By Christian Koelle, Staff Writer
ARCA Menards Series
After a slight hiatus, the ARCA Menards Series kicks back into action this weekend for the General Tire 200 at Talladega Superspeedway. Saturday’s race marks the 60th time the Series has raced on the high banks in Lincoln, Alabama, and the third race of the 2022 season.
The last time the ARCA Menards Series raced at Talladega, Corey Heim took the lead late en route to the victory holding off the likes of Drew Dollar, Bret Holmes, Dave Mader III, Nick Sanchez, and others. Heim didn’t lead the most laps but led the one that counted. He will defend his 2021 victory and will look for his fourth straight restrictor-plate track victory.
As noted, Saturday’s race will be the 60th ARCA Menards Series race at Talladega. Since 2012, there have been ten different winners. There hasn’t been a duplicate winner at Talladega since Frank Kimmel earned the victory in 2006 and 2013. Brandon McReynolds, Tom Hessert, Blake Jones, and others have found victory lane at Talladega in the last 10 seasons. Three drivers to earn victories since 2012 at Talladega, are currently running full-time in at least one of the top-three NASCAR divisions.
Daniel Dye enters Saturday’s race as the points leader but has never raced at the Talladega Superspeedway. Dye made his Superspeedway debut at Daytona earlier this year and finished third. Finishing runner-up at Phoenix, Dye will look to grow his points lead over Rajah Caruth and look to secure his second career victory.
While the ARCA Menards Series was off, Rajah Caruth made his NASCAR Xfinity Series debut at Richmond Raceway. A very successful debut finishing 24th and he’s headed into his eighth ARCA Menards Series start second in points. Much like Dye, the only experience Caruth has on a Superspeedway came in February at Daytona where he finished 11th. With some experience under his belt, he’ll look to knock into some of his deficit.
He’s a road course regular but at Daytona, Parker Chase seemingly had everything go right. Chase was a crucial part of Corey Heim’s victory as he was the pusher and finished in second for his career-best finish. He’s gaining more track experience entering his eighth ARCA Menards Series start, he now has the experience needed to maybe make the winning pass and secure his first career victory. The start of the 2022 season has Chase sitting third in points and will look to improve in his second superspeedway start.
Toni Breidinger will make her 15th ARCA Menards Series start on Saturday and currently sits fourth in points. She is one of the only drivers in the field and the highest driver in points to have more than one start on a superspeedway and a start at all at Talladega. Breidinger finished 12th at Talladega last season with Young’s Motorsports. She now has two starts at Daytona with her best finish of ninth earlier this year. That ninth-place finish was her third and holds as her career-best finish.
Much like his teammate Rajah Caruth, Nick Sanchez also made his NASCAR Xfinity Series debut at Phoenix following his seventh-place finish in the ARCA Menards Series race. A solid 26th-place finish with BJ McLeod Motorsports put Sanchez’s name on the map. Finishing 20th at Daytona, Sanchez needed a pick-me-up and will look to use this Talladega race as a jumpstart much as he had done in 2021. In last year’s race at Talladega, he earned his first third-place finish that ultimately put him in the championship picture with Ty Gibbs and Corey Heim.
Speaking of Heim, he’s looking to become the first driver to earn multiple victories at Talladega since Kimmel did so in 2006/2013. Talking about during the time off, he earned his first NASCAR Camping World Truck Series victory at the new Atlanta Motor Speedway crediting his victories at Daytona and Talladega as crucial help. As Heim has made his name more prominent, he’ll look to leave Talladega with the victory.
It was Drew Dollar and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day back at Daytona in February. In his debut with Kyle Busch Motorsports and their ARCA Menards Series program, Dollar was running up front a majority of the race but an accident on the backstretch on the final lap. In the NASCAR Xfinity Series race, in his debut, in nearly the same spot just 14 laps in, Dollar hit the outside wall ending his night early. The best remedy for this though is that Dollar returns to a track he has won at in the past earning his sole ARCA victory in 2020.
Talk about elusive. That word, Bret Holmes, and Talladega all fit like the perfect puzzle. Holmes has been close to victory at his home track so many times but has come up short due to something or just coming up a few spots short. In his 86th start, Holmes will look to earn that elusive victory. It will be his seventh start at Talladega and he’s coming off of a fifth-place finish last season. He has two straight top-five finishes at Talladega finishing a best of third in 2020. He led 28 laps at Talladega last season and will look to translate into something special in his season debut.
Other than Heim, Gus Dean is the only previous Talladega winner who’s entered in the field. Dean earned the victory at Talladega in 2016 and has made his return to the ARCA Menards Series in 2022 for the first time since 2020. Dean competed in the season opener at Daytona earlier this year finishing fifth for his first top-five since Charlotte in 2019. He has a total of five starts under his belt at Talladega with three top-10 finishes 2022 arca menards series east.
Outside of his win, he has two sixth-place finishes at Talladega. Dean will be a threat to win especially since he has experience going to victory lane at Talladega, someone just might have to give him directions as it’s moved since his win in 2016.
The General Tire 200 at Talladega goes live on FOX Sports 1 at 1 p.m. ET and can be broadcasted live on MRN, SiriusXM (XM channel 391, online channel 981), or via the ARCARacing.com. There will be no qualifying but a practice session is slated for Friday at 4 p.m. ET. Tickets are still available for Saturday’s General Tire 200 and can be purchased by clicking here.
Photo: Nigel Kinrade Photography