By Christian Koelle, Staff Writer
The ARCA Menards Series heads to the Irish Hills of Brooklyn, Michigan Saturday Afternoon for the Henry Ford Health 200. Saturday’s race marks the 12th race of the 2022 ARCA Menards Series season and is coming off a solid short track race at Lucas Oil Indianapolis Raceway Park. Chandler Smith picked up the victory in dominating fashion leading 111 of 200 laps. Rajah Caruth left with his points lead still intact but now only leads by two points over Nick Sanchez.
For the 41st time, the ARCA Menards Series takes to the two-mile d-shaped oval in Brooklyn, Michigan. The track sits just over an hour west of Detroit, Michigan, and is a proving ground for the ARCA Menards Series manufacturers. Toyota earned the victory in 2021 with Ty Gibbs. In fact, Toyota has earned four straight victories at Michigan with Sheldon Creed in 2018, Michael Self in 2019, and Riley Herbst in 2020. Brandon Jones went back-to-back in 2016-2017 with Chevrolet and MDM Motorsports. The last time Ford took the checkers at Michigan would come all the way back in 2012 with current NASCAR Cup Series driver Chris Buescher.
No previous winners are entered into the field.
On top of the race track being a little over an hour away from Detroit, it’s a little over an hour away from Toledo Speedway in Toledo, Ohio. The track where the ARCA Menards Series season finale takes place in just 65 days. This will be the closest the drivers of the ARCA Menards Series get to Toledo before returning in October. As lightly glanced above after Indianapolis, Caruth has just a two-point lead over Sanchez and a five-point lead over Daniel Dye. Will this point battle remain this close when the Series returns to the area in October? Only time will tell.
Of the three points contenders, Nick Sanchez is the only driver who has experience at Michigan International Speedway. Sanchez finished third in the 2021 edition, his sole start at Michigan. Caruth and Dye will be MIS rookies.
Speaking of Caruth, he earned an eighth-place finish last weekend at Indianapolis. Sanchez tallied a seventh-place finish while the real winner of the weekend for the points battle was Dye who came home fourth. Dye is making up some ground on the two Rev Racing drivers.
Sammy Smith had a solid car at Indianapolis but wasn’t able to come away with the victory. Smith led the second most laps of 89 but came home second behind Chandler Smith. Smith is eighth in the ARCA Menards Series points standings and is just 19-points behind seventh place Brad Smith, who has competed in all races in 2022. He’s 89-points behind fifth-place Greg Van Alst and is currently the best of the non-full-season drivers. Smith has a strong leader though in the form of Kyle Busch, who has four victories at Michigan across the top-three series. He also has one career ARCA Menards Series start at Michigan coming in 2003.
Corey Heim returns to the ARCA Menards Series this weekend. Heim, who already has one victory in 2022 at Daytona, returns to the No. 20 Crescent Tools Toyota Camry for the first time since Charlotte back in May. While out of the ARCA car, Heim picked up his second career Truck Series victory at Gateway back in June. With few starts in the AMS in 2022, Heim still sits 16th in points and is the second best driver with just six starts (Connor Mosack sits 13th in points). The 2021 Michigan runner-up will look to finish one position better.
The 2020 ARCA Menards Series champion Bret Holmes returns to the series for his second start of the 2022 season. He will make his 87th AMS start and fifth at Michigan International Speedway. Holmes finished second at Michigan in his championship season and has three top-five finishes. Bret Holmes Racing has had Connor Mosack behind the wheel twice in 2022 but with Mosack running the TransAm race in Nashville, Holmes will pilot the car in Michigan. The organization hasn’t finished outside the top 10 in its three starts in 2022 and finished second at Talladega earlier this season.
Jeffrey MacZink makes his return to the ARCA Menards Series with MacZink Motorsports. The Rockwood, Michigan native ran at Michigan in 2021 to a ninth place finish. He will make his ninth ARCA Menards Series start Saturday with all eight previous starts coming either at Michigan, Toledo, or Berlin. His ninth place finish in 2021 is his career-best finish in the ARCA Menards Series.
Cody Coughlin returns to the ARCA Menards Series for the first time since 2015. Coughlin, who has a full Truck Series campaign under his belt in 2017, hasn’t been seen in the top-four NASCAR touring series since 2018. Coughlin has been running late models on short tracks around the world and will run Saturday’s race with his father John. In 17 previous ARCA Menards Series starts, Cody has the best finish of second at Talladega in 2015 with Venturini Motorsports. He has two previous starts in ARCA at Michigan with a 13th place finish as his best. He also has four Truck Series starts at Michigan with a 14th place finish in 2018 as his best.
Saturday’s Henry Ford 200 at Michigan International Speedway goes live on MavTV at 6:30 p.m. ET. Austin Cindric will be the guest analyst on MavTV. The race will also be broadcast on select affiliates of the MRN Radio network nationwide. The race will follow the NASCAR Xfinity Series’ New Holland 250. Tickets for Saturday’s double-header at Michigan can be purchased by clicking here. Tickets start at just $35 and fans will get a full day of action including the ARCA Menards Series practice, qualifying, and race; Xfinity Series practice, qualifying, and race; and NASCAR Cup Series qualifying and practice.
Photo: Nigel Kinrade Photography