By Christian Koelle, Staff Writer
After a little over a month off, the ARCA Menards Series returns to action this weekend for the General Tire 200 at Talladega Superspeedway.
The last time the ARCA Menards Series raced, Ty Gibbs earned his first victory of 2021 holding off Corey Heim late. Thad Moffitt finished the race in third while Kyle Sieg and Derek Kraus rounded out the top five.
Heim left the desert with a three-point lead over second-place Gibbs.
There will not be qualifying this weekend and the field will be set by 2020 ARCA Menards Series owners points. Gibbs will start from the pole position for the ninth time in his career. Bret Holmes will start from the second position followed by Gracie Trotter, Heim, and Drew Dollar will round out the top-five.
Saturday’s race at Talladega will be the 52nd ARCA Menards Series event at Talladega. Last season’s race was pushed to June due to the COVID-19 pandemic and was held without fans. Drew Dollar was able to hold off Ryan Repko to earn his first career victory. Dollar will return to the No. 15 in an effort to defend his victory from 2020.
In the last 10 races at Talladega, there have been 10 different winners. The list of winners are as follows; Ty Dillon, Brandon McReynolds, Frank Kimmel, Tom Hessert, Blake Jones, Gus Dean, Justin Haley, Zane Smith, Todd Gilliland, and Dollar.
BREAKING IT DOWN:
As noted above, Heim heads to the Talladega Superspeedway with the points lead by three points over Gibbs. Heim will make his Talladega Superspeedway debut on Saturday. If past results in debuts on Superspeedway’s mean anything, we could see Heim sweep the season’s Superspeedway races as he made his debut at Daytona in February. Announced exclusively this week on Kickin’ the Tires, Heim will make his NASCAR Camping World Truck Series debut at Darlington next month.
Gibbs will also make his debut at Talladega, a track where his grandfather’s organization has had much success at. Current Joe Gibbs Racing drivers Kyle Busch and Denny Hamlin have victories at the track including in the most recent Cup Series event at Talladega last season. The organization has five Cup Series and Xfinity Series victories on the 2.66-mile Superspeedway in Alabama. In the last two appearances by ARCA at Talladega, the No. 18 has finished second and fourth with Riley Herbst. While the Series was off, Gibbs spent his time racing in the NASCAR Xfinity Series tallying a second (Phoenix) and fourth-place finish (Martinsville).
As noted above, Dollar will return to the No. 15 seeking to defend his victory from 2020. Dollar finished second at Daytona and followed that up with a solid seventh-place finish at Phoenix. He will not be competing the full season, sharing the car with Gracie Trotter. Trotter herself will pilot the No. 25 entry in Saturday’s race at Talladega and will be looking to shake off the bad luck. Trotter was involved in the “Big One” at Daytona and was involved in the lap one accident at Phoenix, Trotter finished 27th failing to complete a single lap.
Kyle Sieg has been a solid contender this firing right out of the box with a fifth-place finish at Daytona. He followed it up with a fourth-place finish last time out in Phoenix. Sieg has turned himself into quite the ARCA driver tied with the third-best average finish this season. Though it’s not confirmed he’ll be running the full-season, Sieg is making statements early and will approach the Talladega Superspeedway for the first time. His brother Ryan has had much success at Talladega having eight starts and a runner-up finish in the most recent Xfinity Series race at Talladega last October.
With older tires, Thad Moffitt still competed with Heim and Gibbs for the victory at Phoenix. The third-place finish by Moffitt is his new career-best finish and has him fifth in ARCA Menards Series standings. Heading to Talladega, a track he has two career starts at, Moffitt has a good chance to better his best career finish. He finished sixth in last season’s race. Since earning back-to-back 10th place finishes at Iowa and Kansas last year, Moffitt has finished 10th or better in six of the last nine races. Moffitt was running solidly at Daytona before being collected in an accident mid-race. Will Talladega be the place the King’s grandson earns his first career victory?
GMS Racing makes its return to the Talladega Superspeedway in the ARCA Menards Series for the first time since 2015. Jack Wood has shifted his focus from running for the ARCA Menards Series East championship to running for the ARCA Menards Series championship and currently sits eighth in points. In his superspeedway debut, Wood finished ninth at Daytona. In race number two, Wood was collected in the opening lap accident at Phoenix and was relegated to a 29th place finish.
Hometown kid and reigning ARCA Menards Series champion Bret Holmes returns home Saturday. Holmes will pilot his No. 23 Chevrolet SS. After making a good chunk of races in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, Holmes is still chasing that elusive home track victory. Holmes finished third at Daytona matching the career-best superspeedway finish that he tallied last year at Talladega. With Alabama being ravaged by tornadoes a few times this year, what would be better than Holmes tallying the victory?
Derrick Lancaster will return to Talladega for the first time since 2014. Lancaster made his second career start at Talladega in 2014 finishing sixth. Up until February this year, that was his career-best finish. Lancaster fired out of the cannon fast this year leading the annual preseason test and leading the first laps of his career at Daytona in the season opener. In that race, Lancaster tied his career-best finish of sixth and is looking for more in his return to Talladega.
There’s a moose warning in Talladega. ARCA veteran Thomas Praytor makes his return at Talladega and first start of 2021. Moose was last seen at Daytona last year where he finished a solid 11th. The ARCA veteran has eight starts to his credit at Talladega with the best finish of 12th in 2017. Praytor raced at Talladega last in 2019 finishing 20th after facing transmission issues.
Andy Jankowiak was one of the standouts at Daytona to open the season and has gained traction in the form of sponsorship as we head to Talladega. Jankowiak has made a total of three starts in the NASCAR Whelen Modified Series and made his ARCA Menards Series debut at Daytona. After an impressive showing in his debut at Daytona, Jankowiak has earned the opportunity to be called a contender as the series heads to Talladega.
The General Tire 200 at Talladega Superspeedway will go live on FOX Sports 1 at 1 p.m. ET. The race will be broadcasted live on MRN and SiriusXM channel 391. Fans are permitted to attend and can purchase tickets by clicking the link here. Tickets start at $50 and will get you access to both the General Tire 200 and the Ag-Pro 300 NASCAR Xfinity Series event.
— Photo by Nigel Kinrade Photography