With just two races remaining, the ARCA Menards Series drivers are back on track this weekend for race No. 19 of the 2019 season at Lucas Oil Raceway. After this weekend, there is just be one race left to decide the 2019 ARCA Menards Series champion.
At this point, it will be decided between the two Venturini Motorsports drivers, Christian Eckes and Michael Self. This weekend, the two drivers and the other series drivers look to tackle the famous short track in Indianapolis.
Speaking of Venturini Motorsports, they have been the team to beat all season long winning most of the races, leaving everyone in the dust, and they plan to do the same again on Saturday night. The Venturini’s will bring four cars to the track driven by Self, Eckes, Hailie Deegan and Chandler Smith.
Beginning with the series championship points leader Michael Self, the Utah native has two starts at LOR with a best finish of second in his first outing two years ago. However in last year’s race, Self finished two laps down in 11th. With two races left until the championship, Self notes that Lucas Oil isn’t one of his greatest tracks.
“Lucas Oil has been a bit difficult for me. I’ve raced there twice and it’s been a little hit or miss. In ‘17 I about had the race won but got beat late in the race by someone who came in and took tires. Last year we had a ton of issues that unfortunately ended our night early so I guess there’s a little bit of limited base knowledge when It comes to this track. On the other hand, Kansas has always been one of my favorite tracks. I’ve won at Kansas. I love going to any intermediate track in general. My confidence is high because I’ve had success there in the past,” added Self.
His teammate Eckes, sits second and still has a shot, but he will have some work to do if he wants to win the championship in a couple of weeks.
“I’ve got a huge amount of respect for Michael and all the guys on that team,” said Eckes. It’s going to be a lot of fun racing against each other the final two races. I feel like I’ve been in ARCA so long and this is the first time I’ve been able to compete for a championship. It would be very cool to win a championship in my first full-time season for everyone at Toyota Racing, JBL Audio and Venturini Motorsports. Venturini Motorsports has had such a storied history. I would love to add my name alongside past series champions racing for this team.”
“I’m proud of what we’ve been able to accomplish so far but we still have a lot of work to do. Lucas Oil falls into one of our strengths for sure. We dominated the race last year and led a bunch a laps to get the win, looking forward to going back. Kansas might be a little bit of a weakness but at the same time our mile and half program really stepped up at Pocono and we were able to win. We’ll have to see. I’m feeling good about our chances.”
While two of the Venturini Motorsports drivers are fighting for the championship, one driver will try to win the race for herself and that’s Hailie Deegan. Deegan will be making her first Lucas Oil Raceway start this Saturday night.
“There’s a lot of good cars at the top of the field in the series including three of my Venturini Motorsports teammates. I’ve got a lot of confidence right now. Last week we had a really good test. Lucas Oil (Raceway) reminds me of tracks like Evergreen and Irwindale out west, kinda gives me a good baseline going into this weekend’s race. There’s no reason we can’t expect to run top-five.”
Hoping to put his name back in the spotlight after making some positive news earlier this season is rookie sensation Chandler Smith. The young upstart will be making his second LOR start and final start this season.
“Bitter sweet feeling knowing this is my final ARCA race of the season,” said the 17-year-old Smith. “It’s been a good year. But we’re not done yet. We’ve still got unfinished business and I plan on finishing strong. I realize and respect that the focus is on my teammates (Self and Eckes) going into Indianapolis but this 20 team still has a lot on the line. ”
With Venturini Motorsports most certainly the powerhouse team, there’s always one team that is looking to spoil the party and that’s Chad Bryant Racing drivers Joe Graf Jr. and Corey Heim.
Graf comes into the race weekend with 11 top-10s this season and hopes to add another on Saturday. The Chad Bryant driver has one start that came in last year’s race where he finished 13th, a few laps down. Graf hopes to overcome that this weekend.
“Lucas Oil isn’t your typical short track. You really need to hustle the car,” added Graf. “It’s a relatively flat surface but tire wear is so important which makes track position crucial. I think we have a good game plan for Saturday, just need to see what happens between the green flag and the checkered flag.”
Hoping to make a last good impression on Saturday night is Graf’s teammate Corey Heim. The Marietta, Georgia native will be making his last ARCA start of the season and it has been a solid year for the No. 22 driver. Heim has earned seven top fives and 11 top-10 finishes, with a best finish of third (twice) at DuQuoin and Salem. Heim makes his first LOR start Saturday night.
We’ve had a few good finishes in a row now and I’m excited to carry the momentum into my final ARCA start of the year,” said Heim who is ninth in the championship standings despite running a limited schedule this season. “I feel like we’ve had an up and down year, some bad luck here and there, but I feel like I’ve improved in several ways and hope to showcase that in a huge way on Saturday night. The goal this year was to get better and learn and I feel that I’ve done that this year.”
“Hopefully, we can end the year in style with another win for the No. 22 Chad Bryant Racing team.”
Despite not having any previous start at Lucas Oil Raceway, Heim tested the No. 22 Ford a couple of weeks ago to gain some experience.
While it is just another track for Venturini Motorsports and Chad Bryant Racing, it’s a home game for the family owned Travis Braden No. 27 machine. It also marks a great moment a few years back when Braden took home the victory.
“Having a home track race is really a foreign concept to me and I have had a lot of fun being able to call Lucas Oil Raceway my home track for the past few years,” Braden said. “RFMS Racing’s shop is just a few minutes from the track. Growing up in West Virginia, I was used to at least a two-hour drive to even the nearest track typically much further. While the short drive is extremely convenient, probably my favorite part about this home track race is that I get to race in front of a lot of my peers from my daily life here in Indiana. That’s something I’ve never experienced before, and it’s adrenaline-filling. I now know why they call it the home-field advantage.”
Another family owned team looking to make headlines is Bret Holmes and the No. 23 machine. Holmes brings in two starts with finishes of sixth and seventh but will be making his first start in over two years.
“Lucas Oil Raceway is a tough track. You’re running a lot harder and faster there than you are at a track like Salem Speedway. The corners are so flat, you almost have to talk yourself out of lifting going into the corner. It’s your first instinct when it’s that flat to lift. I think this weekend will be a solid race for us. This team has really improved our short-track program over the course of the season. It’s going to be hard racing with it being the second-to-last-race of the season and a short track. The fans will enjoy it for sure.”
With it being a home game for Braden and his No 27 team, it will be a busy weekend for Sam Mayer and the GMS Racing team. Mayer will first head to Dover on Friday afternoon to compete in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East season finale with hopes to win the championship. Then he will get on a plane that night and fly to Indy for Saturday’s race at Lucas Oil.
“We have had so much success this year but always came short from a win in the ARCA Menards Series,” Mayer said. “I hope that the momentum we have now, and hopefully after Dover that can rocket us into victory lane Saturday. Mardy (Lindley, crew chief) and I have been working really hard to get better and better and we both are confident in what we will bring to the racetrack to close out our ARCA season.”
Mayer has just one start but did a test run a few weeks back at the track.
“Coming back to a place I’ve been to always helps me as a driver,” Mayer said. “I don’t have to go through an entire learning curve at the track again. The team and I tested at Lucas Oil Raceway a few weeks ago and had a really solid Chevy Accessories Chevrolet. I feel like we have an amazing shot to go get a win.”
Despite having no starts at Lucas Oil, Ty Gibbs hopes to end on a high note in the 2019 ARCA season after being solidly strong earlier this season scoring wins at Gateway and Salem.
“It was really cool to get the win at Gateway. You work so hard to get a win and I’ve finished second so many times this year, to finally break through and get the win felt really good,” Gibbs said. “That last-lap pass for the win was awesome and our Camry was so good from the start of the weekend. I feel like we had the fastest car from when we unloaded. We actually blew up in practice and had to start from the back in the race and came through the field for the win. To be able to do that just shows how strong our team is.”
Being back in the ARCA field this weekend is Chesterfield, Virginia native Howie DiSavino. DiSavino is making his first start in the No. 32 Chevy since his first career ARCA race at Elko back in July, where he finished 10th.
I’m really looking forward to seeing how the ARCA car goes around the track at LOR because it’s so much heavier and has more horsepower than the pro late model does,” DiSavino said in regards to the upcoming race. “We ran good and were up front all race, and I feel like we should have a good race there in the ARCA car. The biggest challenge will be to save tires and to avoid the wall because the groove is up high next to the wall. I’ve never raced anywhere like this but I’m really looking forward to getting another opportunity to race there with Win-Tron.”
Other names looking to be strong at Lucas Oil this weekend are Benjamin Peterson, Darrell Basham, Bobby Gerhart, Eric Caudell, Tommy Vigh Jr., Dick Doheny, Carson Hocevar, Mike Basham, Brad Smith, Scott Melton and Tim Richmond.
Lucas Oil Raceway has seen various winners in its track history. Names like Ramo Stott, Ralph Latham, Bruce Gould, Marvin Smith, Bob Schacht, Davey Allison, Ty Dillon, Frank Kimmel, Brandon Jones, Travis Braden, Chase Briscoe, Dalton Sargeant and Christian Eckes have all visited victory lane at the famous short track in Indianapolis.
It will be a busy Saturday for the ARCA Menards Series drivers with it being a one day show. The only practice session takes place at 2 p.m. ET and ends at 3:30 p.m.
General Tire pole qualifying is slated for 5 p.m. ET with no live TV coverage but can be followed on arcaracing.com.
The Herr’s Potato Chips 200 will get underway shortly after 8 p.m. ET live on MAVTV.