In front of nearly a capacity crowd Chandler Smith (No.20 Craftsman / 828 Logistics Toyota) dominated Saturday night’s ARCA Menards Series Menards 250 at Elko Speedway.
Smith, 17, now a five time ARCA winner in just 16 career series starts, also handed Venturini Motorsports’ (VMS) its eighth win of 2019 and the team’s 60th all-time ARCA series victory.
Although he had the dominant car, Smith did have to work for it. He slid in oil laid down in turn one by another competitor and spun on lap 146 and dropped to the tail of the lead lap. By virtue of a fast car and numerous mid-race cautions that continued to jumble the running order, Smith was able to knife his way back to the lead by lap 209. From there, he was able to drive away to nearly a full straightaway lead crossing the stripe 4.147 seconds ahead of second-place finisher Ty Gibbs.
“I was so mad when I spun down there in one,” Smith said post-race. “I was the only one riding the top groove at that point and there was oil all over the place. It just went around so slow, like it was in slow motion. I thought we might have had a tire go down or maybe even got hit. I was just mad. You definitely didn’t want to hear our radio traffic after that happened.”
Christian Eckes (No.15 JBL Audio Toyota), 18, started first after securing his second General Tire Pole Award of 2019, led 76 laps on the night and was racing in the second position coming to the final set of turns before contact from teammate Michael Self sent him spinning resulting in a heartbreaking 11th place finish.
Self (No.25 Sinclair Oil Toyota), 28, who crossed the line fourth after running a strong night himself, picked up his ninth top-5 of the season and increased his series point lead over Bret Holmes who finished ninth.
“Right now I can’t think of anything else from this race but the last lap,” Self said afterwards. “I absolutely hate that we got into Christian on the last lap. He’s not only my teammate but he’s one of my best friends. It puts a real damper on the night.”
Fan favorite, Hailie Deegan (No.55 TRD 40th Anniversary Toyota), 17, finished eighth in her fourth career ARCA start. Deegan, who scored her second top-10, will make two more starts this season with VMS – Lucas Oil Raceway (October 5) and Kansas Speedway (October 18).
Next up for the ARCA Menards Series is the Fans with Benefits 150 at Iowa Speedway on Friday, July 19. Practice is set for 12:45 pm ET/11:45 am CT, General Tire Pole Qualifying follows at 4:45 pm ET/3:45 pm CT, and the Fans with Benefits 150 will go green at 9 pm ET/8 pm CT. The race will be televised live on MAVTV.