By Charles Krall, ARCA Manager of Communications
After setting the fastest time in practice, Chandler Smith closed the night celebrating in victory lane after scoring his fifth ARCA Menards Series victory of the season in Saturday night’s rain-shortened Herr’s Potato Chips 200 at Lucas Oil Raceway in suburban Indianapolis.
Smith (No. 20 Craftsman/828 Logistics Toyota) took the lead from his Venturini Motorsports teammate Christian Eckes (No. 15 JBL Audio Toyota) on lap 161. The next time around, a heavy sprinkle turned into a rain shower necessitating a caution flag. The field circulated behind the pace car for five laps before ARCA officials put out the red flag. The rains persisted and officials were forced to end the race 37 laps before its scheduled conclusion.
“It was meant to be,” Smith said in a makeshift victory lane celebration. “We couldn’t have timed that pass out any better than we did.”
Eckes was disappointed with second, but was able to lock up the Sioux Chief Short Track Challenge championship.
“We’re obviously disappointed with second,” Eckes said, “but it’s our sixth top-two finish in a row. We really have things turned around after a tough stretch in the summer. We’d have liked to have had that caution for rain a few laps earlier though.”
Ty Gibbs (No. 18 Monster Energy/ORCA Coolers/Terrible Herbst/Advance Auto Parts Toyota) started from the General Tire Pole and was the dominant driver throughout the first half of the race. Gibbs led the first 143 laps before contact with Joe Graf, Jr. (No. 77 EAT SLEEP RACE Ford) while battling for the lead resulted in Gibbs sliding into the wall and damaging the right rear corner of his car. The damage led to a flat right rear tire that put Gibbs into the wall again four laps later. The damage was too severe for Gibbs to continue leaving him 15th at the finish.
“I don’t even know who that guy is or what happened out there,” Gibbs said. “We had a really great car. I am pretty bummed. Most of all I am sorry for my guys, the deserved a win here tonight.”
Graf had rejoined the lead lap after receiving the free pass under the second caution of the night. He pitted for tires under the yellow and knifed his way through the field racing against other lead lap cars that had not yet pitted. The resulting caution from Gibbs’ crash allowed the remaining lead lap cars to pit, ending Graf’s chances to win. He finished tenth.
Sam Mayer (No. 21 Chevy Accessories Chevrolet) finished third a day after locking up the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East championship with a win at Dover International Speedway. Corey Heim (No. 22 Speedway Children’s Charities Ford) and Hailie Deegan (No. 55 TRD 40th Anniversary Toyota) rounded out the top five finishers.
Combined with a sixth-place finish by teammate Michael Self (No. 25 Sinclair Lubricants Toyota), Eckes assumes the ARCA Menards Series championship lead by 20 points with only the season finale at Kansas Speedway remaining.
There were four cautions for a total of 25 laps. Bobby Gerhart (No. 5 Lucas Oil Chevrolet) spun in turn two on lap 52 to bring out the first caution, while Dick Doheny (No. 11 Doheny Racing Chevrolet) crashed in the same turn on lap 97 to bring out the second caution. Gibbs’ accident at lap 146 brought out the third yellow flag of the night while the rain at lap 162 was the final yellow of the night.
There were three lead changes among four drivers. Gibbs led a race-high 143 laps, Graf led seven laps from laps 144 to 150, Eckes led from lap 151 through lap 160 and Smith led from lap 161 to 167 when the race concluded. With those seven laps led, Smith locks up the 2019 Valvoline Lap Leader Award.
The ARCA Kansas 150 and the 1.5-mile Kansas Speedway will close the 2019 ARCA Menards Series season on Friday, October 18. Practice opens the day at 1 pm ET/12 n CT followed by General Tire Pole Qualifying at 6 pm ET/5 pm CT. The 100-lap/150-mile feature event will go green at 8:30 pm ET/7:30 pm CT and will be shown live on FS2 with an immediate replay on FS1. ARCA for Me members can follow live timing & scoring, live chat, and live track updates throughout all on-track sessions free at ARCARacing.com. New users can register for free with a valid email address at ARCARacing.com/login.