It wasn’t easy as Chandler Smith had to battle through adversity, a caution filled race, and hard-charging Ty Gibbs and teammate Michael Self to win the first-ever ARCA Menards Series race at Phoenix Raceway.
“Give it to this man (Billy Venturini, Crew Chief) right here,” Smith said to Fox Sports 1. “This combination is one of a kind. If we wouldn’t have made that call, we wouldn’t have won the race. We made a gamble and this is why we’re in victory lane. Can’t thank JBL, Toyota enough for all they gave me. Billy (Venturini) gave me a handful tonight with this JBL Toyota, but look where we ended up, all came down for a reason!”
Qualifying was held earlier in the day before the race and Ty Gibbs qualified on the pole with Michael Self on the outside pole.
The cautions didn’t take long to start flying as the first one fell on Lap 10 of the General Tire 150. The No. 06 of Tim Richmond spun out of Turn 4 after hitting the wall. A second caution took place on Lap 31 for the No. 22 for Christian McGhee who spun in Turn 4 after contact with the No. 16 of Gio Seclzi.
During a restart on Lap 36, Self had issues getting going as he either missed a shift or was having some sort of electrical problem. Self lost a ton of spots after restarting in the second position. But it didn’t take long for the caution to fly again, as this time the No. 16 of Seclzi once again spun around in Turn 2. And with that, it seemed as though there would only be a few laps of green flag racing until another caution occurred. A couple of more cautions flew, one for Self on Lap 52 and one for the No. 99 of Gracie Trotter.
Howie DiSavino III in the No. 32 was involved in an incident on Lap 78 sending him into the wall after contact from the No. 15 of Drew Dollar. Just a few laps after a restart with 64 to go, GMS Racing driver Sam Mayer was on pit road due to radiator problems.
Finally, after the cautions slowed down, the General Tire 150 saw a small green flag run with Ty Gibbs still dominating the race. Then, late in the race, a caution was seen with 23 to go as the No. 46 of Thad Moffitt hit the wall in Turn 3 when a right-front tire went down. The impact was hard enough that this relegated Moffitt to an 18th pace finish. Under the yellow, Gibbs and the rest of the top five came down to make their modified live pit stops.
Due to the late-race pit stop, Gibbs lost the lead and it was assumed by former ARCA champion Zane Smith. However, before the restart with 11 to go, there was a lot of confusion between the top runners on who was starting where, as many drivers had differing opinions. One driver, Bret Holmes, was black flagged for violating the restart order. Shortly after the restart, the yellow slowed the pace with eight to go, as Dollar and Jesse Love made hard contact with each other in Turn 4.
Since the incident occurred so late in the race, the race was put into a green-white-checker finish. Chandler Smith was the leader on the restart and despite hard charges by Gibbs and Self, the Talking Rock, Georgia native held on to score the eighth win of his ARCA Menards Series career.
“I lied,” Smith continued to Fox Sports 1. “We weren’t the car to beat, we just happened to win the race. We weren’t the best car tonight. There was at least one maybe or two better. I knew if we had track position, he’s (Michael Self) is so tough to beat. He’s a racecar driver. We led with a couple to go and won the race.”
After leading most of the race, Ty Gibbs came home to a frustrating third place.
“I have no words to summarize it or I’ll get in trouble,” Gibbs said to Fox Sports 1. “I can’t thank Joe Gibbs Racing, Monster Energy, everybody that’s apart of this deal. That’s all I can really say. I’m just really frustrated with what happened (restart confusion). This is just really embarrassing to the sport. Otherwise, I just can’t thank everybody enough.”
Smith led twice for 12 laps en route to victory. There were eight cautions for 56 laps and five leaders among six lead changes.
- Chandler Smith, led 12 laps
- Michael Self, led one lap
- Ty Gibbs, led 122 laps
- Tanner Gray, led eight laps
- Zane Smith, led seven laps
- Nick Sanchez
- Hailie Deegan
- Chase Cabre
- Lawless Alan
- Gio Scelzi
- Dawson Cram
- Christian McGhee
- Takuma Koga, one lap down
- Drew Dollar, one lap down
- Bret Holmes, four laps down
- Jesse Love, OUT
- Armani Williams, 20 laps down
- Thad Moffitt, OUT
- Tom Berte, 42 laps down
- Sam Mayer, OUT
- Howie DiSavino III, OUT
- Gracie Trotter, OUT
- Tim Richmond, OUT
- Ryan Huff, OUT
Up Next: The next time the ARCA Menards Series will be on-track again is April 19 at Salem Speedway.