After a three-year hiatus, the ARCA Menards Series returns to Kentucky Speedway for their sixth race of the 2020 season.
Kentucky Speedway, was originally not on the released schedule earlier in the year, as this was supposed to be a Charlotte Motor Speedway event aligned with the NASCAR Cup Series All-Star race. However, due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, and cases continuing to rise in North Carolina, series officials were forced to change their event to Kentucky. Despite calendar change, Saturday will almost be a reunion for the ARCA Menards Series as the track looks to host the 25th race in its history dating back to 2000.
The General Tire 150 will feature 17 cars on the preliminary entry list. The entry list maybe small compared to the previous races, but this could provide for some intense action and perhaps an upset winner, should the opportunity present itself.
For Venturini Motorsports, they look to continue their impressive 2020 ARCA Menards Series season by adding another win total to their column. The Venturini’s have won all but one race (Pocono). However, the team got right back to victory lane last week with Chandler Smith. Speaking of Smith, he will not be in the car this weekend as he looks to make his first Truck Series start of the season. Though, Ryan Repko, will be back in the hot seat, piloting the No. 20 Craftmans Tork Toyota.
“I’m looking forward to my first intermediate track start this weekend at Kentucky Speedway,” Repko said. “We had a great run at Talladega Superspeedway and I hope to try to improve that by one spot this weekend. Making my first 1.5-mile start is definitely something I’ve had circled on my calendar and I can’t wait to hit the track in my Craftsman, Tork Toyota Camry.”
Drew Dollar is looking to put last weekend’s event in the rear mirror. The Georgian started ninth but wound up 14th (15 laps down) in his first outing at Lucas Oil Raceway. As in most cases this season, Dollar is making his first starts at several tracks, including Kentucky. The Venturini driver is excited about getting to the Bluegrass State Saturday afternoon.
“I am definitely excited to get to Kentucky Speedway this weekend,” Dollar said. “This is a track I’ve always wanted to race on, so I am pumped that ARCA was able to get this race added to the schedule. It’ll be good to finally get back to an intermediate track and will only be the second race on a track that size for me. But I am looking forward to it all and getting my Venturini Motorsports Toyota Camry upfront.”
Even series veteran, Michael Self, doesn’t have an ARCA start at Kentucky Speedway. Though, he has a start in the Xfinity Series, which came in 2015 where the Salt Lake City, Utah native finished 36th.
“To say I am excited about going intermediate track racing would be an understatement,” Self said. “These are always the tracks that I look forward to driving at, whether its Kansas, or Chicagoland, or Charlotte or even now Kentucky. Kentucky Speedway is a challenging place. I haven’t driven there since 2015 in the NASCAR Xfinity Series, but I remember that it was super-fast and very line sensitive. I’m doing a lot of homework before we get on track Saturday, so hopefully we can pick things up quick and put together a strong race.”
Hoping to knock Venturini Motorsports off their game this week is DGR-Crosley, but it will provide a challenge for the organization. All three of their drivers Hailie Deegan, Tanner Gray, and Thad Moffitt will be making their track debuts this Saturday.
Despite most of the tracks being new to Deegan this year, she has done a solid job by finishing in the top 10 in all of her starts. By placing in the top 10 in most of her starts, she credits the simulator time which she believes has been helping her.
“Since I’ve never raced at Kentucky, I’ve been on the simulator practicing as much as I can without actually being on the track. I’ve been racing dirt more, racing at Millbridge (N.C.) Speedway, I’ve been go-karting, pretty much just getting in the seat as much as I can,” Deegan said. “That’s really been important to me since we have such limited practice at the tracks now. We have an hour on Saturday, but still it’s not what we used to have. I’m still getting used to not having as many laps, which is what I need, I’m just trying to get practice anywhere I can.”
On the other hand, Tanner Gray will be pulling double duty Saturday afternoon, as he is scheduled to compete both in the ARCA and Truck Series race. By competing in both of those races, should Gray complete all the miles, that’s 375 miles in one day. He hopes the extra seat time will carry through the Truck event.
“I’m excited to run the ARCA race at Kentucky before the Truck Series race on Saturday,” Gray said. “With no practice or qualifying on the truck side, having the extra seat time in the ARCA car is a huge help to me. Obviously, the truck races differently than the car, so not everything carries over, but getting to learn the track and the lines is a big help. There is only so much you can learn from watching film. You have to be able to feel it in the seat and the ARCA race will give me that experience. Plus if we can win, that would be pretty awesome too.”
Rounding out the DGR-Crosley camp is Thad Moffitt, driver of the No. 46 Richard Petty Performance Plus Oil Ford. Moffitt has never seen Kentucky before, but in comparison, the track can be almost similar to Chicagoland Speedway. In retrospect, Mofftt ended up finishing ninth in the running order at last year’s Chicago race.
“I think every mile-and-a-half is pretty unique,” Moffitt said. “They all race kind of different, but I’ve been told it’s comparable to Chicago. I ran pretty well there last year. I think coming off of our top five at Lucas Oil we made positive changes all day, so I think if we just keep going in the right direction we’ll end up with another positive run here at Kentucky.”
In the GMS Racing camp, Sam Mayer will continue to make track debuts and adding his to resume. For the Wisconsin native, Mayer will make his first start at Kentucky this weekend. The team will be utilizing the same chassis Mayer ran at Pocono a few weeks ago, where he finished third in the running order and contended for the win late. Statistically, Kentucky might be a learning curve, as overall this will be Mayer’s first 1.5-mile start.
“I’m really excited to make my first start on a mile-and-a-half so hopefully everything goes well, but I know I have a great team behind me with GMS Racing,” Mayer said. “I’m also really excited to have California Strong on the car this weekend. Hopefully we can get them in victory lane.”
Derek Griffith remains in the Chad Bryant Racing No. 22 Original Gourmet Lollipop machine this weekend. Last week, Griffith had a disappointing Lucas Oil Raceway outing, where he finished 12th (12 laps down) due to power steering problems. However, the New Hampshire driver looks to turn things around and is coming in with a positive mindset.
“Excited to hit the track again in our No. 22 Original Gourmet™ Food Company Ford Fusion,” said Griffith. “Kentucky Speedway looks like an extremely fast and fun racetrack. Hopefully, we can keep our car balanced and be near the front when it counts the most. “I’ve been watching a lot of videos and doing a lot of studying to get ready for the race. That’s all important but nothing accounts for actual track time. Practice is going to be about getting me comfortable and getting our No. 22 Original Gourmet™ Food Company Ford Fusion handling well and then turn all of our focus to the race.”
Ryan Huff and the No. 10 Andy Hillenburg Racing entry had a difficult outing last week at Lucas Oil Raceway. The Virginian had high hopes, but Huff’s night was ended early due to a driveshaft issue. Huff was only able to complete 74 laps and credited with a 16th place run. This week, Huff has another new challenge in front of him, as he looks to tame Kentucky Speedway. Though, he says, learning the different tracks is going to take a little bit of time. Even so, Huff aims for a top 10 finish every week.
“It’s just about taking the approach that I’ve done all season long,” said Huff. “It’s another new track for me and it’s going to take a little bit of time to adapt, but once I get comfortable I hope we can make some huge strides in the race. We’re going to be practicing with the track conditions being pretty similar towards race time, that should be a big help. I just want to stay on the lead lap, learn and see if we can get another top-10 finish. We’re doing everything we can right now to be a part of the series every week.”
In addition, other ARCA Menards Series drivers such as Don Thompson, Willie Mullins, Dick Doheny, Ty Gibbs, Bret Holmes, Brad Smith, Scott Melton, and Jason Kitzmiller will look to have respectable finishes in Saturday’s General Tire 150 at Kentucky.
As we have seen since ARCA restarted this season, there will be three segments. The first segment ending on lap 30, the second one at lap 60, and the final segment ending at the checkered flag lap 100.
The ARCA Menards Series made their track debut in 2000, 20 years ago and the list of winners is pretty impressive when you look at the names.
Former ARCA competitor Tim Steele won the first outing in 2000. Ryan Newman, Frank Kimmel, Chad Blount, Kyle Busch, Ryan Hemphill, Steve Wallace, Brad Coleman, Erik Darnell, Michael McDowell, Ricky Stenhouse Jr, Scott Speed, James Buescher, Parker Kligerman, Corey LaJoie, Brennan Poole, Ryan Reed, Austin Cindric, and Austin Theriault have all won here.
Kimmel has the most wins with four (2001, 2002, 2005) and won three in a row, making him the only driver to do so. Meanwhile, in the past 10 races, there have been 10 different winners.
There will be no qualifying, but ARCA teams will get a short practice from 12:15 p.m. – 1 p.m./ET.
The General Tire 150 is slated to get underway shortly after 2:30 p.m./ET live on Fox Sports 1.