While the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series is taking the weekend off, the ARCA Menards Series will take center stage Friday night at Madison International Speedway, the short track located in Oregon, Wisconsin.
It will mark the halfway point in the ARCA Series for the 2019 season, which has seen a slew of winners and repeat winners. They include Harriosn Burton winning at Daytona, Michael Self winning two races at Pensacola and Salem, Todd Gilliland in Talladega, Christian Eckes in Nashville, the upcoming star Chandler Smith, Ty Majeski winning at Charlotte and Pocono. Self finally got back to victory lane last week at Michigan in a last-lap pass on Majeski in the last corner of the race when Majeski ran out of gas off Turn 4. It was his third win this season.
With his win last week, Self finally saw the end of some frustrating finishes. He’s looking forward to carry his momentum from last week to Madison on Friday night. However, despite having 28 starts in over a five-year span in the ARCA Series, Madison will be new to Self as he will be making his track debut this weekend.
“Madison is going to be totally new for me,” says Self. “I’ve never made a lap there, so I’m relying on the video I’ve watched and information from my teammates and people around the VMS shop to prepare and try and be ready to hit the ground running for practice on Friday. The track definitely looks unique and challenging, and hopefully I can pick it up and figure out by Friday night.”
So far this season, Self has earned three wins, six top fives and top-10 finishes, along with three poles. He currently leads the ARCA Menards Series standings over Bret Holmes by 15 points.
Self’s teammate, Hailie Deegan, will be returning to the ARCA Series this week. Deegan has been in the headlines a lot this week after a last-lap effort to win the K&N Pro Series West race at Colorado this past weekend, which took her teammate Derek Kraus out for the win.
Madison will also be new to the rising star power of Deegan.
“I’m excited to get back in the ARCA car this weekend with Venturini Motorsports at Madison,” said the native of Temecula, California. “I feel confident in my team and my abilities going into the weekend for my next short track start. But my goals are realistic. ARCA is a new series and there’s still a lot to learn. Our first race at Toledo ended early after getting wrecked so I’m going back with similar goals – log laps, learn as much as I can and shoot for top-five finishes.”
It will be her first ARCA start since Pocono a couple of weeks ago, where Deegan finished seventh after starting fourth. Her previous start was at Toledo last month where she was taken out and left with a disappointing last-place finish.
Also making his ARCA return, but already having an impressive season with three top fives and four top-10 finishes, is the grandson of Joe Gibbs, Ty Gibbs.
Gibbs has been making a lot of noise on the track this year and looks to continue to do that at Madison where he has no starts.
“I’m so ready to get to Madison,” said Gibbs. “I’ve been really excited for Madison since I left Toledo. It’s just a real short track that takes a lot of tires. You’ll definitely have to conserve too so you can have enough brakes to be around at the end, but I’m ready to move on to Madison and hopefully get our first win of the season.”
Despite having early season success and not being able to compete at all the racetracks due to the age limit, Gibbs is looking to start clicking off wins this weekend.
“We’ve got a lot of second-place finishes this season which is good in some ways and bad in some ways,” said Gibbs. “I want to win so bad but finishing second has proven that we have the equipment to run up front and compete for wins, we just need all the pieces to fall in to place and work perfectly to get to victory lane.”
Gibbs has tons of short track experience racing the short tracks across the country in the CARS Late Model Stock Tour. So far this season in the ARCA Series, however, the grandson of Joe Gibbs has a pretty stellar record of finishing second in his first ARCA start at Pensacola, sixth at Salem and a pair of second place finishes at Nashville and Toledo, the last time Gibbs competed in an ARCA car.
Even though the drivers mentioned above have no ARCA starts at the racetrack located in Wisconsin, Venturini Motorsports driver Christian Eckes has two starts there with a best finish of fifth coming two years ago in 2017. His other finish the year prior in 2016, resulted in a DNF due to a drive train issue and saw him finish 14th in his first track start.
Speaking of challenges, the Middletown, New York driver has faced challenges this season after missing a race due to sickness earlier this season.
“It’s been a rough couple of months but we’re looking to turn it around this weekend at Madison,” said the Toyota Racing Development driver. “It’s a track that I have loved in the past but haven’t been to in two years, so I’m really looking to get back there. The Venturini organization has shown a ton of success over the past decade at this place and I’m ready to keep it going. Our JBL Audio team has brought awesome race cars so far this year and we’re ready to go make it happen.”
While other drivers will be making their first starts at Madison this weekends, one driver, Sam Mayer, is eager to get back on track in his home state. Mayer, who is apart of the GMS Racing development program, has been competing across several different racing series. In 2019, the Wisconsin native has finishes of 21st at Pensacola, second at Salem and a fifth at Toledo.
Mayer is excited to be racing at his home track Friday night at Madison.
“Getting the chance to race at home is really cool,” Mayer said. “Having all my family and friends come out to watch and support me is going to be really exciting and I hope we can pull out a win for all of them.”
Sitting second in the ARCA point standings is Bret Holmes who drives the family-owned team No. 23. Holmes has amassed three top fives and seven top-10 finishes. He’ll look forward to carrying his season momentum through to Friday night.
Madison is a tough track,” he said. “It’s almost like a banked Martinsville Speedway. The corners are really tight, you use a lot of brakes and the front tires wear quickly. I think that’s the difference maker there. You don’t want to get your front tires too hot. On long green-flag runs, that’s where you’ll beat everyone. I’m excited to get back on a short track after these few weeks at speedways. I think our intermediate track program is a little better than our short track, but we’re working on some things at the shop that we’re going to test out to see how they work. We’ve had solid top-five runs here lately, and we’re looking to continue that in Madison this week.”
Currently, there are 18 drivers entered on the preliminary entry list for this week’s race. They include Joe Graf Jr., Tim Richmond, Eric Caudell, Dale Shearer, Brad Smith, Carson Hocevar, Travis Braden, Corey Heim, Chandler Smith, Dick Karth, Tommy Vigh Jr. and Dick Doheny, who will round out the remaining participants for the race this weekend.
It will be an all-day show for the ARCA Menards Series drivers. The only practice session begins at 2:15 p.m. ET. The General Tire Pole qualifying is slated for 6 p.m. ET There will be two laps for every driver.
The Shore Lunch 200 is scheduled to get underway shortly after 9 p.m. CT. The event will see 200 laps that will make up the 100-mile race distance. The race can be seen on MAVTV.