By Christian Koelle, Staff Writer
The ARCA Menards Series returns to Daytona to kick off the 2021 season. 34 drivers will take the green flag on Saturday Afternoon, February 13 in the Lucas Oil 200 Driven by General Tire.
For the 43rd time, the ARCA Menards Series will take to the high banks. Despite a strong entry list this season, no driver entered has a victory at Daytona. Past winners of this race include Kyle Busch, Ryan Newman, Harrison Burton, John Wes Townley, Bobby Gerhart, Mike Wallace, Grant Adcox, and Kyle Petty.
Michael Self picked up the victory last season at Daytona holding off Hailie Deegan. Self has moved from the ARCA Menards Series to general manage Silver Hare Racing, a Trans AM race team. Meanwhile, Deegan has been promoted to the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series running the No. 1 Ford F-150 for David Gilliland Racing. Self has won two of the last three season opener but now, it is someone else’s time.
Speaking of Self, Gracie Trotter will be taking the reigns of his No. 25 in 2021 on a part-time schedule. Trotter became the first female driver to earn a victory in an ARCA-sanctioned race last season in the ARCA Menards Series West race at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway Bull Ring. She will split her time across the No. 25 and No. 15. Trotter will share the cars with 2020 ARCA Menards Series West champion Jesse Love and Drew Dollar. Dollar won the 2020 Tallaega Superspeedway ARCA race.
Corey Heim will be the sole full-time ARCA Menards Series driver to compete for Venturini Motorsports. The last time Heim was in an ARCA car, 120-days ago, he picked up the victory at Kansas. The closest Heim has come to running a full-season came in 2019 when he ran 13 races with Chad Bryant Racing. Heim was seventh on day one of Daytona Preseason testing and first on day two so the No. 20 will definitely be a threat come Saturday afternoon.
Derek Griffith makes the move from Chad Bryant Racing to Venturini Motorsports in 2021. Griffith stood out last season in his debut at New Smyrna in the East Series. In that race, he battled hard with eventual East Series champion Sam Mayer and came up short. In eight ARCA Menards Series races last season, Griffith earned two top-five and seven top-10 finishes. That includes a third-place finish in the season finale at Kansas. Much like Heim, Griffth has not raced at Daytona yet but finished third fastest on day two of pre-season testing.
Ty Gibbs will make his long-awaited Daytona International Speedway debut at a track his grandfathers’ team has had much success. Joe Gibbs Racing’s first Cup Series victory came at Daytona in 1993. The organization has eight other Cup Series victories on the high banks. The team also has five Xfinity Series victories at Daytona. In Saturday’s race, Gibbs will look to snag the first ARCA victory for his grandfather’s team. Add on it’s his first season running full-time in ARCA and last season he tallied six victories, 12 top-five, and 14 top-10 finishes. Could this be the start of a championship season for the third generation racer?
Speaking of full-time drivers, Nick Sanchez is being promoted from the ARCA Menards Series East to the main ARCA Series running the No. 2 for Rev Racing. In four starts last season, Sanchez tallied two top-10 finishes in the main series. He finished third in the ARCA Menards Series East championship. Sanchez finished fifth fastest on day one of pre-season testing in his first time on the Daytona International Speedway. The Rev Racing group is going full-time in the ARCA Menards Series for the very first time but that shouldn’t hinder the organization that has produced some of NASCAR’s biggest stars including Kyle Larson, Darrell Wallace Jr., among others.
Richard Petty is synonymous with the Daytona International Speedway including two key moments in NASCAR history. Seven Daytona 500 victories and his 200th and final victory came in 1984. There is another generation Petty looking to make an impact and when he came off the track last season, he was coming off the best season of his career. Thad Moffitt earned his first three career top-five finishes last season. That includes his career-best finish of fourth at Memphis in his last race of 2020. Moffitt finished fifth last season at Daytona and could be a threat to earn his first career victory.
In 2018, Willie Mullins finished second to Michael Self to put his name and the organization on the map. He has since been known as a driver who can contend for victories at Daytona. Mullins will race a Chevrolet for the first time since his first four career starts at New Jersey Motorsports Park. In his last ARCA Menards Series start at Kentucky last season, Mullins finished 11th and on Monday Night. February 8 at New Smyrna he finished 10th, his first career top-10 finish in the East Series, and some good momentum as the Series kicks off 2021.
Sean Corr is another one of those drivers who has put his name in the mouths of people talking about contenders. In 12 starts at Daytona, Corr has a career-best finish of fourth last season along with two other fifth-place finishes at the World Center of Racing. Last season, Corr earned top-10 finishes in both superspeedway races and will look to continue that strong momentum in 2021.
Max Gutiérrez earned the victory Monday night in the East opener at New Smyrna with Rette Jones Racing and on Saturday afternoon, Brittney Zamora will look to take Rette Jones Racing to victory lane back-to-back. Zamora will make her ARCA Menards Series debut on Saturday and has a total of 21 starts across the two ARCA minor league series. She’s finished third twice in her career which is her best career finish across the series’. Rette Jones Racing seems to always be a contender on these superspeedways and Saturday’s race should be no different.
Derrick Lancaster led the way on day one of the ARCA Menards Series pre-season test and is coming to Daytona for the fifth time of his career. The Christiansburg, Virginia native has a career-best finish of sixth at Talladega in 2014 and is coming off a serious crash at Kingsport Speedway on August 7th. He was told he’d never race again after the injuries suffered in that accident but he will race in Saturday’s race. He hasn’t raced in ARCA since 2019.
Finally, the defending ARCA Menards Series champion Bret Holmes will make his season debut at Daytona but will not be a member of the series full-time this year. He will be splitting his time between ARCA and the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series sharing the car with 2020 ARCA Menards Series East champion Mayer. In five starts at Daytona, Holmes has the best finish of sixth in his Daytona debut in 2017. Holmes has some major momentum headed into Daytona and has the chance to earn his second career victory.
The 2021 Lucas Oil 200 Driven by General Tire goes green at 1:30 p.m. ET on FOX Sports 1 and the FOX Sports Go App. It’ll also be available delayed on NBC Sports Gold Track Pass at a to be determined date. Qualifying for the event will take place at 8:30 a.m. ET.