Last week gave us an exciting ending to the race at Gateway as Ty Gibbs, grandson of Joe Gibbs, took the checkered flag in the last corner of the race. This week the ARCA Menards Series stays in the Illinois state as it heads north to Chicagoland Speedway.
It’s been an electrifying ARCA season so far and we are one race past of the halfway point. Believe it or not, Chicago will mark eight races left until the season finale at Kansas Speedway in October.
Chicagoland Speedway is somewhat of a home game for the Venturini’s who originate from the city and look to be successful every time they visit the 1.5-mile racetrack located in Chicago, Illinois.
The same can be said for Michael Self, the previous race winner who won last year’s race. Self visited victory lane two races ago at Michigan (another 1.5-mile track). Since then, his up and down season has continued. At Madison, he followed his win at Michigan to finish second the week after, then finished a disappointing 13th last week at Gateway.
Despite the finish outside the top-10 last week, Self is looking forward to getting to Chicago, as he lists it as one of his favorite tracks and hopes to relive last years special victory for the Venturini team.
“Chicagoland is definitely one of my most favorite tracks on the schedule,” says Self. “It’s such a unique track with so much character. I’ve been fortunate to race there a handful of times now, and every time has been a lot of fun, and last year was definitely cool to bring home a win. It’s a special place for Venturini Motorsports with Chicago being their home town, that definitely adds some excitement and emotion to race day.”
After being out of the car for the last couple of races, as upcoming racer Corey Heim took over, Ty Majeski climbs back into the No. 22 Chad Bryant Racing machine Thursday night for what will be his final ARCA start until his final start in the season finale at Kansas in October.
“I feel really good about heading into Chicago,” said Majeski. “I feel like it is my best 1.5-mile track. It has a ton of character and you’re able to move around and find speed. We went for it in my last ARCA race at Michigan International Speedway and were just a corner short of our third win of the year. I think we can go to Chicago this weekend and look to finish what we started there.”
Majeski has won two races this year and almost has a possible third at Michigan but ran out of gas coming out of Turn 4 and got passed by eventual race winner Michael Self. Heim has piloted the machine the last two races, finishing 10th at Madison and fourth at Gateway. Majeski has two starts at Chicago, both coming in the top-10. His last start came two years ago, driving the Cunningham Motorsports machine where he finished seventh after starting second and leading 50 laps.
The Seymour, Wisconsin driver has one other ARCA start, competing in the Roulo Brothers No. 17 Ford, in 2016 where Majeski finished eighth after leading three laps.
Like Majeski, his teammate Joe Graf Jr. is looking for a top-10 this week after finishing 11th at Gateway last Saturday. Graf Jr. has one start, which came in a Chad Bryant Racing car last year where he finished 13th.
“I’ve learned a lot since last year,” added Graf. “Just about how to handle these cars, move them around the air by myself or around other cars. You are always learning. We’ve shown that our Chad Bryant Racing cars have speed on the bigger tracks this year, I’m hoping to earn our second top-five of the year on Thursday night.”
Another driver who has experience is Bret Holmes, who drives the family owned No. 23 Chevrolet. Holmes has one start, that came in 2017 where he earned a top-10 finish.
This weekend, Holmes will have an exciting sponsorship with Techworks Trailer Sales, a company located in Elkhart, Indiana. Holmes is excited about having the company aboard his No. 23 machine and hopes to celebrate with them in victory lane Thursday night.
“I’m honored to have Techworks Trailer Sales on our Chevrolet this week for Chicagoland Speedway,” said Holmes. They’re a great group of people and are loyal to their Elkhart, Indiana base. It’s really cool to be able to bring them into the sport, and I hope our fans will show them as much support as they show us. I know we’re going to unload a fast Techworks Trailer Sales Chevrolet this week. Our intermediate track program is strong this year. What better way to welcome Mr. Barnes and Techworks Trailer Sales to the BHR family than with a win.”
One driver, Christian Eckes, however, does not have any starts at Chicago and will be making his first one on Thursday night with Venturini Motorsports. Eckes is looking forward to visiting the city, but also realizes his job comes first and that’s to win.
“I wish we had more time to go out and spend some more time in the city,” he said. “For the most part it’s hard to go see the scenes of whatever city we are in. At the very least we’ll go have a good time with the team and go out to dinner but sometimes that’s it. I’d like to go into town and see some of the buildings, go see the lake, go to Navy Pier and all of that. But at the same time we need to stay focused on why we’re here.”
While he knows winning is always a possibility and the expectation going into races like this, Eckes is focused on winning the ARCA championship at the end of the season.
“The biggest thing for the next half of the season is to start putting races together. We have had the speed, we have just lacked in execution. Whether it’s mechanical failures or me dialing out the car, we need to execute better.”
There are 20 drivers entered on the entry list for the annual Bounty 150.
Other drivers entered in the race include Eric Caudell, Jason Miles, Con Nicolopoulos, Tim Richmond, Scott Melton, Tanner Gray, Brad Smith, Thad Moffitt, Austin Wayne Self, Travis Braden, Harrison Burton, Riley Herbst, Morgen Baird and Tommy Vigh Jr.
Chicagoland Speedway has seen 18 ARCA Series races since the track opened up in 2001.
The list of winners include Ed Berrier, Chad Blount, Frank Kimmel, Kyle Krisiloff, Dawayne Bryan, Steve Wallace, Michael McDowell, Scott Lagasse Jr, Justin Lofton, Patrick Sheltra, Ty Dillon, Kevin Swindell, Mason Mitchell, Ryan Reed, Chase Briscoe, Christopher Bell and the defending race winner, Michael Self.
Qualifying is important at Chicago, where only three times, the winner has come from the back. Berrier won this race in 2001 after starting 34th, Krisiloff won after starting 11th in 2004 and Reed in 2015 after starting 28th.
Surprisingly, there has been no repeat winners since the track opened in 2001.
Race day activities will get underway with the only practice session at 1 p.m. ET. General Tire Pole Qualifying is scheduled for 5:35 p.m. ET. Practice and qualifying will air live on arcaracing.com.
The Bounty 150 race will be televised live on Fox Sports 1 with a scheduled start time shortly after 8 p.m. ET.