By Charles Krall, ARCA Manager of Communications
After leading the afternoon’s practice session and winning the General Tire Pole Award, Chandler Smith (No. 20 Craftsman/828 Logistics Toyota) put a period on a clean sweep of the ARCA Menards Series Fans with Benefits 150 with a dominant victory Friday night at Iowa Speedway. Smith led the first 106 laps before losing the lead on pit road during the penultimate caution flag of the night. Once back under green, it took him just 10 laps to knife his way through the field to retake the lead from Ty Gibbs (No. 18 Monster Energy/ORCA Coolers/Terrible Herbst/Advance Auto Parts Toyota) to lead the final 35 laps.
The win is Smith’s fourth of the season, and his fourth consecutive ARCA Menards Series short track victory.
Smith wasn’t hampered at all by traffic or the dreaded aero push as he sliced his way through the field.
“The only time I ever felt the car respond to aero all night was when I passed a lap car on the outside,” Smith said. “Other than that it was perfect. I can’t thank Billy and the rest of the Venturini Motorsports team for giving me such a great car here. To have five wins on the season is a dream come true.”
It’s the second time this season the 17-year-old from Talking Rock, Georgia has raced at the 0.875-mile D-shaped oval. He led the first 55 laps of the NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series race here earlier in the season in his debut driving for Kyle Busch Motorsports.
“I learned a lot that carried over here to the ARCA car,” Smith said. “They have the same engine and the same power so a lot of the way they drive is similar. Any time you get extra laps is a benefit.”
Smith’s late-race charge to the front was necessitated by a miscue on the final pit stop.
“We had some sort of jack malfuction,” he said. “It’s all just part of it. I really wanted to lead them all tonight but we’re still leaving here with the trophy and that’s what matters.”
Smith led a Venturini Motorsports sweep of the top three finishers. Christian Eckes (No. 15 JBL Audio Toyota) was second in front of Michael Self (No. 25 Sinclair Lubricants Toyota) in third.
“I thought I got a better restart than Chandler did on the final restart,” Eckes said. “We went down into one and just got way too loose. When the track is as hot and slick as it was tonight I don’t know if that’s what it was or if we were just too loose. But this is as hot as I’ve ever been in the racecar.”
As if the 90-degree temperatures weren’t enough of a challenge, Self fought a gearbox issue that left his car stuck in fourth gear for most of the night. On each restart he would drop back through the field and be forced to pass the same cars repeatedly as he charged back to the front.
“The only time we had all the gears was on the initial start of the race,” Self said. “Every other restart we would drop back through the field and have to pass our way back towards the front. It really felt like it was one of the most physical races I’ve ever driven because I was always racing someone for position all night long. The final restart we didn’t lose as many positions as the others because it was just a couple of laps to go and I held it wide open through turns one and two and whatever happened happened.”
The race was slowed four times by cautions, twice for debris and twice for incidents on track. Scott Melton (No. 69 Melton McFadden Agency Toyota) spun to bring out the first caution of the night on lap ten, and the final caution of the night was necessitated for a spin by Tim Richmond, who nosed into the inside wall going into turn one, with just eight laps to go.
Smith took one hour, 20 minutes, and 40 seconds to claim the win at an average speed of 97.624 miles per hour. His margin of victory over Eckes was 1.515 seconds.
Next up for the ARCA Menards Series is the FORTS USA 150 at Pocono Raceway on Friday, July 26. Practice starts at 9 am ET with General Tire Pole Qualifying set for 1:35 pm ET and the green flag on the FORTS USA 150 set to fly at 4 pm ET. The race will be televised live flag to flag on FS1. ARCARacing.com will have live timing & scoring, live user chat, and live track updates for registered users at ARCARacing.com. New users can register for free with a valid email address at ARCARacing.com/login. For ticket information please visit PoconoRaceway.com.