet and Ford, among others, are located there and it gives drivers like Self extra motivation to go out and win.
For Self and the No. 25 Venturini team, they only have one start together which came in last year’s race. The Park City, Utah native has one top-five finish in his only outing finishing third after starting third and leading 23 laps. Despite finishing third there last year, Self and the No. 25 team are hoping to finish the race this weekend after having some frustrating finishes of as late.
“After the last few weeks, I think I’m just really hoping for a completely smooth day at Michigan from the first lap of practice to the checkered flag at the end of the race.” Self said. “We’ve been off-kilter a bit, between mistakes by me and mechanical issues, I just want to focus on getting that cleared up. Once we do, we’ll be rock solid. The Venturini Motorsports guys bring the fastest cars to the racetrack every weekend, but we’ve beat ourselves the last two races on track where I feel like we should’ve excelled. I really like Michigan and think it’s a ton of fun to race there, and hope this is the place we can piece everything back together and have a shot at another win.”
Despite Self’s issues, another driver is starting to heat up their on-track performance and that’s Chad Bryant Racing driver Ty Majeski. He won his second consecutive race last week at Pocono after a late race charge to the lead passing Riley Herbst for the win.
At Michigan, Majeski has just one start that came two years ago finishing sixth. Majeski drove the Cunningham Motorsports car that is now owned by Chad Bryant.
Even with only one start at the track, Majeski and the No. 22 team are looking to continue their winning ways this week at Michigan after having much success as of late in a part-time schedule.
“It’s been a great few weeks,” said Majeski. “I can’t thank Chad (Bryant), Paul (Andrews) and the rest of the No. 22 Crestliner guys for their hard work and belief in me. We worked hard at Charlotte and Pocono to come away with the win and we’re going to take the same approach that we did the last two races and apply it to Michigan and hope for the same result.”
With only one ARCA start at Michigan, the No. 22 Chad Bryant Racing driver hopes to build upon that sixth place finish two years ago.
“Michigan International Speedway is a beast, but it’s a blast of a place to race,” added Majeski. “It’s a very wide race track with a lot of room to race with incredibly fast speeds. I’m hoping I can apply some of what I learned a couple of years ago to our No. 22 Crestliner Ford Fusion during practice and qualifying on Friday.”
While Majeski and Self both have one start to their track record, the No. 15 Venturini Motorsports driver Christian Eckes will be making his first ARCA start or stock car start of any kind this weekend at Michigan.
With no experience, Eckes is excited to get to the 2-mile racetrack that is Michigan International Speedway.
“I’ve done a lot to prepare for Michigan this week,” said Eckes. “I’m excited to make my first laps on track. I’ve spent time on the sim at TRD and just basic stuff like film and notes. I feel extremely prepared to go have another great run this weekend.”
Another possible future superstar will have added track time experience this weekend. Joe Graf Jr. will be running the ARCA race and also making his NASCAR Xfinity Series debut for Richard Childress Racing at Michigan.
Graf Jr. has one start at Michigan that came last year, where he finished fifth after starting deep in the field. Even though he has only had one start at Michigan, he is ready for the additional track time and believes it will be his best finish yet.
“I’m very excited about Michigan this weekend,” said Graf Jr. “It’s been an incredibly busy week with preparation, testing and then getting to Michigan. I’m incredibly focused and look forward to the chance to have my strongest results of the year.”
Myatt Snider, a former NASCAR Truck Series regular and now a part-time driver for ThorSport Racing makes his return to the ARCA Menards Series this weekend. He had one win, three top fives and six top-10 finishes in just 10 races in his short ARCA career before making the move to trucks.
After completing a limited schedule, Snider made the jump to the Truck Series to drive for Kyle Busch Motorsports in his rookie season and then to the dominant ThorSport Racing team in 2018. Snider’s best finish in the Truck Series was second at Talladega last fall.
At Michigan, he has one start in the Truck Series finishing 18th after starting eighth. In the ARCA Series, Snider started on the pole in his only race three years ago but finished a disappointing 23rd after crashing on Lap 38.
This time around, the 24-year old returns in a Venturini Motorsports No. 20 prepared Toyota.
“Glad we could put this deal (together) late in the game so I could make a return to the 2-mile superspeedway,” said Snider. “Michigan is one of the toughest tracks on the ARCA circuit. But that’s what makes it so fun. Really excited for the weekend.”
The ARCA Menards Series will see an 18 car field in Friday’s race at Michigan International Speedway. Other drivers include Dick Doheny, Morgen Baird, Tanner Gray, C.J. McLaughlin, Tommy Vigh Jr, Riley Herbst, Bret Holmes, Travis Braden, Brandon McReynolds, Thad Moffitt, Brad Smith, Scott Melton and Tim Richmond, who will all look to tame the 2-mile superspeedway located outside Brooklyn, Michigan.
Since 1980, Michigan International Speedway has seen 38 ARCA races and the winners are a list of whos-who.
The list of winners include Joe Rutmann, Tracy Leslie, Dave Mader III, Stanley Smith, Bob Keselowski, Jeff Purvis (who won three in a row), Ron Barfield Jr, Tim Steele, Mark Thompson, Frank Kimmel, David Keith, Kerry Earnhardt, Blaise Alexander, Chad Blount, Casey Mears, Reed Sorenson, Steve Wallace, David Stremme, Brent Sherman, Erik Darnell, Justin Lofton, Parker Kligerman, Mikey Kile, Ty Dillon, Chris Buescher, Brennan Poole, Austin Theriault, Ross Kenseth, Brandon Jones and Sheldon Creed.
The ARCA Menards Series will see another different winner this weekend.
Qualifying is very important at Michigan where the winner has come from the pole position six times, occurring in 1999, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2006 and the last in 2017. The lowest a race winner has come from to win was 28th in 1997 set by Tim Steele. Since then, the lowest a driver has ever started to win was ninth (twice, which occurred in 2001 by Kerry Earnhardt and 2012 by now Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series star Chris Buescher).
The race winner has also come from the second starting spot, 10 times which occurred in 1994, 1996, 2004, 2008, 2010, 2011, 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2018.
The ARCA Menards Series teams will get on track early Friday morning with the only practice session taking place at 8:30 a.m. ET lasting until 10 a.m. ET, live on ArcaRacing.com.
Qualifying takes at noon ET and will also be live on Arcaracing.com.
The VizCom 200 green flag is scheduled to fly at 6:15 p.m. ET live on Fox Sports 1. There will be 100 laps to make up the 200 miles.