By Charles Krall, ARCA Manager of Communications
After dominating the first three quarters of the ARCA Menards Series Shore Lunch 200 at Madison International Speedway, Chandler Smith (No. 20 Craftsman/828 Logistics Toyota) had to utilize pit strategy and some hard racing to earn his second straight series victory. Smith won the last time he raced in the ARCA Menards Series at Toledo Speedway in May.
Smith, who started from the General Tire Pole after setting a track record in qualifying, stretched out nearly a half-lap lead as the field raced the first 112 laps caution-free. Then, Corey Heim (No. 22 Speedway Children’s Charities Ford) lost control in turn three and made contact with the wall bringing out the first caution of the night. From there on, Smith would face pressure from – and eventually lose the lead to – Ty Gibbs (No. 18 Monster Energy/ORCA Coolers/Terrible Herbst/Advance Auto Parts Toyota).
Gibbs would hold the lead until a red flag for rain with 38 laps remaining. Just before the red was displayed, Smith came to the pits for two tires, and when the field went back under caution after the weather cell passed through the rest of the lead lap cars came to pit road handing the lead back to Smith.
Smith lost the lead to Michael Self (No. 25 Sinclair Lubricants Toyota) on the restart, and Smith would lose second to his other Venturini Motorsports teammate Christian Eckes (No. 15 JBL Audio Toyota) with 25 laps to go when Eckes made contact in turn one.
Eckes would go on to pressure Self for the lead but would spin down the frontstretch on lap 180. He would go on to finish seventh.
Once back under green, Self would retain the lead on the restart but Smith would move him out of the way just as their teammate Hailie Deegan’s engine expired. That would put the field under the red for the second time of the night for track cleanup, and left just five laps to settle it once back under green.
Self spun his tires on the restart, scrambling the field behind him. Gibbs would receive the black flag for changing lanes on the restart, and dropped from second to eighth at the finish.
Smith was ecstatic with his win, even if he had to knock fenders to do it.
“We’re in victory lane and that’s what matters,” he said. “If those guys are upset, I am sorry but it was rough out there tonight. I had people run into me all night long. That’s just how it was.”
Smith knew the only chance he had to win was to pit before the rest of the field did while it was sprinkling and hope the weather moved through quick enough to get back underway.
“It was out only hope at that point,” he said. “It could have rained and we would have been eighth or tenth. But once we got back underway we knew everyone else would pit and we’d get our track position back.”
Self was happy to finish second in his first ever appearance at Madison.
“This is a much better outcome than it could have been tonight,” Self said. “We went from asking Chandler how to get around this place to battling him for the win in about eight hours. I can’t say enough about my team to help make that happen. I am not mad about it at all but he did get into us down there and move me out of the way. I get it. That’s what he had to do.”
The Venturini duo finished just ahead of Sam Mayer (No. 21 Chevy Accessories Chevrolet), who hails from nearby Franklin, Wisconsin. Travis Braden (No. 27 MatrixCare/Consonus Health Care/Liberty Village Ford) was fourth and Bret Holmes (No. 23 Holmes II Excavation/Champion Power Equipment Chevrolet) rounded out the top five.
There were five caution flags and two red flags that slowed the pace, including a red flag for rain and for clean up after Deegan’s engine failure.
Smith led three times for a total of 166 laps, while Gibbs led for 14 and Self led for 20 laps. Smith needed one hour, 29 minutes, and nine seconds to complete the 200-lap distance at an average speed of 67.302 miles per hour. His official margin of victory over Self was 1.422 seconds.
Next up for the ARCA Menards Series is the Day to Day Coffee 150 at World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway coming up on Saturday, June 22. Practice starts at 12:35 pm ET/11:35 am CT, with General Tire Pole Qualifying set for 5:30 pm ET/4:30 pm CT, and the 120-lap/150-mile race will go green at 7:45 pm ET/6:45 pm CT. The race will be televised live on MAVTV. ARCA for Me members can access live timing & scoring, live track updates, and live chat at ARCARacing.com. New users can register for free with a valid email at ARCARacing.com/login.